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Strategies and skills for a successful eLearner

The virtual classroom is a significant part of today's college experience. In general, successful eLearners should:

  1. Be open minded about sharing life, work, and educational experiences as part of the learning process.
    Regardless of whether you are an introverts or extroverts, eLearning requires that you share and draw upon your past experiences. eLearning often can eliminate barriers that hinder some individuals in expressing themselves. In addition, you are given time to reflect on the information before responding. The online environment should be open and friendly.
  2. Be able to communicate through writing.
    In eLearning, nearly all communication is written, so it is critical that students feel comfortable in expressing themselves in writing. Many students have limited writing abilities, which should be dealt with before or as part of the online experience. This may require you to visit the Writing Center and/or make additional efforts to clarify your writing.
  3. Be Self-motivated and self-disciplined.
    With the freedom and flexibility of eLearning comes responsibility. The online process takes a real commitment and discipline to keep up with the flow of the process.
  4. Participate!
    Whether you are working alone, or in a group, contribute your ideas, perspective and comments on the subject you are studying, and read about those of your classmates. Your instructor is not the only source of information in your course--you can gain great insight from your peers and they can learn from you as well.
  5. Be willing to "speak up" if problems arise.
    Many of the feedback systems instructors use to determine whether students are having problems (confusion, frustration, boredom, absence, etc.) are not possible with online courses. If you are experiencing difficulty on any level (either with the technology or with the course content), you must communicate this immediately. Otherwise the instructor will never know what is wrong.
  6. Be realistic and be willing and able to commit to 4 to 15 hours per week per course.
    eLearning is not necessarily easier than the traditional classroom learning. In fact, many students say it requires much more time and commitment. You will not have to keep a class attendance schedule, but you will have to do regular academic work. Remember you should be spending at least two study hours each week for every credit you are taking. So if there is insufficient time in your personal schedule to do the work of the course, you will be frustrated.
  7. Set interim goals and deadlines for yourself, and stick to them.
    Keep a calendar showing the number of weeks in the semester and mark it off with the amount of work you need to do each week. Mark in the days when you will expect to take tests, submit projects, contact the instructor. Don't fall behind in your work! Keep reminding yourself that you will always have more to do near the end of a course than at the beginning.
  8. Organize your goals in a study schedule.
    Identify study times when you are fresh and attentive and stick to those times every week. Think of the study times as "reserved time." If you miss too many study times, revise your schedule.
  9. Avoid interruptions.
    Avoid all interruptions and distractions while you are viewing a video program, listening to a cassette, reading the textbook, working on the computer, or studying. Take the telephone off the hook if there is no one available to answer it but you.
  10. Log on to your course every single day.
    Once you get into the online communication system, you will be eager to see who has commented on your postings and read the feedback of your instructor and peers. You will also be curious to see who has posted something new that you can comment on. If you let too many days go by without logging on to your course discussion group, you will get behind and find it very difficult to catch up.
  11. Be able to meet the minimum requirements for the program.
    The requirements for eLearning are no less than any course format. The successful student will view eLearning as a convenient way to take a course and study, not an easier way.
  12. Take the program and yourself seriously.
    Elicit the support of your colleagues, family and friends before you start out on your online adventure. This built-in support system will help you tremendously since there will be times when you will have to sit at your computer for hours at a stretch in the evenings and on weekends. When most people are through with work and want to relax is most likely when you will be bearing down on your course work. It helps to surround yourself with people who understand and respect what you are trying to do.
  13. Take advantage of your anonymity.
    One of the biggest advantages of eLearning is that you can pursue your studies without the judgments typical in a traditional classroom. Unless you are using video conferencing, no one can see you, there are no stereotypes, and you don't have to be affected by raised eyebrows, rolled eyeballs, other students stealing your thunder, or people making other non verbal reactions to your contributions. You don't have to feel intimidated or upstaged by students who can speak faster than you because you can take all of the time you need to think your ideas through and compose a response before posting your comments to your class.
  14. Be able to think ideas through before responding.
    Meaningful and quality input into the virtual classroom is an essential part of the learning process. Time is given in the process to allow for the careful consideration of responses. The testing and challenging of ideas is encouraged; you will not always be right, just be prepared to accept a challenge.
  15. Feel that high quality learning can take place without going to a traditional classroom.
    If you feel that a traditional classroom is required for learning, then you may be more comfortable in a face-to-face classroom. eLearning is not for everybody. A student that wants to be on a traditional campus attending a traditional classroom is probably not going to be happy online. While the level of social interaction can be very high in the virtual classroom given that many barriers come down in the online format, it is not the same as living in a dorm on a campus.

Information used with permission from Terra Community College, Illinois Online Network, http://illinois.online.uillinois.edu/IONresources/onlineoverview/studentprofile.html

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