One of the biggest differences between online and on-campus classroom dynamic is person-to-person contact. While we are not face-to-face with the instructor, oftentimes we can actually have more contact with the instructor. We are less likely to respond in a classroom setting, whereas online, it is a requirement and the instructor schedules in time to grade exams and essays, as well as read each student’s post, including their responses. So the instructor actually gets a better view into a student’s individual personality and a good feel for the overall comprehension within the class group. This can be immeasurable in knowing how to complete homework assignments in the online environment
Online courses run on a weekly schedule, whether it is 8 or 16 weeks. For example, class will begin on a Monday and end on Sunday. The first day of class will begin with an introduction from the students and instructor. This is the time to let the instructor and other students in the class know who you are geographically, what your major is, how long you’ve been in school, etc. It also gives you a chance to show a little side of your personality. It’s not a bio, just an introduction. If you are unsure when you first start, there will probably be one or two students who are familiar enough to start the general posts. Just read through those and fill in your own information in your own way. This is an excellent way to gain a good rapport with your instructor as well as the other students. He/she will understand that you are engaged.
Most online universities run the schedule to the left (or the right) of the screen when you are “in” your class. Instructors will post or dictate what the week’s lesson is, including whatever readings, websites, research, etc. that needs to be done in order to fulfill the week’s requirement. You will have until Wednesday or Thursday to respond. Additionally, you will need to respond to at least two other students who have posted. The instructor expects these to be well thought out answers, and your response will be included in your grade, so consider them part of the weekly assessment.
Depending on the university, you can look ahead and get a feel for the work coming your way. Most syllabi will cover most of it. Don’t rely on the syllabus alone. Instructors generally add vital information at the beginning of the week through their own post.
In most classes there will be some sort of assessment at the end of each week, be it an online exam, amount of online homework completed, or an essay. Sometimes, in addition to posts, there are other activities that involve other students, who will be depending on you for part of their grade, whether it is helping with research or in submitting the final project.
Most times the instructor will not overwhelm you with material, but sometimes, particularly in upper level courses, there is a lot of material to cover and comprehend for overall comprehension. Some classes, such as mathematics, have online homework that gives you instant feedback. It is also included in your final grade. This is especially useful for students struggling to understand a concept, but it can also throw you behind if you get caught up in one particular section. Email your instructor, another student in your class or the university’s student services if you have any problems.
Falling behind in one class will also jeopardize any other classes you are in so it’s a good idea to prepare yourself mentally. Accept ahead of time that this can happen and prepare physically to thwart any hills coming your way. Mostly this means just being present, in class, in activities and in reading the material assigned.
Commit yourself openly for the first couple weeks until you can get a feel for completing expectations. Measure your homework against any other classes you have as well as your own personal schedule. Keep in mind, of course, that the class itself will become more demanding as the course progresses. Most students will find that they fare better in their own major classes. Consider balancing one in your major and one outside requirement so that you don’t have two classes that bog you down.
Again, instructors aren’t usually trying to overwhelm you, but sometimes there is a lot of reading and research involved. Making sure you have enough time to complete the requirements and comprehend the lessons for the week will most assuredly help you pass the class.
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