to Succeed in an Online Course
How to Succeed with an
- Taking courses online can
be a little like taking classes in a foreign country.
Most of us are still and expectations of the online
environment. This page learning the norms explains how to
make the and how to make sure online learning is right
for you. most of your online opportunity, Even not be
said that this environment is the right learning though
the technology is wonderful and exciting, it can
environment for every student. It works well for some
students most of the time. It provides exciting
opportunities for people who Many online courses at WVC
use a software are constrained by time, place or other
factors. application called WebCT, which utilizes rooms,
online testing and other innovative a private bulletin
board, chat features.
Are Online Courses
Right for You?
Online courses can work for any
student, just as a physical, onsite classroom with face-to-face
instruction can work for any student -- but we all know the
quality of the "fit" with a particular instructor or a
particular class environment varies. Taking an online class
requires just as much time and effort as class on campus -- maybe
more! There are some new twists for most of us. To see if online
classes are right for you, answer these questions:
- Do you like to work
- Do you need convenience
and an adjustable schedule?
- Are you comfortable asking
for clarification and continuing to ask when you need
- Are you good at meeting
- Are you comfortable
working at a computer?
- Do you have experience
surfing the World Wide Web? If most of your experience is
only through AOL (America Online) then you'll may need to
investigate some other paths to the web like Internet
Explorer before you take on a class through West Valley
College's system. Be sure you are using the right browser by
- Are you comfortable
working primarily with a text-based medium?
- Would you be comfortable
phoning or faxing your instructor if you had problems
with anything in the course?
Did you answer "yes"
to most of the above questions? Then you'll do just fine with
online courses -- if you hesitated on some of them, you'll
probably do just fine also, but you may need to work harder and
more deliberately at staying in touch with your instructor. For a
second look at the skills you'll need to be a successful Distance
Learning student, take our Distance Learning Successful Skills
Click here to go to the Distance
Learning Successful Skills Survey
Do Online Courses Fit
Tips on Time and
What we know from experience is
there is usually an adjustment period for most students as they
learn the rhythm and patterns of online communication. Here are
some tips for getting comfortable:
- Do take time to review all
the help files your instructor makes available.
- If you are very new to the
Internet spend some time surfing and getting comfortable
- Do spend some time just
navigating your way through the class.
- Figure out what tools are
being used and what the buttons do.
- Get to know your browser.
- Do manage your time.
You'll find that your time management skills will be
critical in an online class. Why? Because it's very easy
to spend either far too little time or far too much time
on the class. Set designated blocks of time to work on
the class. This will help you stay up with the
assignments and with the interaction required in most
- Download or print out
pages for reference and review when you're offline.
- Set priorities and pay
close attention to what your instructor says about
- Ask right away for help if
something isn't going right, whether it's a technical
issue or something to do with the class environment. If
you are unsure about something, communicate it! It is
very important that you be proactive in communicating
with your instructor and classmates.
- Keep the contact
information you get from your instructor handy and use
it. If you have trouble with the technology, use the
phone. Learn the terminology of the Internet and
- Read what you are going to
send before you click on the send button. In online
communication it is important to say things carefully,
since you can not use body language as you do with verbal
communication. Be thoughtful! We will not be able to see
the grin on your face if you make a sarcastic comment, so
it could be misinterpreted!
- Once you click the send
button, you can not get a message back.
- Typing in ALL CAPS is the
equivalent of YELLING! Please do not yell at people.
- Share information, tips
and questions with your classmates and instructor. You
may have the answer someone needs.
- Become part of the online
community by participating. Join in and let your thoughts
and ideas be heard.
- Enjoy your time in this
new learning environment!
- And ask right away for
help if something isn't going right, whether it's a
technical issue or something to do with the class
environment. Don't waste time trying to solve a problem;
just call or send an email to your instructor.
Remember you won't have all
those non-verbal cues you get in the physical classroom and
neither will your instructor. Words on the screen help the
instructor *see* you much more clearly. Also, your instructor's
role will be much less that of the distributor of information,
and much more that of a guide or resource for you in exploring an
area of knowledge. The teaching style used in online courses may
be different from the traditional college model. What does this
mean for you? Taking a class online means you won't be sitting
quietly in the classroom; participation is essential for everyone
As always, effective
communication is critical to success. It's even more important in
the online environment because your instructor can't see your
frown, or hear the question in your voice. Here, you'll be
responsible for initiating more contact, for being persistent and
vocal when you don't understand something. Your instructor wants
to help - please write your question and send it along, express
your confusion, your concern, and be direct! You will save a lot
of time by communicating earlier, rather than later. Be sure and
ask about anything and everything pertaining to course content,
course procedure and evaluation.
Managing Your Time
Successfully in a Distance Learning Course
Reportedly, the most
significant factor causing students to succeed - or not - in
Distance Learning classes has been their ability to manage time.
The more successful Distance
Learning students report regularly spending 2 to 3 hours each
week for each hour of credit for a class. A 2 unit credit class,
for example, required a minimum of 4 to 6 hours of work EACH WEEK
of the semester to complete all requirements.
Without class lectures to spur
that quick burst of activity to complete the project or to bone
up for a test, some Distance Learning students procrastinate
through weeks of the semester - only to find themselves
hopelessly far behind. The following information was developed by
former students who successfully completed Distance Learning
||Work out your typical
weekly schedule - on paper - so you will have a general
guide for fitting your time to study into your other
activities. A typical plan for scheduling:
- Set up a grid with 1/2
hour times down the side, from waking to closing the mind
for the night, and with all 7 days of the week across the
- Fill in your non-flexible
times (work hours, scheduled classes, etc) with specific
- Fill in your flexible
times related to those non-flexible ones (travel time to
work or school, lunch, break, etc).
- Fill in your other
activities - clubs, choir, meetings, etc - which happen
less than once a week.
- List special must-do for
family etc. (pick up the kids, etc) that occur regularly.
Some find that taking a book along can help the time
spent waiting and can help accomplish study time needs at
the same time.
- List DEDICATED TO STUDY
TIME. This will be time that you will reserve for study -
and nothing less than a major emergency will be allowed
to disturb it. One student suggested that this be set in
1/2 hour segments -1 segment per credit hour - and before
or after this segment a 1/2 hour or hour TRY TO STUDY
TIME be scheduled.
- List TRY TO STUDY TIME.
This will be time that you are planning nothing but
study, but recognize that it may be interrupted. If
interrupted, remember to grab some catch-up time.
||Use a semester
calendar to lay out your deadlines. If your instructor
did not provide specific deadlines, set your own and meet
||Arrive a bit earlier
to work and use that 20 minutes for study.
||Have your lunch hour
away from the "gang" with the textbook and
||Review the syllabus,
study guide, or notes while waiting for the kids at the
dentist (school, dance lesson, etc).
||Find a corner at
school to work on a project between (before/after) other
||Get up a half hour
before the kids and use that time for the
"heavy" or new stuff.
||Set mind to work
solidly for 1/2 hour - and keeping to that 1/2 hour limit
as close as a reasonable stopping point happens. Using a
timer with a bell or tone alarm set to the time to stop
can be very useful and productive (you don't have to
guess or keep looking at the clock but can totally
concentrate on the work).
||Do not puzzle for days
on a problem. Get with a fellow student in the class or
with instructor for help early in a problem.
particular piece of study material or project work aside
the first time, or a second time and returning was fine -
but when it reached 3 to 8 times I was just stuck and
frustrated." Lay aside a problem piece of work and
go back with a fresh look later. However, if that does
not work after a second try, get help from somewhere
reasonably early in the game.
Rules of the Road and
West Valley College online
courses are based on the premise that students learn best in a
community. The instructor plays an important role, but this is a
different role than most instructors play in the classroom.
You'll see a shift in the way classes work. However, some things
don't change: the practices of courtesy and respect that apply in
the ordinary classroom also apply online, and require even more
attention. Here are some guidelines:
- Participate. In the online
environment, it's not enough to show up! We need to hear
your voice, to feel your presence, and we especially need
your comments added to the information, the shared
learning, and the sense of community in each class.
- Be persistent. Remember
we're all working in a fairly new environment. If you run
into any difficulties, don't wait! Phone or send an email
immediately to the instructor. Most problems are easily
solved, but we have to hear from you before we can help.
- Share tips, helpful
suggestions, and questions. For many of us, taking online
courses is a new frontier. There are no dumb questions,
and even if you think your solution is obvious, please
share! Someone in the class will appreciate it.
- Think before you push the
Send button. Did you say just what you meant? How will
the person on the other end read the words? While you
can't anticipate all reactions, do read over what you've
written before you send it.
- Remember we can't see the
grin on your face when you make a sarcastic comment, we
can't see the concern on your face if you only say a
couple of words, and we can't read your mind and fill in
the gaps if you abbreviate your comments. So, help us
"see" you by explaining your ideas fully. Use
emoticons for fun once in awhile. An emoticon looks like
- Remember there's a person
on the other side. Ask for feedback if you're not sure
how your ideas and comments will be taken. If you
disagree with what someone has said, practice all your
best communication skills as you express that
disagreement. "Flaming," or flying off the
handle and ranting at someone else is unacceptable; it's
the equivalent of having a tantrum, something most of us
wouldn't do in an onsite, face-to-face classroom.
- Any derogatory or
inappropriate comments regarding race, gender, age,
religion or sexual orientation are unacceptable and
subject to the same disciplinary action they would
receive if they occurred in the physical classroom. If
you have concerns about something that has been said,
please let your instructor know.
- Plagiarism, cheating and
other violations of ethical student behavior are serious
actions in a learning community. You should expect to be
Code of Conduct
West Valley College policy
states that electronic communications conducted in the course of
a class are "public" communications in the same way
that classroom exchanges are public. Your instructor and other
students are bound by the same principles of respect,
professionalism, and concern, as you would find in any
interaction in one of the College's classrooms or offices. Please
read Standards of Conduct. If you feel that these principles have
been compromised in some way, please discuss this directly with
- revised Sept. 25, 2001