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How to Be Your Own Advocate in the Online Classroom

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Self-Advocacy is a very important aspect of being a successful online student. Before you begin to understand how advocacy relates to the online classroom you must first understand what it means to be an advocate.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online, advocate means “one that pleads the cause of another or one that defends or maintains a cause or proposal”. In the online classroom, as in any learning environment, you must be your own advocate.

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One of the biggest mistake students make in the online classroom is not knowing what they want from their class. Before your classes begin, write down what you want from your class. Knowing what you want will start you on the right foot to being your own advocate. Think of these questions when you are making your list:

  • What do I want to learn from this class?
  • What do I need from my professor to be successful?
  • What do I need from my classmates to be successful?
  • How much communication and interaction do I need?

The last question brings us into our next important point. Communication is the most important concept in being your own advocate. If something is going wrong, or is just not working for you, staying quiet about the issue at hand is not going to help you be successful. It is very important to communicate not only with university staff, but also with your professor and classmates on a regular basis. This will ensure that you are gaining the best experience possible while in an online classroom setting. In a brick and mortar classroom setting you have the luxury of having the face to face communication. In an online environment you must use the resources given to you to create what I like to call “keyboard to keyboard” communication. E-mail, chat, and forums are all available in the online classroom and will help you feel more connected and will help you communicate more openly.

Self-Advocacy is needed in any learning environment but can get lost in the online learning environment. It is important that you develop and use advocacy skills to be successful and to make sure you have a positive experience while completing your degree online.

Stand up and speak up! Or in the online environment, sit it and type it! What are you waiting for? Start being your own advocate now!

By Jessica Purks
Academic Advisor, American Public University

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