Learning and Teaching During COVID-19

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Tips for Online Learning

Tip #1: Read Carefully

  • Classes held on campus rely heavily on instructor verbal directions and presentations. For some classes, students can get by with just skimming over reading assignments. In an online class, reading every word of the directions and assignments is essential. The advice about reading all directions and the syllabus (in this class, the course guide) is quite possibly the most important thing you can do to become a successful online learner.
  • If the directions are not clear to you after you have read them, post clarification questions in the discussion forum immediately!
  • A syllabus is a contract you make with the instructor and includes what you will learn, what you will do, and what is expected of you (policies) as a member of the community in the class.

Tip #2: Get Organized!

  • Successful online students stress the importance of creating a calendar to record all major due dates and class schedule information. See that calendar button on the blue bar to the left side of Canvas? It will change your life! Your teacher is going to post assignments, dates, and information to know on that calendar for you. You can customize the calendar colors to help you remember which class is which. You also can use the calendar that's named after you to create your own digital agenda.
  • One online student suggests “make appointments with yourself” to ensure you dedicate time in your schedule to complete course assignments. If you were taking a face-to-face class, you would be scheduled to be in a seat in a classroom on campus at a set day and time, so do the same for yourself—make that appointment with you and then be diligent about keeping it.
  • You should also make sure that you have a place to work that allows you to be focused and not distracted. You will be completing an assignment in this unit that is designed to help you get organized (the "Sizing up the Work" assignment).
  • Since U-M is a Google campus, familiarize yourself with and utilize Google Calendar to keep track of meetings, appointments and important course related dates. Notifications can be customized to be sent via email or phone to help keep you on track.

Tip #3: Participate

  • Because of the reduced amount of verbal interactions between students and the instructor in an online course, online “discussion” is often accomplished through discussion boards, email, and web conferencing (like Google Hangouts).
  • For live class meetings, students should turn on the camera unless they are in a setting where they need to have their cameras off. 
  • Students should be comfortable communicating online and should be aware of accepted standards in “netiquette.” In fact, there is a direct correlation between a student’s success in an online course and that student’s participation.
  • DO NOT underestimate the importance of contributing to online discussions. It’s easy to feel isolated in online environments. Try to participate in meet-up and social media opportunities as you work through any online class.

Tip #4: Check-in daily, but look ahead

  • Successful online students recommend logging in several times a week to check for instructor announcements and to stay connected to and participate in, discussion board conversations.
  • Again, make sure to check the calendar frequently. Don't see future assignments? Maybe ask your teacher what's coming next.
  • The Canvas app is fabulous for students. If you have a smartphone, make sure to download that. You can quiz, discuss, and do most everything from a phone. Set up notifications on Canvas to make sure you don't miss anything.

Tip #5: DO NOT Procrastinate!

  • When you are relying heavily on technology, expect failures and connection challenges. Waiting until the last minute increases these risks and puts your grades in jeopardy. Additionally, you will never fully understand how long an assignment or project will take until you do it. Waiting until the last day/hour/minute is poor planning and reduces your chances of learning successfully and performing well on assessments.
  • Remember that we are all working in a fairly new environment. If you run into any difficulties, don't wait! Send a note immediately to the instructor of the course listed on the syllabus. Most problems are easily solved, but we have to hear from you before we can help.

Tip #6: Share Tips, Helps, and Questions

  • For many of us, taking online courses is a new frontier. There are no dumb questions, and even if you think your solution is obvious, please share it! Someone in the class will appreciate it. You can do this in the help discussion forum.

Tip #7: Think Before You Push the "Send" Button

  • Did you say just what you meant? How will the person on the other end read the words? While you can't anticipate all reactions, read over what you've written before you send it. In most classes, it is also important to use the best writing style that you can.

Tip #8: Be Patient

  • As much as your instructor will try to be prompt in answering questions, please do not expect instantaneous responses to your queries. Learn how to set breakpoints in your study, so that you can return exactly to the point when your question is answered. Be patient with yourself as well; give the material a chance to soak in.

*Note: This reading is excerpted and edited from Crafting an Effective Writer: Tools of the Trade by Mt. San Jacinto College licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License

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