Tips for Managing Online Learning

Sat, Jun 22, 2013

Distance Learning, Uncategorized

By Dr T.A. Duncan – School of Education Faculty

As online learning expands, more and more courses of varied topics are becoming available. A recent search of facts regarding American Public University yields degree offerings for Associates, Bachelors and Masters level courses with 100,000+ students currently enrolled (retrieved May 28, 2013 from http://www.apus.edu/about-us/facts.htm). Degree concentrations at these various levels provide students access to a plethora of professional development opportunities that can lead to certification, aid in learning more about a topic, assist with self-improvement, or even provide the long sought after degree. However, having the ability to access your course at your fingertips via your mobile device, laptop, or tablet, does not mean that it will be easier for you to internalize the material (Haverila & Barkhi, 2009). Actually, quite the opposite is true since there are more opportunities for distraction while you learn (Sanbonmatsu, Strayer, Medeiros-Ward & Watson, 2013). I am amused at the status updates on my Facebook news feed of those lamenting about being behind on school work, needing to read for an assignment, or having to stay up late to prepare for a final presentation or exam because there’s “just too much to do and not enough time!” My first thought is to tell them to refrain from updating their status every hour on social media and stay focused!
Here are my top 3 tips I offer my own students when preparing for an online course:
• SCHEDULE: Schedule the online class into your life just as if you had to attend the course face to face. For example, if your course modules are released on Monday mornings, then you should schedule some time on Monday to review the week’s assignments, readings and expectations. This will also allow you to plan for the rest of your week’s activities. If you have assignments due on Sunday evenings, then you should schedule some time Thursday, Friday, or Saturday to review and prepare your submission. This will keep you from having to contact your instructor at the last minute to request an extension. You would not miss your face to face class every week; therefore, you should not make it a habit of missing your online course on a regular basis.
• ORGANIZE: Organize yourself, your learning environment, and your materials for your course as if you had to pack your book bag each week to attend class in person. If you are enrolled in several courses at one time, as most students are, then you should have a separate file designated in your Documents folder on your computer. Within each of those class folders you should save your syllabus, rubrics, articles, important notes, and assignments for ease of access. Think of this as an electronic 3-ring binder or file cabinet. Once you begin organizing your work, then you will increase your productivity and time management.
• SAVE: Save your documents with unique filenames. Most programs leading to a degree or certification will require you to take more than one course. Therefore, you will have more than one “Assignment 1”. Take the time to save your files with the course name, assignment title, and your name or initials to aid yourself and your instructor when grading. I cannot tell you the number of “Assignment 1” submissions I receive with no identifiable way to give credit to the author. You have worked long and hard on your assignment, so by all means get credit for it!
Virtual learning can be a positive experience, especially for those working, caring for others, or serving our Country. However, this positive experience can quickly become draining and daunting if the proper skills are not utilized to help one stay focused and on task (Haverila & Barkhi, 2009). Prepare for virtual learning and experiences just as if you were meeting and/or presenting to your instructor and colleagues in person…even if you are in your pajamas at 3am.

American Public University. (n.d.). Apus facts. Retrieved from http://www.apus.edu/about-us/facts.htm
Haverila, M., & Barkhi, R. (2009). The influence of experience, ability and interest on e-learning effectiveness. European Journal of Open, Distance, and e-Learning, (1), Retrieved from http://www.eurodl.org/?article=359.
Sanbonmatsu DM, Strayer DL, Medeiros-Ward N, Watson JM (2013). Who Multi-Tasks and Why? Multi-Tasking Ability, Perceived Multi-Tasking Ability, Impulsivity, and Sensation Seeking. PLoS ONE 8(1): e54402. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054402

About the Author:
Dr. Tisha A. Duncan teaches courses in the areas of pre-service teacher education, technology, differentiation and social studies methods. Her research interests include constructivist teaching practices and developing teacher leaders.

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