If you've nevere experienced online learning, you may have some preconceived notions of what it will be like. In addition to reviewing the content on this website, consider the followings myths.
Reality: an online course is as rigorous as a traditional course, and some report that it involves more work. You can expect the same content and level of learning, presented in a different way. There is often a lot more reading and writing involved in an online course. Discussion most commonly takes place on the discussion board, where typically you will respond to a question prompt, and read and respond to your classmate's contributions. Unlike in a traditional in-seat course, everyone gets "heard" in the online environment. Many students report that this takes a lot more time than they anticipated.
As a matter of fact, not all students succeed in the online environment. Contrary to popular belief, online courses are not suited for everyone. Make sure that you are informed about online learning and about your own learning preferences before signing up for an online course. If online learning is not a learning preference but it is a necessity, then prepare yourself by using the strategies you'll find from this orientation. Starting out organized with a plan for success will make a huge difference!
Reality: As stated above, very often an online course demands more of your time. Consider that any course expects that you will spend 2-3 hours outside of class for each hour that you spend in class. That means, for a 3-credit course, you should plan at least 9-12 hours of class-related activity each week. For a traditional in-seat course, that's 3 hours per week physically in class, and 6-9 hours of "homework". For an online course, the 3-hours of in-class time is more flexible, but still expected. This is time when you will engage with the online material (watching a presentation, interacting with content, participating in the online discussion). You can still anticipate an additional 6-9 hours of course related work - assigned reading, collaborative work, completing assignments, and the like. This will include time for the additional reading requirements such as reading more online content and participating in discussion.
Some may believe that they can take an online course as an additional course to a regular course schedule. Whether your regular class schedule is in-seat, hybrid, or online, do not take an additional online course because you think that you can fit it in. A common theme in dispelling these myths is that an online course typically takes more time than an in-seat course. Trying to fit in extra will be a disservice to you, your academic progress, and your classmates.
As well, do not choose an online course simply because you are planning a trip or a lengthy absence from your studies. The flexibility offered by an online or hybrid course is a huge advantage, but you still need to be at least as attentive to your course studies as if you were not travelling or absent. Can you guarantee that you will have access to your course materials - a computer, high speed internet access, the ability to join a synchronous class meeting? If not, reconsider your timing. Again, an online course is very demanding of your time and of your computer and internet access. If you are too busy to actively engage with your course material and classmates, then it may not be a good time for you to take an online course.
Reality: Some may believe that they only need to keep up with the reading and submit assignments. That would be more like a correspondence (or self-paced) course. Online courses at Grand Valley are instructor lead and follow the same schedule as traditional in-seat courses. Just like a traditional course, you can expect to have a syllabus with a course calendar for due dates. When online discussion is a part of the course, there will be a time-frame for when that discussion begins and ends. You can anticipate interactivity with content, your professor, and your classmates.There may be collaborative working assignments and you will have a defined time to work virtually with a group to complete an assignment. In many ways, you need to be more organized and self-directed to meet time-frame of an online course.
Some may think that that the flexibility of hybrid or online course means that online anytime = anytime I get around to it. Although you can access the course materials and participate in asynchronous discussion when it is convenient to you, you will still have deadlines and due dates. Be sure to adhere to the course calendar, and participate in online discussion early and often.
Reality: Although the means for interaction is different than in a traditional course, interactivity is essential in an online course. You will not only be more interactive with the content, you will be interacting with your classmates through online discussion and perhaps collaborative group assignments. In a traditional course, you can sometimes get away with sitting quietly in the classroom while others actively discuss and participate. This isn't true in the online environment. Everybody's contributions are considered as equally important aspects of the learning process, and it is clearly evident if you participate or not. Most faculty will assess your participation and have it as part of your overall grading structure.
Remember, also, that the discussion is part of your academic course work and learning. If your professor does not indicate clearly to you how to engage in online discussion, then you may want to ask. Online class discussion is typically not casual and it is not like texting or emailing your friends. You are expected to provide thoughtful and meaningful responses. You may have to include references or back up your opinions, and you will likely be expected to write out your words (not use common text acronyms) and attend to your grammar. Sometimes your professor will create a discussion forum that invites casual conversation, but course content related forums are typically more structured and formal. Again, if your professor does not indicate the expectation, be sure to ask. Here is a very useful guide to online netiquette.
Some may assume that once an assignment is submitted then they are done for the week. If your course engages in online discussion, you need to access your course site a minimum of 4-5 times each week, preferably on different days so that you can follow and contribute to an ongoing discussion. Other content, requirements, expectations or notices may also be posted throughout the week, so you will want to check in frequently.
Reality: Althouhg your course content is available 24/7 and you may personally "in-class" in the middle of the night, it is doubtful that your professor will be. None of us are available 24/7! Neither are you. If you are working on your course content at 2:00 AM and email your professor, it is unlikely that you will have an immediate response! Hopefully, your professor will communicate their availability and let you know when and how often they will be online or accessible. They may indicate that they have specific hours for when they are directly responding to course email, or that they will do their best to respond within 24/48 hours of receiving an email. Some will say that they do not read email on the weekends, others may provide their telephone numbers. There is not a set standard and you can anticipate that each professor will have their own guidelines. None will be available 24/7!
Reality: Your professor is the best person to ask for discipline-specific content information. That is their expertise and the reason they are teaching your course. They are not expected to be experts in the technology, and many will not know the answers to your technical questions. If you run into difficulty with the technology, whether it is a problem with your computer or with not knowing how to do something in Blackboard, your best avenue for help is to contact the Grand Valley Help Desk. Phone support is available 24/7 (616.331.2101), with IT advanced support available during peak hours (M-Th 7:30 am - 7:30 pm and until 5:30 pm on Friday). You can also email the Help Desk (firstname.lastname@example.org) and someone will get back with you as soon as possible. As well, remember that there are many help documents posted on the IT website, including step-by-step handouts and brief video clips for Blackboard and Blackboard Collaborate.
Reality: Although it is true that practice will help you to become more proficient, remember that your purpose in the online course is to learn the content, not the technology. If you are not already proficient enough for the online environment, you will quickly fall behind and will not learn either the technology or, more importantly, the course content. Use other learning opportunities to become technology proficient and enroll in an online course to use those developed skills in learning the course content.