Once your course registration is confirmed, you should be aware of the following information and expectations.
About a week before your course starts, your instructor will e-mail you about participating in an online orientation, which will introduce you to the mechanics of the course and give you a chance to meet the instructor and other classmates.
Your AU-sponsored Gmail account will be the official means of communication between you and your instructor. It is important that you consistently check your AU e-mail box, or if you use another e-mail address, make sure you forward all AU e-mails to that address. For forwarding instructions, visit http://www.american.edu/oit/email/Gmail-FAQ.cfm#forward.
All students need to have good study skills and discipline, but these skills are especially important for online learners because their learning environment is less structured than the traditional classroom. Online courses require more discipline and self-management because of the flexibility around when you access and learn the asynchronous course content.
Time management, self-discipline, and organization are critical to achieving success in an online course. Successful time management starts with self-knowledge and an awareness of your goals, which will help you prioritize your activities and create and commit to a personal, flexible, and realistic schedule.
You are likely already using systems to assist you with time management and organization, but here are some additional tips for creating more time to pursue your academic and professional goals related to Online Learning at AU:
- Evaluate your current use of time for one week, keeping track of daily activities and how long you spend doing them.
- Create daily, weekly, and monthly objectives, and prioritize your tasks to achieve those goals.
- Plan each day by writing a to-do list and keeping a daily, weekly, and monthly schedule, planner, or calendar.
- Learn to say no to nonessential tasks and activities to avoid becoming overwhelmed and overcommitted.
- Establish a daily or weekly study routine, and block out the time on your schedule.
- Create your own “classroom.” Set up or find a quiet and well-equipped place to study and complete your assignments.
- Log in to your online course early and often to familiarize yourself with the course and syllabus.
- Know the deadlines, and create your own reminders for project and assignment due dates.
- Budget enough time to complete assignments, and include extra time in case you run into problems (technical or otherwise).
- Be sure to schedule time for yourself. Get enough sleep, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy diet, spend time with family and friends, and keep up your hobbies.
When there is no opportunity for members of the class to meet together in the same place at the same time, the need to create a sense of learner connectedness with others in the class becomes acute. If students do not feel connected to the class, their sense of isolation will dampen their spirit, which will in turn have a noticeably deleterious impact on their learning.
The point is that to bridge the physical and psychological distances that separate everyone in the class from each other, a compelling sense of "an online community of common interest" must be deliberately created, literally out of the ether. Clearly, the responsibility for providing the structure in which such a community can form belongs to the instructor as an integral part of the course design. However, the responsibility for maintaining the sense of community must be shared by everyone in the class. This is an essential concept in distance education.
Without the commitment of class members to enter the online classroom regularly and interact with each other, there can be no community and the course falls apart. Plainly stated, without interaction, an online course ceases to be viable.
We expect all class members to keep pace with the schedule of learning activities throughout each of the weeks the course is in session.
As discussion forums on various topics open each week, each member of the class is expected to log on several times per week, read the supporting course materials, perform the exercises assigned, read all messages posted, and contribute substantively to the discussion of the current week's topics. You should plan to devote between 5 about 10 hours per week to common course activities and discussions.
In the spirit of collaboration, we expect all class members to share their insights on the discussion board.
If you think these expectations places a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of the learner, we quite agree. Sometimes it seems that it would be easier just to show up in a classroom once or twice a week, listen to a lecture, work independently the remainder of the time, and consult with the course instructor as needed during office hours. On the other hand, the freedom you gain to participate during the 10 hours per week that are most convenient for you without having to leave your home or office and travel to a common meeting place compensates significantly for the additional responsibility. Not only that, but engaging in asynchronous online interactions and having the opportunity to comment whenever you want and having constant access to the writings of others will contribute significantly to the depth of your learning.
At the outset we ask you to take these premises on faith and participate in accordance with the expectations stated above, whether you believe in their validity just now or remain to be convinced. We are confident that in time, the commitment you make to regularly participating in class activities will pay off richly for you.
We will respect your time. We will do this by carefully limiting the course content to just what we believe is needed to achieve the learning objectives for a module in the time allotted. Having said that, we cannot know how adept individual course members may be at the keyboard or with creating and organizing computer files. So, as they say in the automobile ads, "Your actual mileage may vary." However, we'll do our best to keep the workload reasonable.
We will respect the heavy load of responsibility you bear as an online learner and will do all in our power to ensure that we do not add unnecessarily to your workload. We will try to make all instructions clear so you do not waste your time wondering what we meant by something we wrote or wandering about in a blind alley.
We will use technology only to enable or enhance your learning and will do our utmost to ensure that the technology applications used in this course do not ever get in the way of your learning.
We will be there for you on a regular basis. During weeks we are in session, we will log on at least twice each day including weekends to read and respond to your class posts and/or private e-mails. Likewise, we will initiate contact with you via e-mail if we have not heard from you in a while. You'll find that we do keep track of class activity and will try to bring class members back into the fold if we sense they are overwhelmed, straying, or in some way not holding up their responsibilities as members of our little community.
We hope you find this treatment of expectations for participating in our online community both helpful and encouraging. Please feel free to contact any member of the instructional team for this course if you have comments, reactions, insights, questions, and/or concerns to pass along.