Success Tips for Online Students, Part 2

In my previous post, I discussed the number of hours needed to successfully complete a three-hour course. Having that information allows you to evaluate the time necessary for each course and to enroll in the number of credit hours that best fits your situation. Once you have completed enrollment and have been given access to your course(s), you will be ready for the next step: reading and printing the syllabus or syllabi (the plural of syllabus is syllabi).

What is so important about the syllabus?

The syllabus is your written contract with the instructor and the school. If you have ever watched Judge Judy or any of those other courtroom shows, you know how important a contract can be. The syllabus tells what you can expect from the instructor and the school and what the instructor and the school expect of you.

If you were taking a face-to-face course in a traditional classroom setting, a good portion of the first day of class would be taken up with a review of what is in the syllabus. Your instructor would point out particular sections and what they contained. Why this instructor-led review of a handout you could easily read yourself? Because instructors know that in their students’ eagerness to get on with assigned readings, many of them will neglect to read this important document on their own.

So what is in a syllabus?

Key information will include the instructor’s name and contact information, a list of the textbooks and other required materials, the course description, and any required face-to-face meetings or proctored tests. You will find out the policies on the number of required log-ins and amount of time you must spend in the course, whether late work will be accepted (usually not), and appropriate discussion posting manners (often referred to as netiquette) in an online course. In most instances, the syllabus will also contain an overview of the course assignments and due dates. This overview will help you plan your study schedule, which will be the topic of my next post.

Why print the syllabus?

Since the syllabus is in the course and always accessible online, you may be thinking that printing it is a waste paper and ink. Not so. The key to the need to print is the fact that the document is “accessible online.” To access the information, you need Internet service and a password. If you are in the middle of your midterm exam and weather takes down your Internet, you need the instructor’s telephone contact information, particularly if this is the last day the exam is available. If you are suddenly ill or in an accident that prevents you from crawling to your computer and alerting your instructor to your inability to complete assignments, you can have a friend or relative do it for you–if the contact information is printed and kept where it can be easily located. In fact, you may be worried about whether you can make up work missed in an emergency. You don’t have to get online to find out if you have that hard copy of the syllabus available.

And by the way, there will probably be a quiz.

Copyright © 2015 Hazel Hart

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