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 Online Learning Success
 Lesson 2: Am I Ready for an Online Class?
   Written by Gayle L. Fornataro, LAVC Virtual Valley Student Success coordinator

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Lesson 2: Am I Ready for an Online Class?

The topics covered in this lesson are as follows:

2.1 What computer skills will I need?
2.2 What computer equipment will I need?
2.3 What personal qualities or motivation will I need?
2.4_Readiness_Quiz
2.5 Helpful Links
2.6 Keys to Success

 

Lesson 2: Am I Ready?
2.1 What computer skills will I need?

Since an online class meets, well, online, you will need some basic computer skills and equipment to be successful. Not only that, much of our world today happens electronically. These computer skills will help you be more successful in business, and even in your personal life!

Today, anyone who graduates from college needs to know how to use a computer and navigate the Internet.  One distinct advantage of taking an online class is that it will help your develop your computer skills while you learn another subject.  Essentially, you get two classes for the price of one!

If you do not currently possess any of these skills, don’t panic.  Help is available. You should seek this help before your online class begins, if possible.  You are doing exactly the right thing by reading this tutorial.  The last section in this lesson will provide links to help you develop your computer and website navigation skills.

First, in an online class, all your communication with your teacher and your classmates happens in writing.  So, the better your written communication skills are, the better off you will be.  If you do not believe you can effectively communicate in writing, you may want to take a traditional, face-to-face English class to develop your writing skills before you take an online class.  

Since writing in English is so important to an online class, you may be wondering whether or not you should take an online class if you are an ESL student. This despends on what forms of communication you are most comfortable with. The advantage of an online class is that you can spend as long as you like (within class assignment deadlines, of course) reading class materials and composing your responses. For that reason, it may be advantageous for you to take an online class. However, if you rely on facial expressions, gestures, and the ability to immediately question the speaker, then you may prefer a class that meets face-to-face.

Not only will your class communication take place in writing, it will take place electronically.  This means that you will need some basic word processing skills as well.

You will need to know how to:

Click here for an excellent tutorial on how to use Microsoft Word.

You will also need to know how to use email effectively and navigate websites.  Specifically, you will need to know how to:

Click on any of the following links to access a tutorial from "Learn the Net" to help you develop these skills: Email, Surf the Web, Using Search Engines and Data Bases to Find Information.

Finally, you will need to know how to do a few other things on the computer to be able to use the ETUDES class website.  You may need to  

Section 2.5: Helpful Links  of this tutorial has links to websites that will teach you these computer skills.

So, all this may sound overwhelming and confusing to you, but don’t be scared away from taking an online class because of some of the jargon.  Help is available, and all these skills are useful far beyond just taking an online class or two.  They will help you be successful in today’s technological world. 

Many of these operations are actually fairly intuitive.  With patience and practice, they will become second nature.  In fact, you are using many of these skills as you read through this tutorial. Computers today are really pretty easy to use.  The programs you will use often guide you through the steps to complete a task in a logical way.  If something you want to do seems confusing, you simply need to know where and how to get help. 

   Bright Idea! Learn to read help files.  Most computer programs
        today come with extensive help files.  You can click on the “help” icon
        and look at an index for the topic you want, or type a key word into a
        search box, and you will get step-by-step instructions, telling you
        exactly how to do what you want. 

    Bright Idea! Read all instructions carefully.  Often, what you
        need to do has been explained by your instructor, so read all
        assignment and other instructions fully.  Don’t skip anything!

 

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Lesson 2: Am I Ready?
2.2 What computer equipment will I need?

Here is the description of the computer and Internet requirements given on the ETUDES Login homepage:

“The ETUDES Collaboration and Learning Environment (CLE) is an Internet-based application capable of running on a minimal computer setup so long as it is running a recent version of a properly configured browser and a more recent computer.

General System Requirements

You must have regular, reliable Internet access (minimum 56K modem) for satisfactory performance. Many courses require high-speed connections for interactive multimedia such as PowerPoint, Digital Video, etc. These requirements should also be stated in the course syllabus. If your connectivity is slower than a 56K modem, you might experience frustration with slow response.”

Additionally, you will need the following:


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Lesson 2: Am I Ready?
2.3 What personal qualities or motivational will I need?

As we learned in Lesson One, an online class takes just as much time as a traditional one, even if that time is somewhat less structured.  This is both good news and bad news. 

The good news is that an online class allows you the flexibility to work when you need to.  For many busy people, taking classes online provides their only possibility to pursue a college education.  The fact that you are not required to be in class for specific hours during the week means that you can go to school around your work schedule, parenting responsibilities, and other demands on your time.

Sound great, right?  Well, it is great, but it is also challenging.  While the hours are not fixed, an online class requires just as much time per week as a regular class.  Not only that, since the time is not structured for you by your instructor, you need to structure your time for yourself. 

This means that one quality you need to be a successful online student is discipline. While you will be a part of an online community and will be working with others online, it is your responsibility to log in and participate.  It can be all too easy to put off logging in when no is telling you to do it at a specific time every day.  It is up to you to create a schedule for yourself to make sure you participate in your class, and that you give yourself enough time to complete assignments.

So, in addition to determination, you also need effective time management skills.  Are the kind of person who makes “to do” lists, who has the strength to so say “no” to invitations from friends to devote the evening to your studies, and who always gets your work done on time?  If you are like many people, this does not describe you precisely.  However, you will need to become this kind of person to succeed in getting an online education. 

You may be feeling a bit discouraged at this point, so this is where the third quality you need to be a good online student comes in: determination. It doesn’t matter if you have not been a disciplined person who manages his or her time well is the past.  What matters is how you approach your online classes now.

It may take some determination, but you can train yourself to manage your time, to be a disciplined student.  What’s more, there is plenty of help available to help you develop better study skills.  Again, just by reading this tutorial, you are headed in the right direction.  Later lessons will focus on time management and provide you with other resources to help you be successful now, no matter how disorganized you have been in the past.

If you can do this, not only will you help yourself do well in school, but you will learn valuable strategies to be successful in your career as well.  A career takes just as much focus, dedication, and time management as an online education does.  Just as with computer skills, online classes are like getting two classes for the price of one.  If you succeed here, you will have developed skills and attitudes that will help you succeed at whatever you want to do.

Even if you have been a successful, motivated student in the past, however, online classes present some additional challenges to a traditional class.    While you will probably be asked to engage in some group activities and discussions in your online classes, you will be working on your own to a large extent.  You will not have the opportunity to meet your classmates in person and engage in the same kind of give-and-take conversation and collaboration as in group work in the classroom. 

So, to do well you need to be (or become) an independent learner. There are, of, course, advantages to this as well. The fact that online education offers the opportunity to be an independent learner is exactly what some people like about it.  Many students enjoy online discussions more than face-to-face ones.  Some students are intimidated by speaking in front of a group, or are reluctant to answer a question unless they know they are right.  Online discussions give them time to reflect and compose discussion comments, as well as to read and reread the comments of others before they jump in the conversation themselves. Students for whom English is a second language, for example, often feel more comfortable with the extra time to understand and reflect since it can be easy to get a little lost in a fast-paced class discussion.

However, if you need more immediate feedback to your discussion comments, if you need to ask a lot of questions before you can understand a concept or an assignment, if you need the benefit of gestures or facial expressions to get your point across or to understand the comments of others, then online education might not be the best choice for you right now.  You may need to take some basic skills classes in a traditional classroom environment to prepare yourself first.

    Bright Idea! Visit your instructor in person if possible. Some
        instructors hold office hours on campus. If so, drop in and introduce
        yourself, or go to see your instructor for help on difficult assignments.

The next section of this lesson and the following lessons will provide you with all the information and resources you will need to become the kind of student who gets assignments done, and done well, on time – whether your class is online or face-to-face.

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Lesson 2: Am I Ready?
2.4: Readiness Quiz

If you are still unsure, the following online quiz will help you determine whether or not Online Learning is right for you.

Are You Ready for Online Learning?

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Lesson 2: Am I Ready?
2.5: Helpful Links

At this point, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed by all this information. Never fear, ample help is available to you. This section will provide you with links to several resources to help you develop whatever skills you need to improve upon before you enroll in an online class, as well as resources to help you meet the technical requirements of the ETUDES course management system.


Computer Skills:

Here is a Microsoft Word 2000 Tutorial From Florida Gulf Coast University:
Microsoft Word 2000 Tutorial

Here is a tutorial demonstrating how to send email attachments:
Sending Email Attachments

The following are excellent Internet Tutorials from Learn the Net:
Internet Basics
Net Anatomy
How to Download files and programs
Using Search Engines and Data Bases to Find Information

Email
Surf the Web


Technical ETUDES Help:

Set your browser cache (Mac),
Set your browser cache (PC)
,
configure your browser cookies, configure javascript, and turn off pop-up blockers
.

Academic Links:

LAVC Writing Center
    
Using Critical Thinking Skills to Be a Better Student
      This is an excellent presentation written by the Walker Center for Academic Excellence at
      Pierce College. While it does not foucs specifically on online learning, many of the strategies
      are applicable to an online situation.


      Note: This is a PowerPoint presentation, and you if you do not have Microsoft Powerpoint
      (Part of Microsoft Office) on your computer, then you will need to download a free
      Powerpoint Viewer from the Microsoft website:

     Download a Free PowerPoint Viewer

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Lesson 2: Am I Ready?
2.6 Keys to Success

  

          Learn to manage your time effectively – Use time, don’t waste it!

          Be an active learner -- take the initiative to ask questions and
                  solve problems, rather than waiting passively to be told what to
                  do.

          Get involved in online discussions -- Read all the posts of your
                 classmates and reply with questions or comments of your own
                 when it is appropriate. 

          Follow through on you commitments instead of giving up.

          Take responsibility for your decisions instead of blaming others
                 or events “beyond your control.”

         Join the LAVC ETUDES Student Users Group & Help Desk!

 

Note: Some of these keys were adapted from a PowerPoint presentation on “Active Learning” from the Pierce College Walker Center for Academic excellence.  For more information, view this PowerPoint:Active Learning.

 

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Lesson One: Expectations
Lesson Two: Am I Ready?
Lesson 3: Time Management
Lesson 4 Online Discussions
Lesson 5: Plagiarism
Lesson 6: Ergonomics
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