- Familiarize yourself with the virtual environment: approach to the course
Make sure your computer has all the tools and programs you may need during the course; basically, you need to set up the right technology:
- Confirm that the operating system of your PC is compatible with the applications that will be used during the course. A tablet, for example, does not have the same operating system as a computer, and its operation has its quirks;
- Install the latest version of your web browser;
- Know if it will be necessary to have a microphone or webcam to attend virtual meetings or collaborate on a team.
Once the course begins it will devote a few hours the first day to familiarizing you with the interface of the platform. Discover how to navigate through the different subjects of the online platform, where and how to ask questions, where and how to deliver your activities or how to communicate privately with the teachers and the mentors.
- Schedule yourself
The flexibility offered by online learning, available 24 hours a day, offers the possibility of postponing the time to review the material, but it does not work well for those who are unable to complete activities on time without daily reminders by the teacher.
As a starting point it is important to organize your time with these practices:
- Consider your weekly schedule and set the hours that you will devote to the course. If possible, connect a while every day, not just on weekends. When using customary technology, difficulties of all kinds can come up (input virus, incompatibility with the web browser, operating system, Internet, etc.) and therefore it is important to allow time to resolve technical problems or ask the Course forum so we can overcome moments of frustration. It is never wise to leave it to the last day.
- Read the course calendar provided by the tutor to know the timing of the agenda. All major online instruction platforms including Moodle, Google, etc. will include a calendar that allows students to see deadlines of activities and participation in discussion forums in one location.
You can even export the course calendar to integrate the major events of the course into your regular schedule, either Google Calendar or iCal on Mac. This overview of your schedule will allow you to organize efficiently to complete tasks on time and not lose the thread of the course.
- Interact with your online people
To take full advantage of an online course, it is important to participate and interact with the other students. As more of you participate, you will have more significant connections with other participants, increasing your learning experience and getting the great opportunity to create links and ties for your career.
Each of us has unique experiences and knowledge. To share every week, multiply and improve the general level of understanding through the contributions of all. In addition, by the end of the course participants will have increased their Personal Learning Network (PLN), which they will continue to cultivate and find valuable support in the future (boosting professional opportunities and skills-development).
In fact, a good online course will create opportunities for participants to interact both inside and outside the platform. While all the platforms of e-learning have their own forums, in my experience what works most smoothly is communication between participants when they are given access to other forms of informal relationships such as a closed Facebook group or the ability to communicate via virtual platforms like Skype or Appear.in.
It appears that group communication in a move known as Facebook virtual environment accelerates real connection and understanding among its members. There is a need to bring up questions or share the joy of overcoming or a moment of frustration.
- Ask your questions and always keep a netiquette
When in doubt, feel free to ask. Asking not only gives you the opportunity to clear up gaps in your understanding, but also gives you the opportunity to discover other gaps that you have and don’t know you have. Use the tools available to communicate with teachers and / or colleagues, either to pose your questions or to provide an answer to the question of another partner. Surely, through these conversations we learn significantly.
Normally you will have accessible internal messaging, discussion forums, closed groups in a social network or even groups of private messages (i.e.: Twitter).
It is advisable to write always in correct, grammatical sentences, avoiding abbreviations, sarcasm, sentences written in all uppercase letters or very colloquial words in order to avoid being misunderstood. Netiquette also means responding to messages that come to you in a diligent way and raising questions so as to provide as much information as possible (e.g.: a descriptive title of the question, a screenshot of the problem, steps have been followed, etc.)
- Have a concrete, personal workspace
One thing online and in-class courses have in common is that students still need a place to study or complete assignments, whether that's at a coffee shop, the school library, or at home. The workspace is very important because it settles the student’s personal framework and ensures calm and a well-organized atmosphere while studying, plus all the tools needed for getting the job done well. Wherever students choose to study and complete assignments, they should make it a consistent location that's free of outside interference or disturbance: in fact, online courses require a high level of focus and concentration to complete tasks and follow debates and even streaming.
- Face the difficulties
Students who successfully complete the course are not necessarily starting at a higher level, they are just among those who have a higher level of tolerance for technical problems, seek help when needed, work on the agenda every day, and prevail over the challenges. Online learning requires independence, internal motivation, and responsibility.
- Use only your own ideas and act with Integrity
Online courses increasingly take security measures to corroborate that the person taking the course does not cheat. It is important to act with integrity, avoiding plagiarism or allowing other people to do our jobs or tests. Plagiarism is considered to occur when we use the ideas, the writing, or the work of others as if we were the original author without any permission or attribution. An online course provides a new learning methodology, but requires participants to be more proactive in their education and in building their PLNs.
- Stay connected with your mates after the online course!
This simply depends on your communication skills, but it is a nice practice to make your life better, more inclusive, international, and human oriented.
Still here? What are you waiting for? Seek your online adventure and enjoy your new educational challenge!