Fear of taking an online class

I have been teaching an online class for a couple of years now at a local community college. I have my students introduce themselves on our discussion board and I always have several students who are new to an online class. Of course, they express fears and concern.

There are usually a combination of fears: the class will be too difficult, you don’t believe you will be able to work independently because of limitations on time or poor time management skills, and it is very common to be concerned that online study will be an isolating experience and that you will have no one to turn to when you are having difficulties. There is a perception that online classes mean no teachers or instructors will be available to help when you need it the most.

While these are all valid concerns, there are a few things you can do to be successful. Over the past several semesters, I think it comes down to three key things: take responsibility, time management and communicate.

Responsibility

Online classes take a certain amount of responsibility. You need to make a schedule for yourself. Don’t think you can just do everything the day before it’s due, because it’s impossible. It’s a good idea to sit down and set aside certain times when you’ll do certain assignments.

Also take the responsibility to read what the instructor has posted. I often post hints to assignments, answers to commonly asked questions and other various announcements.

Time Management

The flexibility to create your own schedule is often one of the biggest appeals of taking online classes. But that freedom can also be detrimental if you do not have solid time management skills. It can be easy to let assignments slide and miss due dates because of the flexibility that come with online courses.

It’s important to stay organized and follow a schedule because it’s difficult to catch up once you fall behind.

Communicate

You are not on your own. Your instructor or teacher is there to help. But you have to communicate with that person. Whatever the method is for you to contact your instructor or teacher, use it! Never feel like you are being the needy student and you don’t want to bother the instructor. Every instructor wants you to succeed.

You can search online for how to be successful in an online class. All the information you will find is valid. However, from my experience, it really does come down to those three things.

Take that online class, you will succeed.

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Expect and Except the Challenge – No Excuses

Word excuses coming out of computer screen

“You don’t understand, I haven’t used a computer before.”

“I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for the last 10 years.”

“My job didn’t require the use of a computer.”

“I didn’t grow up around computers.”

I teach a class, Intro to PC Applications, at a local community college. This class covers the Microsoft applications – Word, Excel, Access and PowerPoint – applications that are in great demand in today’s workforce. This is a required class for several of the degree paths and many of the certificates. There are no prerequisites for this course, so I get some incredibly full classes. My students ages range from 16 – 65+, I have high school students to adults in career transitions.

Every semester, I get at least a couple students who are brand new to using a computer. Some can barely use a mouse, others have only used a computer for email or just web browsing. Maybe they have used MS Word at its most basic level.

We start the semester learning MS Word. But not only are the students learning Word, but they must also learn to navigate the Learning Management System (LMS) and the separate online platform for many of their assignments. Additionally, they need to have some basic navigation skills on the computer.

The students new to computers? They struggle.

These students have to put forth a little more time and effort. I do my best to provide additional instruction before, after and during class. I provide video instructions and website resources. But being a part-time instructor, my time is limited.

It’s not long before I start hearing the excuses. I hear so many variations.

“This class is hard.”

“I don’t have time for the extra stuff.”

I get it. For most of these students with little or no past computer experience, this is also their first college course, or one of the first. There are a lot of new things going on at once. And in 15 weeks, for a total of 3 hours a week (class time), they are going at an unfamiliar pace.

I struggle with how to best meet the needs of these few students, when I have 20 others in the same class. The school does provide free tutoring and I encourage them to take advantage of the service.

I’m writing this post to let those students know that, while it can be a great struggle, there is hope.

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