Taking courses online is another door of accessibility that the Internet has opened up for many. Several universities and colleges are giving students and prospective students what seems to be a more convenient way to earn an education these days. Thinking about pursuing an online education?
Regardless of the reason for enrolling in online learning, how to succeed begins with preparation. Planning and research are the characteristics of adults who want to improve their personal or professional life; this also applies to continuing education.
Distance Learning Preparation Tips: Computer Technology
How to succeed in online learning involves several important steps regarding computer technology, especially if this is your first time enrolling in an online distance learning course. Following these tips, ideas and recommendations will increase your chance for success.
Every school or college offering online learning provides their list of recommended minimum computer and software requirements. These recommendations are typically found on school’s website or obtained by contacting the admissions office. Typical requirements include:
Microsoft Office – word processing and presentations.
Adobe Acrobat Reader – reading PDF documents and files.
Anti-Virus – an essential program needed to avoid loss of files and computer down time.
Printer and Scanner – submitting papers and preparing reports.
Speakers – listening to podcasts, webinars, and instructor.
Microphone – real-time communication with instructor and other students.
Once computer and software minimum requirements are met, the next step is to connect with the school’s website. The purpose is to ensure there are no technical problems prior to beginning distance learning courses. The last thing you need to encounter is the inability to access an online course when classes begin. Areas to investigate include:
Department Website – take a tour of the online learning or distance education department’s website checking for contact, course, and program information.
Student Services – obtain contact information for student computer help services (their e-mail address and phone number).
Course Management System – schools typically use Blackboard or WebCT systems. Some schools are beginning to use social media such as wikis and blogs for distance learning.
Login ID and Password – quite often this is required for access to course materials.
Course Syllabus – check online course syllabus for expectations and specific materials or books required.
Book Store – visit school’s book store website to order required books or other materials.
Computer Services – visit school’s computer services website to download recommended free software.
E-mail – obtain a school e-mail address or register personal e-mail address. Sending a test message is recommended to identify any problems in advance.
Library – visit school’s library website to determine available resources for your course or program. This includes login requirements for access to specific online course resources or reserved materials.
Social Media: E-Learning Tools
Schools and colleges are transitioning into the world of social media for teaching learning. They are blending the traditional online tools of Blackboard, WebCT, and other course management systems with the online social tools. In today’s technological world, you typically need accounts with:
Social Learning Network – these tools are used contacting and communicating with instructors, classmates, and professional resources. These tools include Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace.
Micro-Blogging – instructors use these tools for class communication and sharing. Examples include Twitter, Foursquare, Plurk, and Instagram.
Social Bookmarking – these tools are used for organizing online resources for completing distance learning courses and include Delicious, Diigo, and Google Reader.
Collaboration – often students, who never meet due to the nature of online learning, must collaborate on assignments. Online collaboration tools include Google Docs, Wikis, Dropbox, Flickr, and Vimeo.
Learning Environment: Establishing a Home Study Area
How to prepare for online learning requires another critical step – establishing a home work space for completing school work. To succeed in distance learning you need to establish a specific area in your home or apartment as a dedicated learning environment.
Selecting this specific study area provides a central location for computer access to distance education courses, books, and study materials. This also creates a physical area which is out of bounds for any family members, ensuring a quiet and uninterrupted learning environment.
How to prepare for online learning can be an overwhelming task for someone who has never taken an distance learning course before. However, these tips are designed to help develop the online learning skills necessary to start on the right foot and help ensure success in achieving academic goals.