The semester starts in one week. Whether you’re a seasoned online learner or a first-timer, we have a few suggestions and some free tools that will help make your semester a bit more enjoyable.
Familiarize Yourself With The Student Resource Portal (SRP)
WKU’s SRP was designed to allow easy access to resources and support across campus with a single click! The SRP provides access organization and stress management tips, online tutoring, the WKU Writing Center, the Online Presentation Coaching Center, the DL Testing Centers, and much more! The SRP is accessible at www.wku.edu/online/srp or from inside your online course in Blackboard.
Utilize Free Online Tools
When I first started taking online classes, I limited myself to the tools I had readily available in Blackboard. It didn’t occur to me to search elsewhere, because I simply didn’t know what was possible. After a few semesters, I learned that the possibilities are endless! There are numerous free and low-cost online tools available to assist you with research, note taking, collaboration and organization. One of the most helpful tools I discovered was CiteULike – touted as “everyone’s library,” CiteULike allows you to save scholarly articles and search by keyword – it’s free, easy to use, and will save you hours of precious time by building your own library of articles most prominent in your particular field. There are also tools available that help you cite your sources, and protect you from accidentally plagiarizing. Visit http://www.wku.edu/online/srp/tools.php for a complete list of our favorite tools!
If you are unclear about technology, the requirements of an assignment or have trouble finding a resource that the professor has referenced, ask. It is true what they say, there are no stupid questions. If you are struggling with something, you are not alone! Your professor should assist you with any questions you have pertaining to class materials or assignment issues. If you have technological trouble, the IT Helpdesk can assist you. Visit www.wku.edu/it to access live chat or submit a help request.
Use Proper Netiquette
In online courses nearly all communication is written. This makes it especially important to communicate clearly, since you will not have the added benefit of nonverbal communication, such as facial expressions or tones of voice. One of the most common ways you will interact with your peers in an online classroom is through discussion boards. Oftentimes, the instructor will post a topic and require students to post to the discussion board, respond and perhaps evaluate their peers submission. Choose your words carefully, as your tone online may seem harsher than you intend it to be. Avoid using all capital letters all the time, as most people associate this with yelling. Proofread assignments and posts before your send them, so you can avoid mistakes that could cause confusion and misunderstanding.
Read more on Netiquette at www.albion.com/netiquette/corerules.html.
While online courses cover the same content, and they are taught by the same professor; they are very different in their structure. Studying online offers much greater flexibility in time and space than face-to-face courses. This flexibility is what makes it possible for many of us to continue our education, because we can fit in study time around all of the other things that require a specific schedule. This flexibility also makes it surprisingly easy to push our classes to the back burner, and quickly lose track of what needs to be accomplished. This is why again and again you will hear people say that the key to succeeding online is self-motivation.
One of the keys to staying motivated is planning. Proper planning allows you to minimize stress, gain a feeling of accomplishment, and avoid feeling discouraged/overwhelmed. One of the most important things you can do, and also one of the easiest, is keep a calendar. Your calendar should reflect the due dates of all of your upcoming assignments, tests, discussion board posts, work obligations, out-of-town trips, family commitments, and anything else that goes in the must-do category. Seeing everything in one place will allow you to have an accurate view of your day-to-day. This makes it easy to see when you have time available, and quickly spot a week that you have an unusually busy schedule. This allows for proper planning, and as I said at the beginning, proper planning = minimized stress, feelings of accomplishment and a more positive, can-do attitude.