So what do you need to make the most of your online course experience? While not all inclusive, we believe the following tips will help:
Tip 1: Make a Date With Your Online Course
Take out your calendar now, before you begin, and block out specific times you have available to work on your online course. We have found that the most successful online learners log into their courses on a regular (if not daily) basis. Since each learner and course is different, it is impossible to estimate the exact number of hours a given course will require. As a rule of thumb, you should plan on spending at least as much time in your online course as you would spend in an actual face-to-face classroom, plus whatever additional time might be required to complete out-of-class assignments.
Tip 2: Be a Good Communicator
Since written communication is vital to online learning, you will want to put your best foot forward in your communications with your professor and your classmates. It is generally a good idea to prepare all written communications in a word processing program (e.g., Microsoft Word) before copying and pasting them into Blackboard Learn. This will give you an opportunity, not only to review and spell-check your document, but also to reflect upon what you have written to make sure it communicates exactly what you want to say. Clear communication is particularly important in public areas (e.g., the discussion forum) where misunderstandings can easily occur.
Tip 3: "Speak" Up
There is no room (or reason) for "shyness" in the online environment. You will get more from your online learning experience if you are willing to share your ideas and comments with your professor and classmates through Blackboard Learn's communication tools (Messages, Discussion Forum, Chat, etc.).
Tip 4: Get Organized
In addition to setting up a specific time to log into your online course, you may also wish to develop some strategies to help you get organized. Some students find it helpful to print lengthy documents and put them in a binder or portfolio, while others prefer to do all their reading online. One thing we strongly recommend is that you establish a folder on your computer and save all the documents you create for your class to that folder. This will not only help you get organized, but will also provide you with a back-up copy of your class work in the event that you should need it.
Tip 5: Take Charge of Your Learning
In an online course, the professor's role changes from "sage on the stage" to "guide on the side." Research has demonstrated that students learn best when they have an active rather than a passive role in their learning. Self-directed learners need to be disciplined, motivated, and able to work independently to succeed.
Tip 6: Make Sure Your Computer Is Ready
Before beginning your course, review Blackboard's software requirements and check Blackboard's list of compatible browsers to be sure that your computer will be ready to access your course on the first day of the semester. See "Getting Started" for further information.
Tip 7: Complete Our Online Tutorial
We suggest that all new online learners complete The CyberPrimer, our online tutorial designed to prepare you to be a successful online learner before logging into your class for the first time. Access to the CyberPrimer will be available to all enrolled online learners approximately two weeks before the semester begins.
Tip 8: Seek Help When You Need It
If you need help with an academic issue, it is usually best to use Blackboard Learn's self-contained Course Messages tool to send a private message to the professor within the course or follow specific instructions that your professor may provide for contacting him/her. If you have a non-academic, course support issue you may contact the Department of Online Learning via e-mail 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A response will be made to you within 24 hours.
Finally, the Most Important Tip of All: Enjoy Your Course!