6 Things to Consider Before Taking an Online Course

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Starting out on your learning journey by taking an online course should be an exciting and rewarding time, allowing you to pursue a new qualification at your own pace and time and in a venue of your choosing. However you need to set yourself up to properly benefit from this time of motivation and opportunity, so let’s have a look at some of the key considerations when it comes to making the most of your online learning opportunity.

What to Consider Before Taking an Online Course

1. Do your research about the course and what is expected of you

Don’t just read the course title and description, you need to do your research on exactly what it is you will be studying and how it can add to your qualifications and credentials. How exactly is the course to be delivered, is it in phases or is it one large piece of coursework and reading material? Are classes delivered via live or recorded lectures? How do you interact with course staff and lecturers and how is your progress monitored? Who do you go to if you need help and can you get in contact with other fellow students? These are all key considerations and questions you should be asking yourself. You’ll also need to consider and plan for what you will need to be doing every week. Read the course syllabus to find out the due dates for any coursework or assignments and what the value of each piece of coursework is. Course administrators should also outline the class and course policies, including considerations for catching up on missed learning and considerations for disabilities or concessions for those with previous academic experience in this area. 

2. Don’t just observe, participate!

Just because you are undertaking online learning, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t develop a communicative and enjoyable relationship with course providers and lecturers. Ask them what the best method is for communication,or another method whether it’s email, Zoom or Skype or even an old fashioned phone call. Make sure you introduce yourself to the lecturer/lecturers and explain to them what you’re hoping to gain from the course and what your ambitions are. A little effort like that can make a huge difference in making a connection that will mean the course providers are more engaged with you and aligned in assisting you to reach your objectives from online learning. Ask questions and engage sensibly of course, not just for the sake of it. 

3. Be prepared to follow instructions

If you have course work or an assignment due at the end of May, make sure it is delivered at the end of May. If you have an assignment that asks for a 600 word essay, don’t submit a 900 word essay. Read the tutorials and notes on how material is to be delivered, spacing, fonts, file types etc. Bothering lecturers with questions that are already covered in the course notes will be a particular bugbear to them and will do nothing to help you succeed in your studies. Make sure you follow criteria that is laid out in the course notes and don’t make life more difficult for yourself or for others in your online learning course. 

4. Keep in contact

Check your email, or designated platform, for emails or messages related to the course on a daily basis. You don’t want to miss anything that has a pressing deadline or could be relevant to something you are working on. Also, it’s particularly important if you are involved with group work alongside other students. There are few things as annoying in distance learning as having to shoulder someone else’s casework, so make sure you don’t inflict this on someone else. While remaining communicative and responsive is very important in terms of distance learning, don’t go over the top when it comes to sharing opinions and ideas, sometimes less is more and too many emails or messages to your lecturers or fellow students can be overwhelming.

5. Don’t procrastinate

Procrastination is the enemy of any kind of progress, but in terms of taking an online course, it is particularly dangerous. By leaving assignments or group work until too late, you put yourself and others in your class in a potentially awkward situation. View the deadlines given as you would a work related deadline and plan time to work at it and achieve it. Don’t procrastinate, just follow the guidance given by the course providers and put the work in. When there is a forum for opinion and discussion, make sure you use it, but don’t let it get in the way of the work that is essential to the syllabus of your online course. 

6. Make time and a place for study

Although online courses can of course be delivered anywhere with an internet connection, there are certain environments that are not conducive to processing information and paying attention. Cafes, beaches or other outdoor areas have too many distractions and will make it hard for you to focus on the work that needs to be done. Having a dedicated study space, a desk or quiet corner where you can plug into the lectures and coursework without distraction is essential and will help you concentrate on the tasks at hand. Maybe even stay a few hours later in the office, if you have access to one, as it may be a better place to concentrate as you will be in ‘work’ mode, and you may not always have a place at home where you can fully engage with the lectures online. 



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