I hope each and every one of you is excited about beginning a new semester at Indiana University East. Our Spring semester enrollment in online courses is the largest it has ever been and I know we have students taking their very first online courses. I apologize to those who read my blogs regularly who have read what I’m about to say before but I truly believe it is so important to success in online learning that I need to reiterate it each semester, so here it goes. The first weeks of classes can be overwhelming with getting used to a new class schedule, buying books, and meeting new instructors. This is true both for in person and online classes. As a student, I often heard fellow students say that the first few weeks of classes really wasn’t that important because instructors generally just introduced the class material and really did not get into the heart of the class material. This could NOT be further from the truth! In any class, but especially for online classes, the first couple weeks of class is essential to your success in the entire class. Allow me to explain.
If you have read my updates in the past, you will know that having good time management and being self-disciplined are essential qualities of successful distance learners. The first weeks of class will be when you lay the foundation of these qualities for the rest of the semester. During the first week of class, you should have received the syllabus and schedule for the course. These may be the most important documents you will ever receive in an online course because they contain the due dates for all of your assignments and the dates for quizzes and tests. They will be your road map for the class. Since you will not be meeting weekly in a classroom, you not have someone constantly reminding you of these dates. The responsibility is yours!
In the online classes that I have taken in the past, a simple strategy has allowed me to manage the schedule of the class and also be proactive about due dates. I purchased an inexpensive weekly planner (one that you can lay open and see an entire week on the two pages that are open). When I got the schedule for the course that I was taking, I immediately wrote in all the assignments, and the quizzes and tests, in red ink on the dates that they were due. I then went through the planner and made a note one week prior to the due date about assignment or test. For example, if there was an exam scheduled for September 27, I noted that on September 20. This I wrote in blue ink and then highlighted to make sure it got my attention. I kept this planner, open to the current week, next to my computer for the duration of the class. In this way, every time that I got on my computer I had a visual reminder of the important dates for that week and also reminded of the assignments that were approaching for the following week.
You may choose to use my low-tech system of scheduling for the course, use an electronic planner or program on your phone or computer, or come up with something else that works for you, but the important thing is to have a system in place for keeping yourself on schedule in the class. If you do this the first weeks of class, as soon as you have you syllabus and schedule, you will have laid a solid foundation for managing your course for the rest of the semester.