Getting started with online learning
Where do I start?
You are signed up for your new papers and preparing for a new semester. One of your classes is online (taught via Moodle) or is supported online (blending both online and on-campus classes). What do you do? Where do you start? How can you set yourself up for a successful semester of online study?
Stage 1: Before enrolment or during orientation
Tap the heading to see our advice for getting ready before your classes even begin.
The tech: Ensure you have an efficient computer/laptop, preferably one you can access any time, so that you can work flexibly. See the University's Computer Requirements
Ideally, you will need wifi - at home; on campus; and possibly also at your workplace. Multiple points are good so that you can work flexibly and have a ‘plan B’ if one network goes down. Having access to a back up computer is also a wise strategy. Planning can take some of the stress out of technical problems. This needn’t be a computer you own, but one you can borrow, or a public computer (at your local library) or in the campus computer labs
The class/paper: Find out what you can about the paper before it starts - paper outline, expectations. What online work is involved? Discussion forums, announcements, resources online, submission of assignments.
Is the class fully online or a blended offering with an on campus component. Confirm your timetable. Most of this information should be online (link?) but if in doubt, email your course convenor/lecturer.
The people: Importantly, who is your lecturer/tutor... and how do you contact him/her with questions? E.g., some staff hold regular office hours, or prefer email/phone contact to make appointments. Some staff teaching online prefer Moodle as a first port of call so that communications are contained and archived in each of the online classes. If working at a distance, your choices will be confined to phone/email/Moodle in the main, but you might ask for a Skype meeting if you want to talk over an assignment or set of questions with your lecturer.
Looking ahead: Start to make a note of questions you have at this stage.
Advice from a student: It is important to familiarise yourself with Moodle! Each lecturer sets their page out differently and this can take some getting use to. The more time you spend browsing on Moodle the more familiar you become.
Stage 2: during week 1
Have a look at the software and resources that we know you will be using as part of your studies
The tech: Become familiar with Moodle. Upload your photo. Subscribe to fora (forums) and other notices.
The class/paper: Look for an opportunity to introduce yourself. Note key dates for coursework - e.g. discussions - when do they start and finish? Assignments - when are they due? Plan your time on your wall planner or calendar/diary/electronic organiser; include deadlines, key tasks, preparatory work and alerts, start to devise a timetable and schedule your classwork (online and offline) around other commitments.
If there is a discussion, join in promptly.
The people: Find out who the other students are in your class. If you have an opportunity to meet in person (face-to-face/f2f), look for like-minded souls who you can work with and create a support group. If you are working online from a distance, look for classmates who live nearby, so that you can meet to chat over coursework and coffee.
Looking ahead: What will you need to do to be successful in your study this semester? Set small goals; consider new skills you might need to develop. Now that you know when your first assignment is due, you'll want to read through the requirements, and jot down any questions for the lecturer to clarify (if needed).
Advice from a student: Understanding what is expected of you for each paper as far as weekly tasks and assignments is important, using Moodle and a printed version of your paper outline is helpful because you are able to 'double check' assignments and tasks etc
Stage 3: By week two and three
By week three, things are in full swing, and your first assignment will be about due (if not already submitted).
The tech: Ensure you are familiar with the Moodle paper, and know where everything is, and what is coming up. Importantly, know where to ask for help, where to find the instructions, and where to submit assignments.
The class/paper: By now, you should have made a start on your first assignment. If online discussion is a component, you should be active in the forum, following the guidelines provided by your lecturer. You will find that starting discussion early and visiting regularly will help you keep on top of requirements, and you will stay involved with the class, enhancing your learning.
The people: This is a good time for a coffee meeting or a small group catch up (virtual or f2f) with some of your classmates. Talk about the class and how it is going, what is coming up, what is most challenging, and how you can help each other. Compile questions for your lecturer and arrange for someone to ask these and report back to the group. If there is a group facebook page, join it, but beware of using FB as a place to clarify assignments, complain about staff, or inflame stressful situations. While FB can be a comforting informal support, it is no substitute for reporting issues directly to staff. In particular, if you have a question about an assignment, ask your lecturer (since s/he likely designed the assignment and will be marking it, or at least responsible for moderating it).
Looking ahead: Be prepared to submit your first assignment on time. With an organised approach, you can do your best work, get help in a timely fashion, and avoid last minute panics.
Make sure you are on top of the regular workload - classes you need to attend, discussions you should contribute to.
If in doubt, ask your lecturer.