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New Year, New Class: The Basics for the Online Learner

New Year, New Class: The Basics for the Online Learner

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online-learning-first-class-basicsBy Dr. Bruce A. Johnson
Online Learning Tips, Guest Contributor

This content was previously run on Bruce’s profile in LinkedIn Pulse.

Starting an online class usually marks the beginning of a new academic adventure, one that is a result of careful planning and a desire to learn something new. There are numerous articles written to help online students get started, usually focused on elements such as resources and time management. While those are important aspects of online learning, one of the most important indicators of success for a student is the mindset they begin with and maintain throughout their course.

From the first day that an online student begins their class they often are required to hit the ground running. This means they are expected to be self-motivated and learn all of the rules, policies, and procedures immediately. Many online universities offer an orientation workshop or class to help new students began their degree program and those orientation sessions will help to reduce the initial learning curve. However, the most essential ingredient to their success is sustained self-motivation, perseverance, and persistence. This is possible when students are willing to embrace the learning process with focused determination.

Policies and Expectations

When students start an online class they often possess a mixture of excitement and apprehension because they likely do not know what is can be required of them until the class has begun. Developing the right mindset begins with a willingness to learn and implement the policies established by the university, as well as their instructor’s expectations. It is important to keep in mind that the expectations of one instructor is likely to be different then the next one. Instructors usually have some degree of latitude when establishing student expectations for the class, which means it can vary from class to class. The best rule of thumb is to know how to contact your instructor and be willing to ask for help or clarification whenever it is needed. When approaching an instructor, do so from a willingness to listen and be responsive to their feedback and suggestions.

Determine What You Need

Initially it may feel overwhelming to know where to look for resources needed or even what resources are required to develop the necessary academic skill sets. This is why it is important to review the instructor’s feedback as there will likely be indicators for the areas of development that need your immediate attention. Most universities offer a writing center or writing resources that can be used throughout the entire degree program; therefore, make a decision early on with your first course that you will be receptive to suggestions about the use of these resources.

Online Communication

Students often begin posting messages in an online classroom without considering the perceived tone of the message or how those posts represent them as a person because their physical presence is absent. There is no need to be afraid of posting but it does require careful consideration as to how you want to project yourself, along with managing how much information you will share. Keep in mind that this is an academic environment, which is more professional in nature. This does not mean that a casual tone should be disregarded at all times; however, there must be a shift in writing towards a more formal style. It takes time for online students to become a “real” person and this is accomplished through the development of a carefully managed virtual presence.

The Right Attitude

The essential ingredients of a successful mindset for students includes a readiness to learn and a willingness to accept challenges, feedback, and constructive criticism. It means approaching interactions with a collaborative spirit and developing communication that has been well thought out. Every student has a capacity to learn and grow regardless of any inherent developmental needs. What will derail students from maintaining continued success is an attitude of resistance or unwillingness to change. With the right attitude students can accomplish anything they set out to complete. Prepare for the start of class from a positive perspective and look forward to what you will achieve.

About the Author

Dr. Bruce A. Johnson has developed expertise with adult learning and throughout his career his work has included college educator, career coach, professional writer, corporate trainer, and manager of training and development.

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