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3 Tips To Share On the “First Day” of Your Online Class


April 5, 2017 by admin


Strategy for an online classUnlike your online class, for most experienced professors, the first day teaching face-to-face is pretty routine. Introduce yourself and make sure the students are in the right room. Try to establish a rapport by telling a few jokes of if the class is small enough having students say something about themselves. Provide an overview of the course; review the syllabus and course policies and so on.

And the students know the drill as well. Try to make it to class on time. Find a seat that may be permanent for the semester. Pay as much attention as possible. Figure out if there is homework. On to the next class.

Online Class Vs. Face-To-Face

I know what is expected of me on the first day and so do the students. Even first semester first year students are seasoned first-day-of-class veterans. Except when they are taking an online class. For some students, this will be their first online experience and they actually have no idea what to expect. And even for returning students the first day may feel unsettling and mildly disappointing. After all, the first day comes and goes and nothing actually happens.

Strategy For Online Learning

For many students, learning online is like jumping into the deep end swimming pool before ever taking swim lessons. They have no idea how to learn efficiently online.

With that in mind, one strategy to mark the beginning of a new class is to send some advice to students about strategies they can use to flourish in this new learning environment.  

Three Strategies

Here are three thoughts that every online learner can have in mind when an online class begins.

  1. It’s just the Internet but safer. Although using Learning Management Systems can be cumbersome and confusing, studying online is fundamentally no different than what most students do every day–navigate through their social media sites and other places on the Internet. But LMSs are safer. Not only are they restricted to their classmates, they are being monitored by the professor. Students can post freely without the fear of being trolled. The content should be trustworthy and so on. Students can think about the online class as just one more social media site, and viewed from this perspective, LMSs are actually great places to hang out. (Imagine trying to make that argument about a traditional classroom.)
  2. Take advantage of your learning community. Frankly, in most face-to-face classrooms, even in those with robust discussions, students don’t care much about what their classmates say. In too many instances, face-to-face discussion is just performance art for the benefit of the professor. Minimally, classroom conversation is generally being shaped and steered when the teacher intervenes. In many cases, that is not so with online experiences. Students can actually interact without the teacher getting involved and students should take advantage of that freedom to build an authentic learning community with their classmates. They may learn something valuable in the process.
  3. Find a rhythm. Learning online may be uncomfortable at first for some students. They miss the discipline of having to be at a certain place at a certain time. The face-to-face class schedule also provides a time structure of the work done outside the classroom. Removing that structure can be unsettling and disconcerting. The goal is to create new comfort zones that ensure the students work steadily throughout the semester. Like with face-to-face learning, students should add when they plan to be online to their schedule and treat it with the same respect that they would if they were going to class. The idea that online learning can be “fit around” somebody’s busy schedule is just wrong. Can’t be done. But students can figure the times that work best for them. They are no longer captives to the university’s scheduling process.

Learning online is different than learning in the face-to-face setting and there is no way around it. One of the challenges for teachers is to help their students embrace that difference and find their comfort zone. In many ways, with online education, different is actually better.
-Elliot King, PhD and J. Connor Ames



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