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  • Drexel University Online's 10 Tips for Online Classes

    Tuesday, September 10, 2019

    If you’re new to online learning, you may experience a bit of a learning curve. Online courses take a different kind of motivation and participation than the in-person classes you may be used to. But don’t worry; Drexel is here to help. With these tips, you can go into your program feeling more confident about the online learning environment and ready to tackle anything that comes your way.

    Take a test drive

    You wouldn’t buy a car before you gave it a test drive. Why not treat your education the same way? By registering for Drexel’s award-winning Online Test Drive, you’ll have the opportunity to explore Drexel’s online learning platform before you apply. You’ll learn how to submit an assignment, navigate the platform and post to discussion boards. You can even interact with other potential students, along with Drexel faculty and staff. You will also have the opportunity to reacquaint yourself with the online classroom during your Orientation, offered one week prior to the start of your class.

    Avoid technical difficulties

    Drexel’s IT services offer some great resources to make sure all your technology is up-to-date and ready to handle your online classes. Here are some helpful links to refer to.

    Get to know the online learning management system

    If you’ve participated in the Test Drive or online Orientation, you already know your way around Blackboard, Drexel’s online learning platform. But if you haven’t, don’t worry! Take some time at the beginning of the term to familiarize yourself with Blackboard. You can access your online classroom up to one week before the start of your class. Explore the discussion boards and look through the syllabus and other documents your professor has uploaded. For more information about Blackboard, click here

    Familiarize yourself with the course materials

    Your course materials will vary depending on your class. Some professors may want you to purchase text books, while others may upload documents for you to download and use. It’s a good idea to purchase your course materials (if necessary) as soon as your professor announces what you’ll need. Keep an eye on your course in Blackboard, as they might post the required materials there.

    This is also a great time to get acquainted with Drexel’s library resources. As an online student, you have access to everything Drexel’s on-campus library has to offer. This includes online journals and databases, e-books, regular books (Drexel librarians will ship them right to you!) and more. Click here to learn more about online access to Drexel’s library.

    Log in Frequently

    Log in early, and often. As mentioned before, you can access your classroom via Blackboard up to a week before the first day of class. Make sure you log in early and take a look at your syllabus and see what materials you’ll need. Once classes start, get into the habit of logging in to Blackboard several times a week. You’ll be expected to post and respond to posts on discussion boards, and logging in throughout the week will allow you to more fully engage with your classmates and professors.

    Ask Questions (And Ask for Help)

    Sending a note to your instructor is the new raising your hand in class. Earning a degree online means taking the initiative. This means asking a question if you don’t understand material. 

    It also means reaching out to your professors when you find yourself in a tight spot. Life happens, and your professors understand that. If you see that a due date is conflicting with something in your work or personal life, or you think you’ll have issues completing an assignment by a certain time, go to your professor as early as possible. They will do their best to work with you. But they can only provide help if you ask them for it! (Check out this story about two students who found themselves expecting babies during their studies. They were able to work with their professors to juggle finishing their coursework with taking care of newborns!)

    Schedule, schedule, schedule

    Once you have access to your syllabus, put important dates on your calendar: exams, project due dates, etc. That way, you can start thinking ahead and begin managing your schedule to accommodate your coursework. During your online Orientation, you’ll be given an academic planner that you can download to help you manage your schoolwork. It may be easier for you to start working on big projects early and breaking them into smaller, more manageable milestones, rather than try to complete a large assignment all at once. Setting up a schedule for your coursework also makes it easier to block out designated study times.

    Work on the go (and remember to back things up!)

    Being an online student means you can do your schoolwork from anywhere, especially with the Blackboard app. Many students find it helpful to work on their assignments throughout the day. Complete your reading assignments during your lunch break or commute, or respond to a discussion board post when you find yourself with a few minutes of free time. 

    While you’re working on your assignments, don’t forget to back everything up! Save frequently, and save your big assignments via multiple channels – Dropbox, flash drive, even emailing them to yourself. 

    Set goals

    Whether you are pursuing an online degree as a full- or part-time student, setting goals can be very motivational. While the long-term goal is to earn your degree, it may seem far away. Keep in mind that taking a test, getting a specific grade, writing a paper or completing a quarter are all milestones to celebrate. Give yourself a pat on the back for these, too. 

    Take a break

    Having a timeline doesn’t mean there is no time off. You may have to make some sacrifices, sure. But depriving yourself of sleep, food and downtime is only going to make you less productive. Try instead to carve out time to unwind so you won’t feel overwhelmed. Then, remember why you’re pursuing your degree online in the first place, re-focus and get back to it. 

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