Preparing for Success
There is no "face time" with the professor when in an online college course, so learning expectations and receiving necessary answers may not be prompt or clear. In a "live" classroom setting professors are able to hand out a syllabus or assignment directions and students receive immediate feedback as to whether they understand an assignment or not. Professors work to make their assignments as clear as possible, but despite how hard they work there is always some piece that gets lost in translation when there is no intonation of voice or live discussion to "read". If you feel comfortable enough, then give your professor feedback about what works best for you. There is no guarantee the professor will change the course style, but they will be aware of your needs and might take it into consideration for future online courses.
Students have to be advocates for themselves with their professors. Many people in online courses that I have taken feel nervous about “bugging" the professor. What they fail to realize is that it is the professor’s job to be available to answer questions along the way. It’s always better to ask and feel confident that you are doing the right thing and ultimately get a better grade than it is to be passive and risk a chance of receiving a lower grade. Ask for some "chat-time" or online hours from the professor.
However, there are professors that are harder to read and do not appear to be helpful. In that case, students can reach out to each other when in need. Many online courses have a discussion area as well as places where you can email/send messages to one another. Chances are, if you are confused about an assignment, then someone else is going through the same thing! Peer discussion is not cheating and often times will better both students' assignments and overall understanding of the course. Plus, if you are enrolled in an online degree program, then chances are you will take many courses with the same people, so you might as well establish a rapport right away!
When all else fails, however, you may need to make decisions about an assignment. Professors and peers cannot always respond to questions in a timely fashion. If you don’t hear back from either one, then you will have to be comfortable that you are capable of completing the assignment yourself.
1. Talk to your professor! Do not worry about burdening him/her. Professors are there to help.
2. Chat with your classmates! They may experience similar problems and may have great insight to share.
3. Trust yourself! You probably know what to do, but you need to have faith that you can do a great job.