Success requires planning and effort, and being successful in an online class is no different. Christina Schwiebert, interim coordinator of distance learning and instructional support for Northwest State Community College, has first-hand experience as a successful online student. She recently earned a master’s degree, entirely online, in learning design and technology from Purdue University.
“A lot of students don’t realize how different an online class is from a regular class,” said Schwiebert. “The instructor is there to support you, give you feedback and help you understand the material, but it’s really the student who is in the driver’s seat.”
Here are her top tips for students taking an online class:
• Keep track of assignments and due dates. Don’t procrastinate.
• If you don’t understand something, reach out to your instructor right away, not when the assignment is due.
• Participate in class discussions. “If they really put in the effort to reflect on the material, answer the post thoroughly and reply to others, students can get a lot out of the discussions.”
• Be prepared for anything and stay determined to reach your goals. “With online learning, you’re dealing with technology. Web sites will go down, computers will break and files will fail to open. Don’t let a temporary setback deter you.”
To help support online learners, Northwest State has online versions of many on-campus resources including tutoring, library databases, and a Help Desk for technical problems. Sakai, NSCC’s online learning platform, also features a student resource section containing everything from campus announcements to information on health and wellness.
Creating an Experience
Many students are excited about the convenience of online classes, but they feel like they will miss out by not being on campus. “Any college experience is what you make of it,” said Schwiebert. “That holds true whether you take classes on campus or online.”
To help make the most of your online experience, connect with your fellow students outside of the online classroom through Facebook, Twitter or another social media site. “For my masters program, we built a really strong support network that way. By the time we finally met in person at commencement, we were having lunch together and chatting like old friends,” said Schwiebert.
Plan to visit campus a few times a semester. Even if your classes are all online, you may need to stop by campus to check out an item from the library, meet with an advisor or meet in person for a group project. Plan ahead and schedule your visit during a campus activity.
Opportunities Await at Northwest State
From classes held entirely online to hybrid courses that join online learning with a face-to-face classroom experience, Northwest State Community College has several options for online learners. Students at NSCC enjoy the convenience online courses, combined with the benefits of hands-on learning like clinical and lab experiences, creating a well-rounded educational experience.