You may not see your professor face-to-face each week, and you may live hundreds of miles away from his/her office - but you can still keep in contact! It is a good idea to actively communicate with your professor. Let him/her get to know who you are, what your interests in the course are, and where you could use some extra help. Do not wait for the last minute to ask for help - establish a relationship early on so that you help your professor help you right from the start.
No online student should be an island unto themselves. Email, discussion boards, and video chat have made it easy to stay in touch with people living miles away. Take advantage of this in online classes! Make friends, share study habits, and support each other through the challenging assignments. Be brave and start the conversation. You will get more out of the course if you do!
Taking courses online requires you to have reliable tools to complete your work and to submit it on time. Even if you have a top-of-the-line computer, though, glitches can happen when you least expect it. This can cause great stress for online students who do not have a backup plan in place. To avoid much of this stress and to succeed in your online course, have a plan for backup technology. Ask a local friend or relative before the course starts if you can use his/her internet connection if yours goes down, and make sure you know someone willing to loan you their computer in a pinch. Many local libraries have internet connected desktop computers available for public use, and you should know when and where they are so that you can easily navigate those unexpected technology glitches.
When you have a technology glitch or a personal emergency, you may need to contact your professor to ask for an extension. If you cannot get to your computer, though, you will want to have the professor’s contact information backed up in another place, like your cellphone or in your email. You may even want to print out your syllabus and assignment schedule so that if your computer crashes you can easily track down your next due date. This will help you avoid penalties for late work and will reduce stress in a trying situation.
Likewise, you may want to consider backing up your course materials and assignments to a cloud-based storage system. If your computer crashes, this will allow you to access your work from a different computer without losing your work. All Clemson users are allotted 10GB of cloud storage on BOX at no cost.
The flexibility of online coursework is one of the top reasons students enroll in online sections. You can avoid letting the flexibility of asynchronous work become a drawback by setting aside time to complete your reading and assignments. Setting aside a set period of your day for your coursework will help you manage your other responsibilities, like family, work, other classes, and hobbies. If you stay committed to a designated time for your online coursework, you can help ensure you complete your work on time while establishing a healthy work-life balance.
Many students love the idea of casually “taking classes from home in your pajamas.” While the flexibility of where you study is a real draw for online sections, setting aside a specific space for completing your work can help you establish a healthy work-life balance. Going to the local library, your den in your house, or the local park to complete your work can help set boundaries that increase productivity and decrease guilt. Spacial relationships to work areas can be a way to stimulate your senses to “get in work mode,” and asking your friends and loved ones to give you space while you work can allow you to maximize both your work and socializing without feeling guilty about not spending enough time with either. Find what balance works for you.
One of the biggest challenges with communicating online is getting your tone right. The online environment often does not have the benefits of facial expressions, pitch and rate of voice, or physical proximity to help clue others in on what we really mean when we share an idea. At times, students find that they intended to share an innocent idea only to have it taken the wrong way because of the words they used or the typographic choices they made. Writing in complete and clear sentences, actively affirming what others say before you disagree, thoughtfully using emoticons, and of course avoiding writing in ALL CAPS can help avoid some of the common tone mishaps online.
Be sure to extend “intellectual charity” to your classmates, being respectful even when you strongly disagree. In fact, that respect can go a long way to opening up rich lines of communication that the online environment has such potential for!
As you seek to keep your own online tone collegial, remember that some of your classmates (or even at times your professor by mistake) may make a misstep with tone. When this happens, avoid a war-of-words by first giving them the benefit of the doubt. Assume that your classmates have your best interest and a sense of respect at heart, even when their messages sound cold, dismissive, or rude. Sometimes that is just the effect of typing instead of talking, and giving them the benefit of the doubt can avoid accidental arguments.
If your classmate insists on being purposefully rude, avoid taking the bait. Instead, focus your energy on a good interaction with your other classmates and professor, getting as much education and experience out of the class as you can. If you ever feel threatened by a classmate, be sure to respectfully contact your professor or the Office of Online Education for resources to deal with the particular situation.
It can be easy to be distracted by other parts of life when you are not sitting in a classroom each week, but to get the most out of your online course, be sure to participate! Take an active part in weekly discussions, suggest ideas to a group of friends you make over email, and be sure to approach your work with an open mind ready to engage new ideas. Clemson students are an engaged group of learners, and you will have the most success in your course if you approach your online sections with that same participatory spirit.
The Office of Online Education at Clemson wants you to have a memorable and enjoyable Clemson experience. This means signing up for classes you are interested in, finding ways to make the course content your own, and really committing to the exciting possibilities the work affords. As you do all of this, remember to enjoy your time! Make memories that you can take with you, find mentors to guide you along the way, and make friends that will be with you through it all.