Online learning is a convenient alternative to in-person classes that can help you along your path to academic success, and while taking courses online can help you integrate your higher ed experience with your busy schedule, they still require the same time and attention as their in-person counterparts.
On this page, you’ll find some best practices that can help you approach your online coursework and find success with your online program.
Know the course
The first and most important step toward the successful completion of any course is to familiarize yourself with the course syllabus. For online courses, this is particularly important, as your syllabus will more than likely serve as part of your introduction to the class. Make sure you understand the goals and objectives of what you’ll be learning, your instructor’s expectations for participation and communication, and how your work will be evaluated.
The course syllabus should help you understand the required materials or technology needed to participate in the course. Note the required textbook, which you can also find listed on the UA Little Rock Campus Bookstore website listed by the course and section number. Pay extra attention to the required edition of the text and any supplemental materials, particularly if you’ll be using an electronic text that uses an access code purchased from the publisher.
Remember that even though you might not step foot on campus, you may still need to use different campus services to complete your work. Learn about the resources available to you and how to access them by visiting the guide on the Blackboard Student Support website or on the ‘Assist’ menu when you login to Blackboard.
In addition to communication from the instructor, the course syllabus and schedule are the most important ways to keep track of what you need to do in your course on a regular basis. Check the provided materials for a course schedule — this will commonly be included in the syllabus or as a separate document — and use this as your guide as you progress through the semester.
It may be worth your time to make a plan at the start of the semester using the tools you otherwise use to keep track of important events. You could list important dates found within your course syllabus or schedule on your UA Little Rock Google Calendar, or if you prefer, in a paper day planner or journal. Try to integrate this with whatever you use to keep track of your day-to-day life, and maintain it as you move through the semester.
While they can serve as helpful reminders, it’s important that you don’t rely on the automated notifications generated by Blackboard to stay in the loop when it comes to due dates for required assignments. The Calendar tool in Blackboard, for example, may not show due dates for necessary assignments until they’ve been made available in the course, and some instructors may not even use content that would generate dates on this calendar for required work. This information is almost always included within the syllabus and other provided course materials, so don’t be caught off guard.
Make time and space
Online courses might help you fit earning college credit into your busy schedule, but they still require as much of your personal time as their in-person counterparts. Make sure you understand the workload and time requirements of your course, including any attendance or participation requirements outlined by your instructor. Don’t assume the content of a course will be easier to complete just because it’s online, or that you won’t have requirements of your time because the course content is completed asynchronously.
Because you won’t be meeting in a classroom on campus, you’ll need to set aside time to review online lecture recordings and discuss content with your classmates. This is in addition to the time you’d devote to reading, studying for tests, or working on class projects and assignments.
It may help to dedicate space for working on your online courses to help minimize distractions and organize the resources you use to tackle the work. Be sure you have access to a computer and a reliable internet connection in this space, particularly if you plan to take online assessments or upload coursework.
The online experience does not have to be a solitary one, but since you won’t be meeting with your instructor and classmates the way you would in a traditional classroom, you should put extra effort into engaging with the class.
When it comes to communicating, you should observe your instructor’s requirements for contacting them and for interacting with other students. Make sure you understand when and how you’re expected to communicate with others, and use your instructor’s preferred method of contact when communicating, particularly when contacting them one-on-one, as some will prefer to communicate within the course, while others will use their UA Little Rock Gmail account for correspondence.
Be mindful of expectations when communicating with other classmates, particularly when posting to discussion forums and other course-wide communication tools, and observe common etiquette for written communication in an online class by using proper grammar and punctuation, and by avoiding strong language and inappropriate material.
When posting to online forums, you’ll also want to consider the academic expectations of your contributions when you submit content or comment on another student’s work. Are your posts substantive and do they further the discourse of the topic at hand? Check for any length or content requirements before you post to ensure you are meeting course requirements.
When interacting with your instructor and classmates in a virtual meeting, be sure to follow video conferencing etiquette as well. Be sure to choose a quiet location and dress appropriately for class, keep yourself muted when not talking, and only use conferencing features like screen sharing or chat when given permission.