How to Work With Your Classmates in Discussion Groups For Your Online Classes

Online classes are different from traditional courses in a variety of ways. Their schedules are more flexible, you don’t have to be in a physical classroom, and work is handed in via email instead of passed to the front of the room. Online classes are still How to Work With Your Classmates in Discussion Groupsthe same in many ways though, and one of them is that students should get together to discuss the material they’re all trying to learn. One of the most common ways this happens is to create online discussion groups either in a forum-style setting, chat room, or via a Skype connection so that students who can’t get together physically can still talk.

Before you decide to try to work with your classmates online though, you need to make sure you’re ready to deal with any drama or problems that might ensue.

How to Work With Your Classmates in Discussion Groups

Tip #1: Establish Some Rules (And Enforce Them)

In order to make sure everyone in a group is on the same page it’s important to create a list of rules for everyone to abide by. These rules will help keep discussions on track, and they can help everyone feel secure. For instance a discussion group might install a rule that says “respect other members and their wishes,” or “this is a place for discussion and learning. If you can’t be civil you’ll be asked to leave.” Once the rules are established make sure you have a moderator who can take action to enforce those rules.

Tip #2: Try To Avoid Miscommunication

In any group setting it’s almost a given that someone is going to say something that will be misinterpreted. Rather than jumping all over someone or getting snarky though it’s a much better idea to ask what that person meant. If you can keep a civil discourse then you’ll get much clearer communication, and be able to learn more about both the subject matter and your fellow students at the same time.

Tip #3: Figure Out What You Want

When you join a discussion group for your online classes you need to know what you want out of the deal. Are you looking to socialize with your classmates to help feel more like a traditional class setting? Are you confused about the material and need help learning it? Do you want to help others by offering your own insight? You need to know what you’re expecting before you join so that you can figure out whether or not this group is going to meet your needs. If not then you either need to try to change the group, or find one that’s more suited to what you require.

For more information about online classes and how to succeed in them simply contact us today!

10 New Year’s Resolutions for Success in the Online Classroom

We make resolutions every year to tackle a variety of different issues–weight loss, improved health, better performance at work… Resolutions are made to help improve areas of difficulty or struggle. Online schooling requires a degree of discipline that can be difficult to maintain. So why not try making New Year’s resolutions for online success? Check out these ten resolutions for success in your online classroom:

new years resolutions for online success1. I will live by the syllabus. The syllabus is your most important tool in an online course. Most teachers create a very detailed syllabus that outlines each assignment. The syllabus will help you stay on track and complete assignments on time. The biggest mistake online students make is to simply skim the syllabus and then forget about it.

2. I will embrace my strengths. Let’s face it–highlighting big chunks of text and committing them to memory is not for everyone. Think outside the box when it’s time to study. Are you a visual learner? Does music help you study? Consider your strengths when developing a study plan. You are much more likely to retain information if it is presented in a way that you enjoy. Try this quiz to determine your learning style and learn helpful tips about studying.

3. I will learn how to use online tools. Thoroughly read through the instructor’s list of classroom tools. Become familiar with each tool by going through it extensively and learning exactly how it works. Taking a little extra time to explore these elements can be a lifesaver. You will use many of the same core tools for different courses and you will become proficient in their use over time.

4. I will become a master of time management. Many online students find that time management is one of their biggest challenges. Online courses are a great choice for students with a very busy lifestyle–they may have children and a full-time career, leaving little time for attending a traditional bricks-and-mortar school. The opportunity to attend class from your own home is very convenient, but it also requires strict discipline. Developing a plan to manage your time (and sticking to it) is essential for success in online classes. You have to create schedules to help juggle your daily commitments and prepare for unexpected occurrences that will affect your class time. For example, if your assignments are always due on Sundays, and your children have loads of activities on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, you should plan to have assignments completed no later than Wednesday of each week. Download an app that allows access to your classroom discussions in case of emergencies that keep you away from your computer. Mobile access to your classroom can come in handy.

5. I will participate in discussion. Discussion questions and participation are often a large part of your final grade in an online course. Since you are not attending a class in person, your contributions to discussions are the only way an instructor can gauge your participation. Treat these discussions as important as assignments, and be sure to respond with thought-provoking messages–avoid quick replies such as “I agree” or “I disagree”.

6. I will be ambitious. Online learning is challenging, and requires patience, stamina, and ambition. You must stay motivated in order to be successful. The last thing you want to do after a long day at work is to sit in front of the computer screen again–this is a difficulty that many students face. It is important to think often about the outcome of your online learning. You may be working toward obtaining a degree so you can finally find a job you truly love. Your degree might mean more income to ease financial stress. Think about your long-term goals whenever you feel yourself losing motivation.

7. I will not be afraid to ask for help. Some people don’t like to ask for help. They see it as a sign of weakness, or they are afraid of looking unintelligent. You will have to ask for help when you are attending online school. You will need help both in your courses and at home–everyone does. There will be some assignments that you just don’t understand, and you can ask your instructor or classmates for help. There will be times when you need to ask a family member to step up and help you with something around the house so that you can meet a deadline for class. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak–it makes you smart.

8. I will learn effective online communication. Online communication is quite different from face-to-face communication, and most people don’t realize this until they take an online course. Face-to-face communication involves more than just spoken words. You are able to read body language and facial expressions, which are both quite helpful in understanding someone’s message. Online communication relies mostly on words (although in some cases emoticons are used). This is very important to remember, because people may not be able to pick up on things like sarcasm or playful tones. Your messages must be very clear and concise and always avoid ambiguous wording.

9. I will not overburden myself. Online courses often require even more time than a traditional college course, so it is important to start slowly. Try one or two courses when you begin online schooling, until you become accustomed to it. You may decide that you can handle more, but you’ll probably find that one or two courses at once fits in well with your schedule.

10. I will create a “study” spot for myself. Most people have a specific environment that enables concentration and fosters creativity. Create a specific “study” spot in your home. You may be able to better concentrate in a quiet atmosphere, or you may find too much quiet distracting. Consider your personal preferences, and find a spot that works best for you.

Attending school online is challenging, and it is often difficult to stay motivated and avoid stress. Online learning is also very rewarding, and skills learned online can be immediately applied to the real world. Please contact us for more information regarding online classroom success.

How to Deal With Conflicts With Your Online Instructor (And Maintain A Positive Relationship)

Online instruction is becoming more and more popular as a form of education, and why not? Students pay less for the courses, they have more flexibility on their time, there’s no need to show up to a physical classroom, and as long as students have an Internet connection they can get the lessons they need. Some things never change though, and one of those things is conflict between students and instructors.

Fortunately for students though it’s often possible to resolve conflict with an instructor by taking measured, reasonable steps.

how to deal with conflicts with your online instructorHow to Deal With Conflicts With Your Online Instructor

Step One: Remove Emotion, Define the Conflict

The first step to resolving conflict with your online instructor is to take a deep breath, and relax. Conflict by its very nature can lead to hot tempers and angry demands, so it’s best to take a day or so and make sure you can think through the conflict before you do anything you might regret. Once you’ve calmed down examine the situation on its facts; is there a conflict here? If there is, can you define what it is? Maybe it’s the way your instructor graded your essay, or you need to get an extension on a project due to extenuating circumstances, but make sure you can define it simply.

Step Two: Contact Your Instructor And Arrange A Meeting

Online instructors, just like physical ones, will have office hours or days when it’s best to contact them (you’ll find the information in your syllabus). Email or call your professor and ask if you can schedule a meeting at a given time or on a given day. If a face-to-face meeting is possible that’s typically the best option, but if you can Skype or discuss things over a phone call that’s often better than discussing your situation purely through text since there’s facial expression, tone of voice, etc. to help convey meaning.

Step 3: Lay Out The Situation and Your Problems With It

When you have your meeting lay out the situation as you see it, and the difficulties you’re currently facing. Don’t make accusations or try to lay blame, but instead try to reach across the aisle and communicate openly. If you don’t understand something then ask for clarification. Once you’ve laid out the situation as you see it, ask if what you’re seeing is accurate, and give your instructor time to explain his or her side of things.

Step 4: Discuss Possible Solutions

Once the problem has been laid out the next step is to discuss methods that can be taken to solve it. If you feel that your grade on an essay wasn’t as high as deserved an instructor might be willing to consider your points and alter the final grade. Alternatively the instructor might suggest that he or she review your next paper to ensure that you get the grade you want. It’s important to work with your instructor to find a solution that’s fair and reasonable.

If you go through all of these steps you’ll be able to bring your concerns to your instructor, and hopefully find solutions to fix the problem as it exists. There’s no guarantee that it will work, but if you’re respectful, honest, and open about the issues you’re having then you’re much more likely to get them resolved than if you aren’t.

For more information on dealing with online courses and conflicts simply contact us today!

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

  1. Always address your professor with respect: Consider 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 angry: When 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 threat: Sometimes 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 time: Just 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.

Taking online classes can be a rewarding experience, especially for students who can’t otherwise fit college classes into their schedule. Contact us if you have further questions on how to maintain an appropriate email relationship with your peers and professors.