As a faculty member who has taught online and hybrid courses through the years, I’ve learned a bit about the demands and rewards of online learning. I want you to be successful as we take our classes online, so I am sharing some tips I’ve picked up along the way from my experience as a teacher and what my students have told me helped them.
Set aside more time to complete tasks online than you would in a face-to-face class.
Online learning means that the simple tasks you do habitually in a classroom will now require a bit more time and planning. Most likely, you will need to search through a learning management system such as Canvas for class directions, handouts, and discussion board prompts. In some cases, you will need to write your responses instead of speaking them. You may need to watch a video from your professor. If you want clarification about the technology being used, you may need to to search the Internet for answers. Chances are, you will find these activities more time-consuming than you expected. Know that this is normal, and that you should schedule your time accordingly. Also, you will become more used to these practices over time.
You probably will be writing more.
As a professor of Writing Studies, I think this is a good thing. Writing is a way to make meaning, so it will help you synthesize the information in your classes, no matter what the subject. Your professor may choose to ask you questions and receive your answers through a discussion board, which may take some getting used to because you are more accustomed to talking through your ideas in class. Know that writing-to-learn is a valuable way to develop your ideas. Thinking about a subject through writing will help you grasp the course material (or figure out where you need to ask your professor for clarification). If you’re not used to writing a lot in your major, this is another reason why class work may take you longer than it did in a face-to-face format. And if you’re looking to improve your writing, the tutors at the Department of Writing Studies’ Center for Writing Excellence and Writing Studio are happy to help.
Communicate your learning needs to your professors.
Your needs might include everything from extended time on an assignment, to wanting clarification on instructions, to adjusting learning accommodations that you already have in place. It’s not always easy to tell your professor when something is not working for you, but it’s especially important to do this in an online environment. When teachers and students are in the same room, teachers can gauge a lot by looking for cues in students’ facial expressions or body language. It’s harder to get this kind of visual feedback online. Take advantage of opportunities to give feedback, and reach out individually as needed. Most professors will hold online office hours–drop in when you can. We understand that class schedules will need to be more flexible during this unprecedented situation.
Take care of yourself.
The shift to exclusive online learning will be stressful for most of us and especially for those who have not taken an online class before. That makes getting enough rest, exercise, and down time even more important than usual. Stay connected with your friends and family. Unplug at various times during the day. If you experience depression or other mental health challenges, reach out right away to the appropriate office at school, or to someone you trust (such as a professor).
Know that your professors are dedicated to helping you finish the semester successfully. We’re in this with you. Now, let’s keep the conversation going online.
Professor Caroline Dadas, Director of First Year Writing
Department of Writing Studies
Montclair State University