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Tips for students learning remotely and online

Posted on August 27, 2020

According to the College Crisis Initiative, of the 2,078 colleges and universities who have reported plans for the fall term (Fully online, primarily online, hybrid, primarily in person, or fully in person), 47% have opted (as of this week) to offer primarily or fully online courses to their students. When you add in the 457 schools offering a hybrid model, the result is 66% of students across the US will be taking multiple online or remote synchronous (live) courses.

After the quick shift last March from face-to-face on campus courses to remote synchronous from home, many slipped into an asynchronous heap of blah. Some Twitter users or think piece authors may blame the faculty, claiming they dropped the ball and opted not to engage with students. However, most faculty stepped up to the challenge. And some may blame students for Zoom lethargy, claiming they lacked interest. The reality is, what will be offered this fall will look drastically different from what was quickly sewn together last spring. And I want to remind you that online classes are different from remote classes, and I welcome you to read more about the differences in a recent blog post. Regardless of the delivery mode, faculty have a responsibility to deliver well-designed and engaging courses. But students also have a responsibility to engage and participate in their learning.

So, my message to students is this – make the most of your remote and online classes, engage, participate, and become part of the learning process. Here are a number of ways you can make the most of your remote and online classes:

Remote Synchronous (Delivered Live)

  1. Attend your synchronous class every week and take notes, like you would in a traditional face-to-face course.
  2. Come prepared for class.
  3. Ask questions either when asked or in the chat feature.
  4. Engage with your peers, ask them questions about the topic of the week.
  5. Engage with your professor, get to know them through class engagement.
  6. Communicate with your professor if you need to miss class and ask how you can make it up, such as providing a summary of the recorded lecture.

Online Asynchronous (Pre-Recorded)

  1. Log into your class every day.
  2. Read through the expectations of each week, understand what the week will focus on.
  3. Read all course announcement, reach out with questions.
  4. Watch/listen/read through the lecture – be prepared to do it more than once.
  5. Write thorough and detailed initial discussion posts, add links to articles or work that supports your stance or take.
  6. Actively participate in the discussion by responding to peers more than just once or the required number of times, engage in the discussion by keeping it going back and forth. Encourage and challenge your peers to think out of the box or more in depth about the topic.
  7. Reach out to peers to engage further about a topic or to ask questions 8) Reach out to your professor for clarification about an assignment or if there is something about the lecture you do not fully understand.

The more you engage with your peers and your professor, the more you will get out of the class, and the more the entire class will benefit and learn. But don’t be afraid to respectfully speak with the professor if they are not engaging with you in the most beneficial way. While you may be learning how to participate in a remote or online class, for most professors, they too are learning. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your professor if you are not getting what you need - ask for more, but be kind, understanding, and respectful. And ultimately, the more YOU engage, the more your professor will engage. It is a two-way street.

I wish you all the best as the fall term begins, and for some has begun. I understand that this may not be what you had envisioned, but learning remotely and online can be as challenging, interesting, engaging, and inspiring as learning face-to-face, but you need to make the commitment to put your all into it to achieve that outcome.

Best of luck this term,

Anne Converse Willkomm
Assistant Clinical Professor
Department Head of Graduate Studies
Goodwin College
Drexel University
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