I don’t think it is completely out of line to say that not all students, or prospective students, are ready to begin online programs when they enroll. I recently overheard an online instructor say: “The students enroll in class, buy a computer, and on the first day of class turn the computer on.” This group of students is non-traditional, usually working full-time, and often returning to school after a long absence. The preparation of these students falls on the shoulders of the instructor of their first course who is expected to help them with everything from computer set-up to LMS familiarization. All of this takes time and focus away from the course content and schedule and can result in frustration of all involved.
How do you prepare your online students to actively participate in the experience on Day One of Term One? Ideally, there is some sort of formal New Student Orientation available – developed by your institution and customized to meet the needs of your students and programs. This experience would include not only web pages and tutorials, but also helpful assistants available to answer questions and address concerns.
An online orientation might include:
- Learning basic computer skills: such as using email and sending attachments.
- Buying and setting up a computer: downloading plug-ins, protecting from viruses, selecting hardware and software.
- Accessing the Internet: choosing and using Internet browsers, finding an ISP, using unsecured wi-fi hot spots.
- Preparing to participate: how to navigate the course LMS interface, uploading/downloading of course materials and assignments, communicating in discussion boards, virtual classrooms, and via email and instant messaging.
- Managing time, resources, and stress: awareness of expectations; availability of counseling, advising, and support resources; tips, suggestions, and recommendations from successful students.
If a customized orientation is not available, there are a lot of existing options online. A few examples are listed below. Consider sharing some of your favorites.
- eLearnPortal.com – Good overall guidance including a nifty comparison of what is needed for a traditional course v. an online course.
- Online Learning Readiness Assessment – A 20-question self-assessment from San Diego Community College.
- How to Succeed as an Online Student – Advice regarding time management, setting up a study space, etc.
- Study Guides and Strategies – Lots of articles, links, etc. related to academic success in general including “Online Learning/Communication.”
- Time Management Pretest – Another self-assessment and related resources from Ohio University
photo credit: Oddsock, Flickr