How to Avoid Falling Behind in Your Online Classes

how to avoid falling behind in online classesOnline classes are great for working adults who want to keep their jobs and earn a degree at the same time. However, the nature of online classes can make it easy to miss a lesson here or there or skip an assignment. Every misstep can add up to an ultimate F in the class. Before you get too far into the semester, make sure to take our advice on how to avoid falling behind in your online classes:

  • Put it on your calendar: Sure, you have a digital syllabus, but you probably aren’t checking it for due dates when you make appointments or schedule work meetings. Once you get a syllabus, make sure to input every single due date into your digital calendar so that you will always be alerted when an upcoming assignment is due. The old “I forgot” excuse is officially obsolete, and your instructors know it. This also helps you avoid over-booking yourself when you need extra time to prepare for an exam or write a paper.
  • Get your household on board: Your family members don’t necessarily need to know when every discussion post is due, but they should have a heads up about major tests and assignments. If you have a family calendar, put those dates up there so that your spouse and/or kids know when you need extra time to study or write a paper. If your spouse operates digitally, make some time now to go through all those dates together so s/he can input them into a calendar. This simple but important step can save a lot of headaches down the road.
  • Ask for help from your instructor: Instructors prefer that you adhere to deadlines and generally enforce strict policies for late work, but at the same time they’re human. If you have a good track record but happen to fall behind for one reason or another, send an email to your instructor. You will probably still have to pay the penalty for late work, but s/he will appreciate the heads up. If something more serious has come up that will affect several assignments, ask your instructor what you can do to get everything turned in and keep your grade up. Instructors are often willing to offer extensions when they are asked directly. They just don’t like to advertise this to the hundreds of students they teach each semester for obvious reasons.

Don’t fall behind this semester! Take these steps to stay on top of your online class and earn the grade you deserve. For more tips on how to stay organized when taking online classes, contact us.

Tricks For How to Master Technology in the Online Learning Environment

One of the uses of modern technology is online learning, which is a fancy way of saying taking classes via the Internet. While there are huge benefits to online learning (schedule flexibility, no need to show up to a physical classroom, lower cost, etc.) getting the most out of these classes requires familiarity with the technology in question. If students aren’t the most tech-savvy though there are several ways to make sure that doesn’t stand in the way of getting a good grade.

How to Master Technology in the Online Learning Environmenthow to master technology in the online learning environment

Tip One: Read The Instructions

While it sounds like a no-brainer the instruction manual is something that few students ever read when it comes to their technology. Whether it’s a webcam or the school’s online blackboard take some time to read over the guide for how it works and what all the different functions do. This might not answer all of your questions, but it will make the overall process that much easier on you.

Tip Two: Ask For Assistance

While it’s sometimes galling to admit you need help it’s better to do it sooner rather than later. It’s equally important to knowwhom to ask for help though. If your school has a help desk then that’s a good place to start. If there’s a school website check and see if there’s a forum where other students could explain the technology to you. If you have contact information for other students in your class ask if they could help you overcome the issues you’re having. Sometimes all it takes is having someone there to give you the play-by-play before it all clicks into place.

Tip Three: Don’t Wait

While it’s possible to put off figuring out new technology during your semester, especially if you can just get the information you need from a classmate, it’s important to put your nose to the grindstone from day one. What might be an awkward program that you gradually learn to use over the semester can become a nightmare if you try to master it just before your big project is due.

Tip Four: Don’t Focus on Shortcuts

You know when you were in math class and you had to learn the long-form way to do a problem before the teacher would show you the quick and dirty way to do it? Mastering technology is kind of like that. While it’s possible to hit a few hot keys to perform a complex command it’s a better idea to learn how to do it the long way first. If you feel that you’ve achieved a certain mastery of the tech in question then you can learn how to take all of the shortcuts to get from point A to point B.

For more information regarding online learning and how you can make your experience that much easier on yourself simply contact us today!

The Truth about Advisors

The word “advisor” encompasses many things when dealing with a University. With on-campus Universities, the advisor is most likely a professor/instructor at the school. With online universities, it works a little differently.

Student working with her advisor while taking her online class.

Student working with advisor online in the healthcare classroom.

Each university has its own unique procedures in what their advisors are responsible for. Many times an initial admissions advisor, sometimes known as an admissions representative, will guide you through the application process and your initial financial aid process. It is their responsibility to direct you through the initial application process, retaining any necessary transcripts, work history or other experience that could count towards the degree you choose. This includes helping you make an informed decision about the degree options that would be best suited to your needs.

How to Work with Your Advisor When Taking Online Classes

Once you have chosen your area of study and have been accepted, a new academic advisor is assigned to you, knowledgeable in your specific field. He will counsel you on your first steps, if you are new to the online process. This includes your first class, specifically designed to acclimate you to the online class process. Depending on whether you are full or part time, your advisor will guide you through the classes that will best fit your schedule. A financial aid advisor will be assigned for financial questions.

Academic advisors are trained to know the courses necessary for the degree that you are pursuing.  They will also answer any questions unique to the career or career path that you are seeking. For instance, if the degree you seek is psychology, you will have the further options of going into counseling, research, medical, etc. Having an idea ahead of time will help you tailor your degree. Fear not, though, you have the prerogative to change your path at any time and your advisor will guide you through the steps. The same goes with certificates; whether you choose medical transcription, medical billing, or any other related field, your advisor is there to guide you.

An advisor is concerned with your educational outcome and the career you will be stepping into. An advisor is not responsible for problems you are having with your instructor. That is between you and your instructor. An advisor can help you find alternative classes, however, if you feel the class is not working out for you. But it is your responsibility to know the add/drop dates so that you are not charged. Your advisor will most likely not contact you to see if you like the class or how you feel you are doing.

Chances are your advisor has also taken classes at the university you are attending. They will be familiar with the basic guidelines. But keep in mind that every instructor is different and your advisor may not be acquainted with your particular one. Generally your syllabus and class guidelines will give you all of the information you will need to get through your class.

Students are often reassigned advisors, depending on the circumstances of the university and you will be notified who your new advisor will be. Fear not, the new advisor will be up-to-date on your particular course of action. Most importantly, though, you are the one responsible for keeping up with your classes and your progress. Keep track of your classes, GPA, and future course of action so that, no matter who your advisor is, you know where you are.

For more information, please feel free to contact us.

girls sitting on the floor while using their laptops

Completing Homework in the Online Classroom

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

Student completing homework online.

Student completing homework online.

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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For more information on how to learn in the online classroom, visit Avidity Medical Design Academy. Enroll in the course entitled, “How to Learn in the Healthcare Classroom (and ANY Classroom) (in 10 EASY Steps!)

Appropriate Email Etiquette in the Online Classroom

An online classroom provides a unique way to interact with your instructor and peers. You may feel comfortable enough with them to joke around, and you may even think you can address your professor more as a peer than an authority figure. However, the written word is often misunderstood, and you still are the student, not another professor.  You can run the risk of misrepresenting yourself through email and on discussion boards if you aren’t careful. Here are some tips for email etiquette in the online classroom:

Email Etiquette in the Online Classroom - From The Avidity Medical Design Blog.

Students checking email in the online classroom.

  1. Always address your professor with respectConsider your professor to be your boss, and address her with the same level of respect. NEVER address your professor by her first name unless you have received explicit permission to do so (heads up, you won’t). Use appropriate language, i.e. no slang or swear words. Your written word is the only way your instructor knows you. Make a good impression.
  2. Don’t sound angryWhen you’re upset about a grade or comment your professor made, it’s natural to feel angry and defensive. Use email to your advantage though. Your professor can’t see your emotions here, so this is a chance to demonstrate your maturity and respect even in the midst of your internal anger. Instead of making accusations, ask for clarification as to why you earned the grade or comment in question. Approaching a conflict respectfully and with a congenial tone will go a long way. Remember, your words are the only way your professor knows you. Just like number 1, make a good impression through email.
  3. Never EVER make a threatSometimes we forget that emails are permanent. If you have a true problem with a professor, seek help from another source like your academic advisor. Your professor will take your words seriously, which can result in serious consequences for you. Don’t even joke about a threat. Just. Dont.
  4. Avoid jokes among peers: Online discussion boards are the online equivalent to a classroom discussion. The main difference is inside a classroom, everyone is participating at the same time and can understand your attitude and tone when you make a particular statement. Your peers can feed off of your instructor to determine whether or not you are being appropriate. Abide by the blanket rule to not tell jokes and you’ll be fine.
  5. Respect your professor’s timeJust because you’re up and writing a paper at 11:00 on a Tuesday night does not mean your professor is also awake and ready to answer her emails. Sending her a second message at 2 am will not make her answer your question any sooner. In fact, you may get the opposite result. Abide by the virtual office hours she has set up, and allow an appropriate amount of time to pass before re-sending her your question. A good rule of thumb is up to 24 hours on a weekday and 48 hours on a weekend, unless your professor has stated otherwise. Remember, as an online professor she is serving hundreds of students. In order to keep an appropriate work/life balance, she will have to set boundaries. Observe and respect these boundaries.

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Taking online classes can be a rewarding experience, especially for students who can’t otherwise fit college classes into their schedule. Visit Avidity Medical Design Academy to enroll in the online course entitled, “How to Learn in the Healthcare Classroom (and ANY Classroom) (in 10 EASY Steps!)“.