The learning process when taking online classes at Welch College is different from that which you find in a typical traditional classroom.
In the traditional classroom, most students expect that a content expert, who typically lectures for a good portion of the class, will teach them. This content expert has come to be called the "sage on the stage" by those writing in the field of education. The "sage on the stage" is the focus of the classroom attention, and the student strives to learn as much as possible from the instructor. If dialog takes place in the classroom, it is usually between the instructor and the student. Rarely is it between two students.
In the online environment, a great deal of the learning process comes from within the learning community as students reflect upon the course material and share their thoughts with other students. The instructor in the online class is often referred to as a facilitator or as some have called him/her, a "guide on the side." The facilitator guides the flow of the class and enables the students to learn from each other in a collaborative manner.
What does it mean to the online learner?
First, online learners must realize that there will be a difference in how learning takes place and what their role in the learning process is going to be. In a traditional class, a student may walk into class, sit in the back of the classroom, and contribute very little to the class. They may have listened and taken notes, but the rest of the class and the professor have very little awareness of how much they have learned or how much they know about the topic. They may have prepared for the class, but again that may not be evident to anyone else in the class. The student's evaluation takes place during the final examination, or through papers and assignments turned it.
In the online class, it is important to realize that every student sits on the front row and actively participates in all aspects of the class. As a result, students must adequately prepare for the class in order to participate. Evaluation of the students' understanding of the material is based upon their daily involvement rather than on a final examination or through research papers.
To be a successful online learner requires the student to be active, creative, and engaged in the entire learning process. One of the great benefits that students have in the online class is the amount of time available for reflection and response. In a campus classroom, the instructor may pose a question and an answer is expected immediately, whereas in the online classroom a student may think about the question, research it, and reflect upon the best way to answer before sending the answer to the online classroom. Students who tend to be more introverted will find a new freedom in class participation.
We have found that the successful online students are those who are self-disciplined and highly motivated to learn. Successful online students have an ability to work alone and demonstrate good thinking and reflection skills.
Tips for success in the online class…
Develop good habits and stick with them. The list below will deal with various habits that you should develop.
- Online classes offer a great deal of flexibility, but they require at least as much time as regular classes. A normal campus face-to-face three-semester credit hour class will require 2475 minutes of classroom time. That is 41 hours of actual in-class time. For each hour of in-class time, it is expected that a student will spend two hours in preparation (reading, research, studying, and completion of assignments) for class. That is a total of 123 hours of work (40 classroom hours plus 82 preparation hours) for one class. In an on-campus class, this is spread out over 15 weeks, so it amounts to approximately 8 hours a week for each class taken. Full-time students will take three or four classes at a time making their school load 30 to 40 hours a week. (This is why it is called full-time.) In an online class, the length of the class is only six weeks. This means that a student must accomplish the 123 hours in six weeks and so they are going to spend 15-20 hours a week involved in one class. If they take two classes at a time, this is going to amount to 30-40 hours a week.
- So, it is important for online students to remember that even with the flexibility, time must be allocated each week to complete the assignments. My recommendation is that a student set aside 4-5 hours on a couple of days each week to do the required preparation (reading, research) and completion of assignments. In addition, each student should set aside time each day to connect and respond to notes. I have found it works best when this is scheduled and the schedule is kept. Remember, develop good habits.
- The Welch College online program is college work. While a great deal of email and newsgroup activity is casual and spelling and good grammar are not a big issue, you should take care in your college classes to ensure that your words are correctly spelled. Always use the spell checker before sending your note. In addition, I suggest that you re-read your notes before sending them. This will usually help you catch missed words or unclear thoughts. Typically, the formal assignments will require good spelling and grammar, and if format is required, it should be according to the format required by the course. (You will learn about this in English Composition I.) For more information on good writing practices see Writing Resources.
- The Welch College online policy for attendance requires a student to connect and submit a meaningful note on at least five days of each week. This attendance rule is because of the importance that participation and involvement have in online classes. While our schedules get crazy sometimes and it may become impossible to spend a lot of time involved in your class work on a specific day, take a few minutes to connect and send a response note. This can normally be done in 10-15 minutes. The fastest way to see your grade deteriorate is to miss this attendance requirement. For more information on the Welch College Attendance policy see Online Attendance Policy.
- Since the classes are only six weeks long, they are considered to be intensive. In an intensive class, it is critical that a student not fall behind. Be sure to turn in all of your assignments on time.
- Do your best to read ahead. Again, this is probably the most important advice you will receive -- Don't get behind.
- If for some reason you get behind on an assignment, it is better to make sure that the next assignment is turned in on time, rather than playing catch-up on assignment after assignment. When you have a little extra time and are all caught up, go back and pick-up the assignment you missed.
Our faculty and staff want to help you be a successful learner. If you are having any problems, please be sure to let them know immediately. They will work with you and give you important guidance. The worst thing you can do is to stop participating, and not let anyone know why.