What can I expect from an online or hybrid course?
The first thing that you can expect is that online and hybrid courses at Grand Valley meet the same quality standards as our traditional in-seat courses. Course sizes are small, ensuring student-faculty contact. You can expect a course designed using the recommended best practices of course delivery, supporting the development of a community of online learners.
Online and hybrid academic courses at Grand Valley generally follow the regular semester schedule and are not self-paced. While some classroom or synchronous time may be required for hybrid courses, and some synchronous time may be required for online, the majority of coursework is available online - any place, anytime.
Most online or hybrid online courses will use Blackboard, Grand Valley's learning management system. Think of it as your online classroom.
If you are unfamiliar with Blackboard, there is a self-paced tutorial that will help you to learn how to navigate and to sample many of its features. To access the online tutorial, on the Blackboard log-in page, look for the link that reads "Introduction to Blackboard". You will be able to access many of the common areas without logging in. However, the communication features are only available by request to those with current GVSU usernames and passwords. Requests are accommodated, usually within 24 hours, by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You will also find support documentation on the IT website. Be sure to review these before your class begins and verify that your computer is ready for your online course.
Communication with your professor and with your classmates is essential in an online course. There are many avenues for communication in the online environment.
Email. At Grand Valley, all students are provided with a GVSU Gmail account, and all email from the university is sent to this address. This includes any email sent from Blackboard. Your professor or classmates may email you from your course site, and those emails will go to the GVSU Gmail. You cannot customize Blackboard for email to go to another email address (but if you follow directions in Gmail, you may be able to forward your email.)
It is imperative that you are in the habit of checking your email daily! You will use the same username and password for Gmail as you use for Blackboard. If you do not know or remember your password, you can reset it from a link on the Gmail log-in page.
In addition to email, you may find it useful to take advantage of Google Docs, especially for collaborative work with your classmates. You'll find access to these once you log-in to Gmail, and Google offers tutorials for how to use their products.
Discussion Board. You will likely have requirements in your online course that include online discussion. Blackboard has an online discussion board as its primary means for asynchronous discussion. (Asynchronous means that you do not need to be online at the same time as anyone - you can log in and post your contributions to the discussion board, read what your classmates wrote and respond back at anytime.) You can preview the discussion board in the Blackboard tutorial, and find additional support on the IT Blackboard website.
Other tools accessible in Blackboard that support communication include the Blackboard Suite, Blogs, Wikis, to name a few. You can learn more about all of these in the Blackboard tutorial as well as from the IT Blackboard website.
Your professor may ask that you use social media tools for communication and collaboration. If so, your professor will explain what you are using and how, and will be your main point of contact for assistance.
There may be times when your professor requests synchronous class meetings. Synchronous refers to everyone meeting at the same time - actually logging in to Blackboard at the designated time an accessing the online "live" classroom. Grand Valley uses Blackboard Collaborate to facilitate these meetings. If you have a webcam, then your professor and your classmates will be able to see you when you talk. You will be able to see others who have webcams when they talk. With a microphone, you can speak and be heard. Although a microphone is recommended, there is also text-chat available.
The Blackboard tutorial will give you an opportunity to access a Blackboard Collaborate (that is not in session) to look around. This will also help you to verify that your computer has the right hardware and software to participate. For more information, please visit the IT Collaborate help page.