Success Tips for Online Students: Part 4

If you are new to online courses, you may have a high learning curve during your first week of class. First, you must learn to navigate the course and use the course tools, such as e-mail, discussion boards and assignment submission links. Next, you must learn any required software used for submissions. After all that, you must complete the assignments for the first week of the course. Even those students familiar with the computer may have trouble assimilating all the new programs and completing the assignments by the first due date.

You are not alone

One of the biggest complaints  online students have is the lack of help available to them, and you may feel that way. After all, you are sitting alone in front of a computer, staring at a screen full of instructions, and trying to figure out where and how to accomplish all the assigned tasks before the due date. Then something doesn’t work. A quiz won’t open. An assignment file won’t upload. You try to figure out what is wrong, but nothing works. It sure feels like you are alone. But with a little preparation, you will know what help is available and how to ask for it.

Start early

Like the Boy Scouts, you must “Be prepared.” You will probably have access to the course a few days before the actual beginning of the semester. Take that time to look around. Click on links to see what is available. If the school provides face-to-face online orientation sessions, attend one if you can. You will be taken through the various course tools and how to use them. If you cannot attend an online orientation, look for one in the course itself. Also, locate the FAQs that show how to upload assignments, check your grades, post to discussions, and use the course e-mail system.

Help desk

If you are having a technical problem, such as the inability to upload assignment files, you may be using the wrong Internet browser or may need to adjust the settings on your computer. There is usually a help desk number you can call or a help request form to fill out. The only problem with these resources is that they may be available only during regular business hours. As an online student, you may be working at midnight or three in the morning, so will have to wait. While you are waiting, you may want to consult the online FAQs.

Instructor help

Your instructor is your main source of help when you have questions about the course content and assignments. See your syllabus for the instructor’s contact information, which may include e-mail addresses and telephone numbers. If this is not an emergency, use e-mail and expect a twenty-four-hour turnaround. If you are having trouble with an assignment due the same day, then call within the hours the instructor has indicated as acceptable. If technology fails during an online test or while uploading an assignment, send an e-mail as soon as possible after the occurrence. The instructor may reset the assignment so you can complete it.

Other help

Free tutoring may be available, both online and on campus.

The college library may have online services, databases, and citation help available. A librarian may be available to answer questions by telephone.

There may be an online writing lab where you may submit your writing assignments for advice on improving your work.

To find the above resources, check the major links in your online course or the main college website. If you cannot find a link to the help you need, ask your instructor–your best resource in an online course.

A preview of future posts

Now that I have completed an overview of how to succeed in any online course, I am going to focus on my first love, writing. In future posts, I’ll be discussing how to prepare an assignment project sheet, find a topic that fits the length of your assignment, develop topic sentences and thesis statements, and support your opinions. There will also be pointers on revising, editing, and proofreading. If these are topics of interest to you, be sure to subscribe to my blog.

© 2015 Hazel Hart