Monday, January 18, 2010

Assumptions You Shouldn't Make About Online Students

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The following tips from the newest edition of Faculty Focus remind us, I think, to check our sometimes erroneous assumptions about online students. "What do you mean, I need a computer to take an online class?" seems like an unrealistic question, but it comes up more often than you might realize! You may already address some of these issues in your courses, and emails from student services as well as documents loaded into every CCCOnline course also address some of them, but take a quick look and give some thought to any changes you/we might be able to make to get students over these hurdles.
From the January 18, 2010 issue of Faculty Focus:
Here are some easy-to-implement best practices for kicking off your online courses:
1. Don’t assume students understand the workings of an online course. Offer them tips for online learners that include knowledge of traditional versus online learning, Web etiquette, helpful links, and where to go for help. Also include suggested study tips for online learners. Remind students that even though they are at home when they log on to complete their class work, they still need to find an environment free from distractions where they can turn off the cell phone and the iPod, have someone else watch the kids, and really focus on their class work.
2. Don’t assume students have the minimum equipment and/or skill requirements needed to be successful in an online course. Be sure to make the minimum equipment requirements readily available to students prior to the official start date. In addition to whatever postings your institution might offer, a personal email to all students enrolled is a great idea. If your institution doesn’t test students for minimum computer skills, be sure those enrolled understand the basic computer skills needed. All too many students who sign up for Web courses can’t save a file to CD or change a font to boldface.
3. Don’t assume students know how to behave in a Web course. Require them to sign a behavior and ethics contract. Said contract should outline the acceptable code of conduct for the course. With the immediacy of email, students often fire off messages without thinking about the ramifications of tone or word choice. Students routinely use email and texting for their daily communication with each other and they may not realize that what works with peers may not be appropriate in an academic setting. Explain such concepts as flaming, using all caps, and interpersonal communication (inappropriate tone) via the Web.
4. Don’t assume students know the more important rules and regulations in the syllabus. How many times do students receive a detailed syllabus only to come back and ask an obvious question? Again, give them a short syllabus quiz and require that they score 100 percent before they continue in the course. Four or five questions are plenty.
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