The coronavirus pandemic has sent many colleges and universities online this year. At Altierus Career College, we’ve always offered a blend of virtual and in-person learning, because we recognize that virtual coursework offers our students additional flexibility when it comes to completing their programs. This year, we are relying on our virtual classes more so that we can keep our campuses safe for hands-on instruction.
If you’ve never taken a class online before this year, you may be feeling a little lost at sea as you prepare to start your program. This article covers some tips and advice for adapting to a virtual learning environment.
Virtual Learning is More Convenient, Not “Easier”
Respect the time commitment involved. Ask your instructor how much time they anticipate you will need to study each week, and then block out that amount of time in your schedule.
You may be surprised that you feel tired after live virtual class sessions. This is normal. Research shows we have limited capacity for online video calls. Lack of eye contact and other factors mean we have to spend more energy focusing on what other people are saying than we would in a face-to-face class.
Make Time to Learn Your College’s Software
You don’t want to miss a live lecture or fail to turn in an assignment because of an error you made using the learner management system (LMS). Even if you find it easy to learn new software programs, make sure you dedicate some time to exploring the LMS before your first assignments are due. Think of it as giving yourself an orientation tour, just like you would on campus. If there are tutorials available, use them. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your instructor for help, either.
Also, don’t forget to optimize your own internet access. Make sure you can study where you have good signal reception. Ask others in your household not to stream video while you’re online studying so that you don’t experience lag times or lose your signal.
Manage Your Time
When classes move online, it can be tempting to avoid logging on until the end of the day, or even put off doing classwork until tomorrow. This is especially true of virtual classes that don’t have any synchronous meetings—times when you and your classmates must log in for a live event.
Protect yourself against procrastination by using a planner to create a dedicated schedule for completing your work. Block out a regular time for logging in to your virtual classes, completing reading, and doing any assignments.
Minimize distractions during study time, too. Turn off notifications on your phone and put your phone out of sight if possible. Close any web browser tabs that aren’t related to your class work.
Finally, make sure the people you live with know you’re not to be interrupted when you’re studying. If you don’t have a separate room where you can study with the door closed, use something else to show others you are in “do-not-disturb” mode, such as headphones or even a hat.
Learn Live-Class Etiquette
If you are going to have live classes that involve video and audio, make sure you do the following:
- Check your background. Make sure your camera doesn’t show anything distracting to other students—or even potentially embarrassing to you, such as a pile of dirty laundry.
- Mute your microphone if you aren’t speaking. This way, any accidental sounds from your side of the conversation, such as a barking dog, don’t interrupt the people speaking.
- Use private messages or e-mail for unrelated questions. Don’t interrupt a discussion with a question that isn’t strictly related to the topic.
Communicate Early and Often
In an on-campus class, you can raise your hand and speak when you have a question or a point to make. In an online class, engaging in the discussion takes a little more effort (and a lot more typing).
When writing in a virtual discussion group, try to use professional spelling and grammar. Typos happen to everyone, so don’t sweat them too much, but avoid using slang or abbreviations—not everyone may understand what you mean.
Use e-mail and other means of communication (such as private messages or LMS chat boards) to keep in touch with your instructors and classmates on a regular basis.
Written communication can sometimes be unclear, because it lacks the gestures, tone of voice, and other markers we use to understand what others mean. If you’re confused by something a classmate or instructor wrote, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. Someone else may also be wondering, and your question could help them.
Appreciate Virtual Learning’s Benefits
Having to take virtual classes may not have been what you expected when you signed up to your college program. However, virtual learning does come with several advantages.
First, there’s the convenience and flexibility. Taking some classes online means you won’t have to commute to campus as much, saving you time and giving you more control over when you study. You may also save on costs associated with transport, such as bus or train fare, or fuel and parking for your car.
Second, there’s the opportunity to gain additional fluency and experience working with new technology. Mastering your LMS may help you become more confident navigating new software programs you may encounter later.
Third is applicability. At Altierus, one of the things we value about virtual learning is how our students can learn the fundamentals of a skill or concept at home, and then focus on applying and practicing that skill when they come to class in person.
Finally, society increasingly makes use of online interactions. Learning to communicate effectively online and complete projects successfully as part of an online group may prove helpful to you later on in life.
Learn More About Altierus Career College
Want to train for a new career? Find out how Altierus Career College can help you prepare for new opportunities in nursing, healthcare, and skilled trades. Contact us today!