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How To Prepare For Your Online Course

How To Prepare For Your Online Course

January 5, 2010

Online courses offer several advantages to students who enroll; however, the transformation from regular, traditional learning to learning in a virtual classroom is not always easy. Given below are some suggestions that will help you better prepare for an online course.

  1. Online Course Requirements
    An online course means you will need a computer and some peripherals. Go through the documentation provided in your online school's website or printed material to find out what all you need. Typically you will need the following items in addition to the computer.

    • Speakers or headphones and a microphone.
    • Software for reading documents (like Adobe PDFreader).
    • Software for creating documents (like Microsoft Office or Open Office).
    • A printer for having hardcopies of important documents

    Most schools do not require more than the above, but with the increasing popularity of video chat facilities, you may wish to acquire a webcam. Some schools also offer their own download section  where you can get all the software that you will need for your online course. It is always a good idea to check for software in the download section of your online school/college's website before buying any.
  2. Study Space
    Your computer and study space must not be in a general area of your home. Keep them where traffic is minimal and where you can study without being interrupted. Though you will be studying online, you will still be expected to keep track of important paperwork, so make sure there is adequate space to keep folders and books. Set aside some writing space close by with plenty of papers, pens, and highlighters. If you intend to study from multiple locations, like your home and office, then you may wish to get a backpack to carry all important study related accessories with you. Do not maintain two separate sets, as that might cause confusion when you move between locations.
  3. Your Virtual Campus
    The website of your school is your virtual campus; therefore, you must know it thoroughly. Explore the website and go through every link and feature included therein. You need to attain a level of comfort that only comes with prolonged familiarity, so start exploring the website as soon as you have your login credentials. Be a proactive online student; do not wait for the course to begin. You may start even before you have your login details, but it is more important to do so after you have them, as the real options are not visible to guest users on the website.
  4. Course Material
    Another important thing to do when you get your login and password is to order all the books that you will need for your online course. The delivery of books can take more than a week, so make sure you order them in time.
  5. Virtual Universities
    The website will also have some important links that are not related to study. These include the Help Desk, Business office, Administrative Office, Student Advisory, Faculty and Department that will be teaching you, and finally, the online library. Visit these links and wherever possible, introduce yourself as a new student and collect as much information as you can. Note that just as in real life, you cannot predict where these offices might be located; so it is in virtual universities and schools. Every website will have a unique design and architecture.  If you are familiar with one website's structure, then you will need to go through this exercise again when you enroll in a different online degree program. Every service will have an email contact or a phone number; you must know them so that information can be retrieved quickly when you need it.
  6. Password And Login
    The login and password for your school and class may or may not be the same. Always log in to your class when you receive login credentials to make sure you can enter both. This depends on the Internet security policy implemented by the school. If the login credentials for your class are different, then get them quickly or you will not be able to submit assignments when the time arrives.
  7. Virtual Classroom
    As with the general layout of the school website, you will also need to know the layout of your virtual classroom. There will be many links and sections leading to various activities and you must explore them. There will be an email system, discussion board, assignments page, and so on. If there is a link you can click, then click on it and check where it goes and what it does. All online courses are built on what are called Course Management Systems. There is industry standardized software and there is proprietary software, but the core concepts are always the same. What you need to do is understand what to do when a class activity demands it. "Submit an assignment" sounds quite straightforward but you should still go through the act of submitting one.
  8. Get A Copy Of The Syllabus
    You might already have a copy of the syllabus; if not then get one before classes begin. Know what you are going to be studying for the duration of the course and start getting ready before classes begin. Understand the topics that will be covered, what sort of assignments you will have to do, and what sort of activities you may expect. You will not feel so overwhelmed when you know what is coming next.
  9. Discussion Board
    The discussion board is another place you must visit once you have your login credentials. This is where you may post your introduction and begin acquainting yourself with your classmates and discussing other topics. Through these discussions you will meet other interesting people and make friends. Discussion forums are a great way to get to know the school and your classmates. You can even discuss the syllabus or assignments and help each other out. By staying active in discussion forums you will never feel alone during your online degree experience.
  10. Conclusion
    This is a new experience so take it easy and give yourself time. The whole point of an online course is to let you study without pressure so there is no point in getting worked up over it. If you have questions then there are always student counselors or professors willing to help you.