So, you’re a student in an online degree program. You tell folks you’re taking paramedic classes with EKU Online. Perhaps you tell your buddies at work. And the questions start: What? Where? Really? Regardless of age or background, almost everyone’s prior experience as a student has been sitting in a classroom with others listening to someone like me, your instructor, add to the knowledge you have already acquired and be able to take new skills and approaches out into the field.
As an online student, you will not have the traditional classroom experience of sitting next to your classmates and taking in a lecture. You will, however, get guidance and support from everyone at EKU, including your advisors, instructors and even fellow classmates.
How you will adapt to this new platform of learning? First, you will need to identify how you fit in this new online classroom model. Online classes require engagement from both the instructor and the students. You are no longer an invisible partaker of knowledge. Now you are an active participant in obtaining your goals and understanding how your education progresses. Let me give you a few suggestions on how to tackle this new learning experience.
- Be an active participant in all aspects of the course. Read other students’ discussion boards posts or comments and tell them what you think. Was that a great suggestion, or a new concept that you’ve not thought about? Do you agree or disagree? Why? Sometimes I tell students they need to be ‘chatty’ when typing their thoughts. I can’t see you to tell if you look confused, or if you are shaking you head or nodding, or if you look shocked. Your fingers need to tell us all how you are feeling about the topic. Of course, always being mindful of etiquette and others.
- Find out when to ‘talk’ to the professor. When are they online? Do they have an office that you can physically go to? Can you schedule a phone conversation? Is there a chat room that you can post questions for everyone? How do you ask questions of other students? Are you in a group that can converse about the questions you have regarding an assignment? Part of being a successful online student is figuring out how (and where) to ask questions. Remember that most students are just like you. Everyone has questions. Who and how do you ask? Find this out early in the course.
- Be online EVERY day! You need to know all the ‘conversations’ that are occurring in your class. Even checking with your cell phone keeps you up to date and ‘in the know’. One of the best things about an online course is that the sharing doesn’t stop. Check in often to see what’s being said and add to the discussion when you can.
- Get to know your classmates. Even if you don’t see them, it’s important to get to know who your classmates are. Where do they work? What do they do? Just as in a physical classroom, you can get to know your classmates and have that feeling of belonging. We all need that!
So, when your friends and buddies say “what?” “where?” and “really?,” you can look at them and say “YES! EKU Online, and I love it.” My hope is that you will meet really interesting people and that you will find the instructors to be nice, helpful and knowledgeable. (I, of course am inserting myself here!) If you find other helpful tips for succeeding in an online degree program, share them. Let’s work together to reach our goals.
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