Eight Tips for Success in the Online Learning Environment

By Dr. Barry Chametzky, Faculty Member, School of Arts and Humanities, American Public University

Most people know what traditional classroom learning is like because many classes follow the same format. The instructor arrives and lectures for a prescribed amount of time. Students take notes and perhaps ask a question or two. At the end of the class the instructor and students depart. This scenario is called passive learning.
Online learning, however, is anything but passive. In many respects, online learning is more demanding because students must take a more active role in their education. Here are eight tips that students need to follow to be successful in an online learning environment.

1. Be Familiar with the Course Environment
In a face-to-face class, it is easy to know where things are located. In an online class, however, information is not always evident. There are different learning management systems (LMS) for online classrooms and different course components. The more comfortable you are with the online environment, the easier it will be for you to succeed.
Some components you need to be familiar with are:
• Discussion board
• Assignment area
• Assessment area
• Lessons
• Syllabus
• Instructor’s contact information
• Announcements area
• Grading area

2. Read the Syllabus
The syllabus is the contract between you and the educator that details the requirements of the course, grading procedures, assignments, and important school policies.

3. Make Sure You Know what Is Required Each Week
Review the lessons so you know what is expected each week. Ideally, assignment topics and due dates will be in the syllabus. Sometimes instructors will use announcements to explain or clarify requirements, so be sure to check the announcements area frequently.

4. Log into the Online Classroom Three To Five Times a Week
Unlike a traditional in-person class, in an online learning environment a great deal of new information will appear every day and night. Log in and review the course area three to five times a week to see what new information has been posted so you can stay on top of all new information and not feel overwhelmed.

5. Participate Often in the Online Classroom
Some instructors have specific guidelines for participation, so review the syllabus to learn what they are. The more you participate in the course, the easier it will be for you to master the material. With increased participation comes increased familiarity and comfort with the subject matter creating greater understanding. You might even discover how some classroom material can relate to your life.

6. Ask Questions and Reach Out When Problems Exist
Because it is easier to “hide” in an online environment than in a traditional classroom, there is a greater tendency online not to ask questions. Many online classrooms have a Q&A area where you can post your questions. It is also possible that a classmate could answer your question quicker than the instructor if you post it online. The worst thing an online student can do when there are problems is to not promptly communicate with the instructor.

7. Read and Closely Follow Assignment Directions and Rubrics
Follow all assignment directions and rubrics closely, just as you would in a traditional class, to ensure that you address all required components of the assignment.

8. Do Not Be Afraid to Explore Online Resources outside the Course
You have a tremendous resource at your fingertips in an online learning environment: the Internet. Use it to explore a concept presented in the course.

By following these eight suggestions you will play an active role in your online.

About American Public University System
American Public University System, recipient of the Online Learning Consortium’s (OLC) Gomory Award for Quality Online Education and four-time recipient of OLC’s Effective Practice Award, offers more than 90 online degree programs through American Public University and American Military University. More than 60,000 alumni worldwide have benefited from APUS’s relevant curriculum, affordability and flexibility in pursuing and earning degrees in such areas as business, information technology, and security and global studies. For further information, visit APUSPartners.com/edcor

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