Distance Learning Students

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Are you Ready to Learn Online

How do you know if you are ready to take an online course?  Online learning may introduce unique challenges.   

  • Technology Resources: Do you have access to the right technology? 
  • The Classroom:How does online learning work?  How is a virtual classroom different than a physical classroom? 
  • Balance:Does anytime anywhere mean all of the time everywhere?  How should you manage your time to be successful? 
  • Blackboard: Where can you learn more about how to use this valuable tool?  

I.  Technology Resources 

Be sure you are familiar with the requirements for each online course you take.  For example,

  • A finance course may require that you have access to a recent version of Microsoft Excel.  
  • A communications course may require PowerPoint and access to a webcam or microphone.

What technology will you require to succeed in an online course?   

You will need:

  • A working computer  
  • Up-to-date software  
  • A webcam, microphone, and speakers (or headphones) 
  • A fast, reliable internet connection 
  • Access to Blackboard  
  • Access to a CUNY Zoom account. 


Computer Skills 

You should be comfortable learning on a computer and troubleshooting technology issues that may come up. Obstacles are going to come up that will challenge your patience.  

Visit an Open Computer Lab for technology support or attend a Technology Literacy Workshop to improve your technology skills.

II. The Classroom

How does online learning work? How is a virtual classroom different than a physical classroom?

How does online learning work?  How is a virtual classroom different than a physical classroom?

How do you learn best?  What study habits work for you?  Does it help you to use visuals, listen to audio, touch and manipulate physical materials, or talk about what you are learning?  

We all have different preferences, strengths, and weaknesses when learning.  Learning styles may change based on the material you are learning.  What study skills work best for you?  

Learning Styles Activities:

Try taking one of the below learning style inventories to learn more about your learning styles and preferences:  

When posting to an online discussion forum or when sending an email, be sure to follow the dos and don'ts of "Netiquette":

Do -

  • Run a spell check before submitting your work
  • Write in complete sentences
  • Use proper punctuation
  • Use proper grammar
  • Be polite
  • Be Helpful
  • Ask your classmates questions
  • Point out inconsistencies, contradictions, and vagueness

Don't –

  • Write inflammatory messages or vulgarity
  • Troll
  • Spam
  • Write in all CAPITAL letters.  It is considered rude.
  • Use spelling shortcuts
  • Use  emoticons
  • Use slang

Write Clearly and Professionally

You may not be able to raise your hand to ask a question in class but will need to communicate your ideas and questions clearly in writing through online discussion boards, email, or virtual meetings.  Online courses demand strong reading and writing skills.  Before writing to your professor, make sure you have read the instructions and information posted in the course outline/syllabus. 

Read Carefully

Professors may share a lot of detailed instructions and information about the course in writing.  They may also use announcements to share weekly reminders and clarifications or to inform you of last-minute changes in the course.  Read everything posted in the course carefully, especially the syllabus, so you don't miss important details.  Check your Blackboard settings to make sure you receive course notifications promptly. 

Be an Active Online Participant

You can't sit in the back of the room in an online course.  Everyone's participation is noticed and appreciated.  Online discussions are a common way to get everyone talking about concepts introduced in the course.  One of the benefits of communicating in an online forum vs. in the classroom is you'll have slightly more time to reflect on what you are reading before sharing your thoughts.  More collaborative and synchronous tools are being brought into online courses every day, which can help broaden how professors and students communicate. 

Be Social!

Just because you are taking an online course doesn't mean you can't meet up with your classmates!  Online courses shift how you engage with your professor and other students but don't be afraid to reach out with questions or connect about the course.  When you study and collaborate on projects, you won't have as many opportunities to run into each other on campus, so don't be shy and reach out to set up study meet-ups and try getting to know your classmates. 

Your coursework will generally fall into two categories: course materials and activities.

Course Materials:

The course materials may include handouts, readings from a textbook, multimedia, video or audio lectures, PowerPoint presentations, and more.   You may be expected to read, watch and/or listen to these materials before completing your assignments. 

Course Activities: 

These can include all the activities you would do in a face-to-face class, except you will be expected to submit them online. 

Some activities will be asynchronous, meaning you can work on them at your convenience.  They will still have due dates, but you have more flexibility.  These activities include threaded discussions, wikis, blogs, journals, group work, and more. 

Synchronous assignments will require you to be online at the same time as your professor and/or classmates.  These may include live chat sessions or video conferencing sessions.  Your professor may also offer virtual office hours synchronously.  Virtual sessions in Blackboard will use Blackboard Collaborate.   Faculty may also use other video conferencing tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

You may have a combination of group assignments and individual work. 

Activities may be brief such as weekly homework, and others may involve semester-long projects. 

It's important to familiarize yourself with the tools needed for the activities early on. 


III. Balance

You are probably interested in taking an online course because of the flexibility.  Although many online courses are promoted as offering to learn "anytime" and "anywhere," online courses still have deadlines.  You will need to manage your time to ensure that you keep up with your weekly assignments and progress on long-term assignments.

Time Commitment per Week
You are expected to invest a certain number of hours in a course based on the number of credits, regardless of the format. 

  • A 15-week semester has the following expectations:
  • 1 credit = 3 hours per week of course activities
  • A 3 credit course would require about 9 hours of course activities, including readings, writing papers, communicating with your fellow students and the professor, working on projects, and preparing for quizzes and tests.

Don't Procrastinate!
Schedule your time so that you can be successful in managing your course workload. 

With online learning, the course comes to you.  Your lifestyle and competing commitments have a much larger influence on your success in an online course than when you travel to get to an in-person classroom.  The location you select to engage in your online coursework will make all the difference in how focused and productive you may be.  Your classroom may become your living room.  It may be your kitchen table or your commute to work.  Some people have no problem working on coursework in a busy coffee shop, while others need a quiet library environment.  You will need to figure out which environment helps you be successful.  Try to set up a dedicated workspace where you are comfortable and won't be distracted. 


Learning Environment Checklist:

  • High-speed internet access
  • Free of distractions
  • Ample outlets to keep computer charged
  • Quiet / Able to use headphones
  • Large desk space to layout multiple materials, notebooks, and other study materials
  • Bright lighting to reduce eye strain
  • Comfortable seating 

Distractions are a part of life.  The key is finding the right balance so that you can focus on coursework when it's needed and find time to relax. 

Multitasking is a Myth
We all like to think we can multitask effectively, but many people find that multitasking is less effective than focusing on one task at a time for shorter, more concentrated periods.  Some people recommend using noise-canceling headphones and a timer to help focus attention on one thing more deeply rather than being involved in many things at that same time in a more shallow way. 

Tips for staying focused:

  • Identify Goals - What do you hope to achieve?  Try to break down long-term goals into smaller, attainable tasks. 
  • Create a schedule - It can be helpful to schedule the times you plan to work on course activities just as you would have had to schedule being in a classroom on certain days/times.  Just because you have flexibility doesn't mean you don't need a schedule!
  • Connect with Classmates - Learning is a social activity, and connecting with your classmates may alleviate stress and enhance your understanding of the course material.  Reach out to your classmates to set up a time to meet up online or over the phone to discuss your assignments and get to know each other. 
  • Prioritize! - What is most urgent and essential to focus on?  We all get caught up in topics that interest us.  Just make sure that you put the most important assignments front and center.
  • Practice Self-Care - Don't forget about yourself in all of this.  Get a good night's sleep, exercise, and eat well.  Taking care of yourself will help you be a more successful online learner. 

Are you Ready to Lean Online

  • Take the eLearn Ready Assessment to help you determine your readiness to take online courses.  The survey will analyze your responses and provide tips and resources to help you be successful in your classes. 
  • Additional tips can be found at Studyonline.ca.