Tips for Participating in Online Classes

Get more out of distance education courses by becoming an active participant. There are several ways one can participate in an online course that will foster effective learning such as engaging with the course material, connecting with your classmates, and engaging with your teacher.

A. Engage With Course Material Regularly
To get the most benefit from your class, interact frequently with the course material. Make time to review the texts and all related material such as articles, videos, and slide shows. If the course textbook has a website that is independent of your class website, dedicate time to examine the information there. If time permits, review any supplemental or optional material your instructor may provide.

B. Connect With Your Classmates
Introduce yourself.
Instructors often create a discussion board or web page devoted to student introductions. Share information about yourself that will be helpful to your teacher and peers, like your intended major, academic status, job, and prior experience with online courses. Avoid disclosing information that is too personal or may subject you to identity theft. Examples of such data include Social Security number, full date of birth, street addresses, and personal phone numbers.
If the course permits students to respond to introductions posted by classmates, use this opportunity to make connections with your peers. Your classmates can be a valuable resource, especially with technical problems or for quick questions about course material.

Provide constructive and meaningful feedback to classmates’ discussion board posts.
Course discussion boards are a common vehicle for students to reflect on issues pertinent to the class. Distance education faculty often encourage students to interact with each other by requiring responses to each others’ discussion postings. Discussion boards are an excellent avenue for learning more about course content by sharing ideas. Be sure to follow guidelines supplied by your instructor for discussion postings. A good example of such guidelines is at http://www.une.edu.au/tlc/students/online/help/discussion-rules.php by the University of New England Teaching and Learning Centre, (2007). Stay engaged with the discussion boards regularly, e.g., every other day, so that you do not become overwhelmed by the amount of reading.

Be a contributing member of any class project groups or teams.
Distance learning faculty employ group projects to foster collaboration among their students. These activities enhance teamwork skills which are valuable assets in the workplace, so take an active role in any teams into which you are placed. Communicate regularly with your teammates and attend all group meetings that are scheduled either in person or through internet technologies like chat or instant messaging. If you are unfamiliar with the technology used for these meetings, remember that you are not alone and seek assistance from one of your peers or the instructor; don’t let anything prevent your active engagement and treat these as occasions to acquire new skills.

C. Engage With Your Instructor
Have a presence.
If you do not participate, your instructor has no way of assessing your educational progress and needs. Be present on discussion boards and in email or chat room communications. If the instructor has online or telephone office hours, take advantage of those opportunities; otherwise schedule appointments to assess your progress in the course or address other topics.

Seek constructive feedback.
If you don’t get full credit for graded assignments, ask your instructor for tips on improving your work. While many faculty do not accept resubmissions of graded work due to time and workload constraints, they may be inclined to provide specific suggestions for improvement of your work.

Solicit advice.
Your teacher may be a font of information on careers, financial aid or scholarship opportunities, internships, student or professional organizations, and future coursework in your area of study. You can only benefit from your instructor’s experience and wisdom by soliciting this information.

Submit required papers, projects and examinations.
Participate in all activities that will enable your teacher to assess your learning. Evaluation tools are also learning instruments as they indicate areas in need of improvement. Faculty cannot guide your learning without the data supplied by graded activities, so do all the work and take all tests on a timely basis.

Your active participation in distance education classes will make for the most enriching educational experience. Engaging with course material, interacting with your classmates, and connecting with your teacher will maximize your benefits from online classes.