12 Steps to Learning Online

Decorative: A laptop on which is written eLearning


Image above links to "Strategies for Creating a Successful Online Classroom" (Faculty Focus)

A. "12 Steps to Get Ready to Learn Online" (post) provides clear, practical steps students can take to prepare themselves for online learning. (Steps are elaborated more fully in the post.)

  • Incorporate (some of) this information into your initial student contact -- whether during the first Zoom session, in the first day's asynchronous work, etc. --  to help students do well in their online studies.
  • Note: These practical preparation steps can be of equal value to instructors, especially those teaching online for the first time. 
    • I have supplemented several of the steps below with related resources for instructors.
  • An encouraging quotation: "[A]ccept the proven fact there is little evidence that learning in a classroom is better than learning online. Learning online can be better depending on who is teaching and what the subject matter is. Online learning has been with us since 1994 and there is a lot of experience around that shows it can work really well."

B. The Steps

1. Preparing for Learning

a. "Find Your Private Learning Space"

  • "This is the space where you connect for lessons delivered live using Zoom ... and where you read, make notes, watch videos and do the other things required in your course."
  • "You need a space which:
    • "Does not have people walking through and interrupting while you are on a video call with your professor or fellow students;"
    • "Has some natural light (preferably) or good enough light to read by; and"
    • "Is available for you to leave papers, books, materials you are working on, even if you have to place them in cardboard box while the space is used for other things."
  • "If you do not have this kind of space, make sure your professor is aware of this challenge."

b. "Check Your Internet Speed"

  • "The recommended minimum speed for effective video-based learning and activities is 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload (Mbps = megabits per second)."
  • "If you are below the recommended speeds, you may have difficulty with downloads and live video. Let your professor know if this is the case."

c. "Play and Practice with the Online Leaning Platform(s) Your Course Uses"

"Find out which platform you will use for 'live' activities – things done in real time – and which platforms you will use for non-live (anytime, anywhere) activities required for the course ... [I]f possible, use them before you attend your first class."

  • "[L]earn how [Zoom] works. Go to [its] [support] website, take free introductory webinars and use available tools to get familiar with [it]." 
  • "[M]ake sure you are familiar with Google Docs or Microsoft Word and how you will use them for creating your assignments."
  • [I]f you are studying a science, statistics or math course, you may want to explore the application you are going to use for formulae." 

d. "Understand the New Language of Online Learning"

  • Introduces the terms "synchronous," "asynchronous," "post," and "thread."

e. "Become Familiar with the Policies of Your ... University with Respect to Cheating and Plagiarism"

f. "Have a Planner/Diary/Calendar Handy"

  • "Add the dates for when key assignments are due ... [and] the dates your professor is offering real-time (synchronous) sessions you are expected to attend online."

  • "Make sure there are no conflicts with the dates for the real-time sessions. If there are, let your professors know immediately."
  • "Give yourself at least 3-4 hours per week or more for each course you are taking, in addition to the real-time activities."

2. Beginning the Learning

g. "For Each Week of the Course, Develop a Plan"

  • This step provides "a template you can use each week to plan your work." 
  • It walks students (and us as instructors and course planners) through the following weekly questions:
    • "What I am expected to learn this week?"
    • "Why am I learning these things this week – how does it connect to the purpose of my program?"
    • "What do I have to read and what am I am supposed to do with this reading (review, critique, challenge)?"
    • "What do I have to watch or listen to this week? When I watch or listen, what do I need to focus on?"
    • "What am I discussing with my fellow students this week? What is the conversation?"
    • "How do I know I am learning what I need to learn?"
    • "What do I actually need to do to practice the skills and capabilities for this week’s learning?"
    • "Do I have to complete some sort of graded assessment this week?"
    • "What is the face-to-face session about this week?"
    • "Are there additional materials I can explore if I have time and want to do 'extra'?"

h. "Introduce Yourself"

  • "Use the discussion space (or other space ...) to say a few things about yourself ...."
  • "Keep it brief. But make sure others in the course know who you are."
  • "You can make really deep connections with other students in online classes, but they begin with having a sense of who is in the class and why they are." 

i. "Take Control of our Time"

  • "If you do not take control, time flies by and you can get behind."
  • "Learning online requires you to be in control and to shape how you use your time."

j. "Make Notes and Keep a Learning Log for Each Course"

  • "[A]sk ... each Friday night: '[H]ave I learned what I was to supposed to learn this week for the course?"
  • "If not, what am I going to do to catch up?'

k. "Feeling Stuck? Ask for Help!"

i. Instructors

ii.Encourage students to "ask for help" and to "[d]o it as soon as [they] can."

  • "By all means, try and solve the problem through your own efforts (search the Internet, ask your family, call a cousin...) but do not be shy in asking for help. Book an appointment with your professor. She/he is there to help you succeed."
  • Remind students of "office hours when [you] are available to respond to requests for help and assistance."
  • Encourage students to "[a]sk other students for help." 

l. "Participate! Participate! Participate!"

i. Instructor presence -- online or in the classroom -- greatly enhances the learning experience.

ii. Useful tips 

  • "[C]onnectedness .. brings a sense of belonging to the course and a sense of community, and ... participating and co-creating materials improve[s] [student] success online."

    • Consider incorporating opportunities for students to "co-create" authentic learning experiences and activities.

  • Provide guidance (and perhaps a rubric) for writing solid discussion posts.

  • Go over the provided "You will do well if ..." points from the post with your students.

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