Over the past 10 years, I have completed more than 300 hours as an online student. I do not share that to impress you. Rather, I would like to impress upon you techniques I have learned that will help you excel in the virtual environment.
Maximizing your learning as an online student requires the following:
- Know the expectations
- Start early in the week
- Maintain a professional approach
Know the Expectations
Before starting any assignment, whether participating in the discussion board or writing a 30-page project, you must review the requirements. In most cases, these instructions are found in the syllabus. If not, the instructor will provide additional information. In some cases, you will have a rubric that explains how you will be graded. Whatever you have, make sure to align your assignment precisely to the requirements.
I’ve had students who score poorly on assignments because they write according to the expectations in their workplace. While I respect that approach, the point here is that curriculum is built to use our creative thinking and research skills. Focus on the requirements, and you will do well.
Start Early in the Week
Those students who begin their work early will remove much of the anxiety experienced by online learners. If you procrastinate to the last day before the assignment is due, you can expect Murphy’s Law to kick-in. I have heard countless stories about hard drives crashing, computers being stolen, swimming pool accidents, and even fatal car crashes involving family members. I understand that unexpected events will happen, but if you take action early in the week, you are prepared to handle those unforeseen events.
Maintain a Professional Approach
When working on my doctorate, I read many articles on how the internet provides people with the anonymity to be brave, rude, and arrogant. In other words, since they can’t see their audience face-to-face, they seem to think that they are free to write whatever they want, regardless of how it is interpreted. From experience, I can assure you that your professionalism can make or break you online learning career.
When writing your online facilitator, make sure you are professional.
The following comments are ill advised:
- “Professor, I am not feeling good today. I will turn my assignment in tomorrow, and no penalty should apply because of my situation.”
- “My computer broke, and I can’t meet my discussion board participation this week. Sorry!”
- “Professor, I wish you would spend more time explaining what is due this week. Because you have not, I can’t do my work. I’m sure you understand.”
When reading those comments from students, facilitators will be less likely to bend.
Here is one approach that does work:
“Professor, I am traveling for business this week, and my assignment will be at least one day late. I understand that a 10% penalty applies for each day I am late, and this has taught me that I should start earlier in the week.”
As an online instructor, I like the last comment the best. I might still apply the late assignment penalty, but I will remember this student when working on final grades. If the student is near the cut-off point between an “A” and “B,” the higher grade will be awarded.
Successful online learners are focused both on the assignments and on the mechanics of online learning. By knowing the expectations, starting early in the week, and keeping a professional approach, your chances of excelling as an online learner skyrocket.