Staying engaged in class from home has its difficulties. “Attending” online classes and getting the most out of them can be very difficult, especially when you are used to in-person classes. Knowing what online classes are like and how to adapt to them are key to academic success in a fully online semester.
Switching from in-person to online classes is difficult on its own, but understanding how all your different courses will be set up is just as difficult. Pay special attention to how each of your professors plans to structure their class and adjust how to approach that class with that in mind. If your professor is doing synchronous online courses, make sure you are available and ready to attend the course at the appropriate time. If your professor is uploading lectures, make sure you schedule time to watch the lectures and take proper notes just like you would an in-person class. Your class plans and structure may change over the course of the semester as your professors adapt to online learning. Keep up with your professor’s plans for class and reach out to them if you have any questions.
Asynchronous Recorded Lectures
Some of your professors may be recording lectures and uploading them for you to watch on your own. It’s important to know how to properly approach these lectures so you get the most out of them.
- Watch them as soon as possible, preferably at your normal class time. You might be tempted to put off watching it until later, but that is a bad idea for many reasons. The amount you have to watch will pile up, you will miss opportunities to ask questions, and you will easily get burnt out watching a week’s worth of lectures in one sitting.
- Write down any concept that you have questions about and write down the time during the video that confused you. This way, after the lecture is over, you can send an email to your professor with any questions you have. If you don’t write them down, you may forget what your question is and have to go back to find out.
- Take advantage of the asynchronous format. Recorded lectures actually have a lot of advantages, including being able to pause to take notes, rewind if you miss something, and being able to increase the volume on your computer if you have trouble hearing. Take advantage of these factors while watching the lecture.
Some of your professors may hold class in the form of conference calls using programs like Microsoft Teams, Blackboard Collaborate, or Zoom. This means you may be called on to participate in class, which involves you being live-streamed through your webcam and microphone. There are a lot of things to keep in mind when participating in these kinds of classes.
- Be aware of surrounding noise. It is likely your microphone will be muted when you are not participating, but when your microphone is on, be aware that your entire class can hear what is happening in your room, including pen tapping, note shuffling, other people in your house, and things you say under your breath. Be very mindful of the noises in your home, and plan accordingly to limit distracting or unprofessional sounds.
- Be aware of what can be seen on your webcam. As a rule of thumb, don’t let anything come into view of your webcam that you would not want people to see in a physical classroom. Keep your background neat and tidy, get dressed before class and maintain proper hygiene, and remove any items from view you don’t want others seeing. Microsoft Teams and Zoom have features that can blur and replace the background, respectively.
- Abide by proper conference call etiquette. Look directly at your camera when speaking instead of your monitor, speak clearly and loud enough to be picked up by your microphone, and remember to pause before and after speaking to others because of the stream delay.
- Get on early. Log on 10 minutes before class to make sure your microphone, camera, and internet are working properly. You don’t want to be called on to answer a question only to realize no one can hear you. Also, take this time to adjust to the program. Take note of where the button for activating your microphone and camera are, as well as any other necessary features.
- Understand the platform and the nature of synchronous lectures. The software you use may vary from class to class, so it is important to have a working knowledge of all the tools you’ll be using. Forbes has a great article that addresses preparing for live lectures within the specific context of the coronavirus outbreak.
Many of you are likely already familiar with discussion boards, but they will likely become more common since all classes are now fully online. Discussion board posts aren’t just important for your grade but are vital for enhancing your understanding of the material. For more detail, Blackboard’s official documentation can help you navigate class discussion boards more effectively.
- Go above and beyond in your posts. Merely answering the discussion prompt and nothing more won’t contribute much to the discussion. Bring up issues relevant to the prompt that others might not have thought of, link to outside materials and sources, and try to foster future discussion with your insights. However, you should keep professors’ expectations in mind, follow their directions, and avoid doing anything they don’t want you to do.
- Read everyone else’s posts, not just the posts you respond to. The posts can further your understanding of a topic, make you consider alternative views, and can help shape what you say in your own posts.
- When posting, make sure to follow the basic rules of internet etiquette. Proofread your posts, be civil to others, and remember a discussion board is not a chat room.
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