Ace Your Online Class is a course designed to help people who have never taken an online college class before, or struggled with one in their first go around. The course teaches students how online learning differs from traditional learning, the tools needed for success, the main features of your course, and tips on how to navigate them.
Thirty instructional videos (4-10 minutes each) split into ten sections will prepare and guide learners through the maze that is your school's Learning Management System, identifying the main features most likely to be used, and strategies for best execution. Each video has an accompanying fact sheet that offers a summary of the video, optional resources, and an extra daily challenge for those wishing to take their online mastery to the next level. Quizzes and worksheets are also included.
The course may be taken at whatever pace works best for you, but it is designed to be consumed by watching one video per day for thirty days. This suggestion is intentional as it mimics the workflow recommended for tackling your online classes. In effect, the hope is that the routine you develop while watching these videos effectively becomes your routine for tackling online coursework.
For new online learners, this course is best taken just prior to the start of your online class (it helps if you can access the class), or as your class is beginning. Students who have struggled in the past, or are currently struggling may seek out certain sections of the course after your class has started, as needed.
The course is also particularly helpful for students with learning disabilities or cognitive issues, such as trouble with attention, concentration and memory.
In the end, you probably invested a great deal of money into college, and are about to invest a great deal of time. Make sure your time and money are well spent by arming yourself not only with a solid overview of how college online classes operate, but the mindset and workflow that you'll need to ace your online class!
Hello and welcome to the course! This is the first of thirty videos that I’ve included for you as you get on the right path to ace your online class. You may watch the videos as often as you’d like, in whatever order you’d like, however for best results, the course has the following suggested layout:
Watch one video per day for the next thirty days, and read the content in the accompanying pdf’s. There’s a “Challenge of the Day” if you really want to maximize your success. Sometimes there will also be a suggested resource if you’d like to learn more about one of the topics in the video.
Try not to skip a day early on as you work to establish this habit, and it will become the foundation of your future online success.
In this video, I’ll discuss some of the different types of current online learning models seen on the web today. I’ll also talk about who this course is designed for, as well as who it probably will not benefit. In addition, I would like to state the course objectives, or the major topics that I’m planning to teach you. By the end of the course, you should be able to:
Define the basic terminology commonly associated with learning in online college classes.
Understand the basic functioning of your school’s Learning Management System (email, discussion forums, content, tests).
Develop your own productive workflow (ritualized approach to getting things done) that is built on healthy routines that make online learning easier to accomplish.
This quick video summarizes what the typical online learning experience looks like for those completely brand new to taking online college classes. It also outlines the course modules that follow and what you can expect to learn from them, in case you have a particular need and would like to skip right to the module/ video that you need. I’d also like to point out that all of these videos are captioned.
As you can now see, Module 1 has been all about outlining exactly what the course will look like, who the course is designed for, and most importantly, the suggested approach for watching the videos that will translate to success in your online class!
How you set up your life and manage your own time is critical to the long-term success in any online class. This video discusses the importance of having a defined workflow. Many people try and keep their "school life” separate from their “regular life”, and it was much easier to do this in a traditional learning model. This new model of learning works better if the lines between our school and personal lives are a little more blurry.
Online learning that leads to long-term retention of the material is best achieved when it’s approached at a slow, steady methodical pace. Try to get a little bit of work done on most days, as opposed to scheduling giant blocks of time to cram everything into one or two days.
This video details the major differences between traditional classroom learning and online learning. The focus here in on the distinct characteristics you will need to consider in order to succeed in this new element.
Hopefully you’ve been getting in the habit of working on this course about once a day. It was designed this way to mimic the tenacity needed to effectively ‘chip away’ at the tasks of your online class.
In the end, success for most comes down to establishing meaningful and sustainable habits/rituals in order to tackle a little bit of work online at a time, rather than a more ‘all at once’ approach common to traditional class preparation.
This final video of Module 2 details a process of determining Urgency and Importance. This lesson captures the essence of online learning perfectly, and rationalizes the approach I am recommending to succeed in your online class.
Many college students struggle with procrastination, which is why it is important to understand its effects not only on your academic performance, but your overall mental and emotional health. It’s stressful to put things off! A routine, methodical approach will not only make it easier to approach your online work with a positive attitude, it will also get you feeling better about yourself.
These next three videos will discuss the recommended tools you’ll need to ace your online class. I said this in the video but it bears repeating, this is a suggested list of items. What works for you is going to end up being the best tool, so if something’s already working for you, don’t change it. I included this section, however, because some folks are just getting started and have no idea of the requirements involved in online learning.
You’ll also want to consider where you’ll be working on your online class. The computer you use might not have been the first thing you think about when you signed up for your college class, but it matters. Likewise, dependable Internet really matters, and for some, the ability to print some of the materials you might need is helpful.
The calendar is your most important tool for ensuring your success. Even if you are already in the habit of using a calendar, this might be a good time to re-evaluate your needs in a calendar. You may have different needs now that suggest it might be time to try something different. Or you may love your calendaring system and it works great for you, and that’s great too. In that case, congrats to you!
The To-Do list is the calendar’s little brother. Always by their side! They go hand-in-hand. To-Do lists should focus on the next action of whatever tasks or assignments you have pending at the moment. It’s often not as helpful to jot down “Research Paper” if really the next action on that large assignment is actually to “Write Research Paper Outline” or “Revise draft” which will help you focus your energy, as well as better estimate how much time you’ll need.
The final video of Module #3 summarizes the additional tools I recommend for online success. Some are obvious, but since this is for people that are brand new to taking online classes, I wanted the list to be comprehensive.
The most important point of this module is not that you get the perfect tool, but rather that you design a good system for using the tool that is consistent and sustainable. Tools enable us to get jobs done, or get them done more efficiently. You can’t take an online class if you don’t have Internet access, yet everyone has some place that they can study, but some (quiet rooms, libraries, coffee shops) are much more effective than others (in front of TV, at a rock concert).
In the end, the systems you design behind the use of your tools will ultimately dictate how integral they are to your success.
This video provides an overview of the Learning Management System (LMS), and some of its basic features. Understanding and feeling comfortable using your school’s LMS will be critical to your success. Simply put, I have never met a student who did well who felt shaky when it came to knowing how to do things like navigate the course to find content, or locate the syllabus.
The key to learning your LMS is exploring. Trial and error will teach you what you need to know about the LMS, and is the easiest way to begin to feel comfortable fast. Forget about the manual, rip the thing open and start playing!
Today’s video looks closer at the typical syllabus for your online class. If you have already taken college classes in a classroom, you are familiar with the concept of the syllabus. Just like the calendar and To-Do list go hand-in-hand, the Learning Management System and Syllabus similarly are forever linked in the online sphere. There should be a place in the LMS to contribute or upload your submissions for each assignment that is contained on the syllabus.
Keep in mind, however, you might not be able to see all of these areas at once, as many courses run week-to-week and new content is 'opened' or exposed for students to consume at regular intervals.
This final video of Module 4 takes you ‘behind the scenes’ to inform you of what the instructor can do to asses your performance within the LMS. Simply put, most Learning Management Systems allow the instructor varying abilities to analyze a student’s ‘participation.’ Actions like: how often you log in, how long you remain logged in, or when/how often you click certain links can all be tracked, so if your class in any way uses participation in the calculation of their grade, this might be one way (either directly or indirectly) they measure it.
I also discuss rubrics here, which are a way for instructors to objectively measure your work and issue consistent grades, and why you should feature them in any attempt to tackle the work you do in class.
This video explores the reasons for why email is a critical feature to most college/university Learning Management Systems, and still the preferred means of communication in the majority of online classes. It also tries to normalize the process of reaching out to your instructor, and provides some reasons why it’s a good idea to reach out early and introduce yourself.
If nothing else, you will gain the experience of learning how to use the course email, get to test it out to make sure you know how to use it when you’ll need it, and hey, you may even brighten an instructor’s day.
This video explains some of the major differences between course email embedded within an LMS, and traditional email that you are already comfortable with. The differences are not huge, but the small differences are important. It also discusses some of the practical reasons for electing to forward your course email to an email inbox that you are already in the habit of checking. This is a small, but powerful workflow consideration that will eliminate the need for you to get in the habit of checking some new place on a regular basis.
Almost every LMS course email has this forwarding feature, so if it’s not clear how to set it up, find out how! You could try to access your specific Learning Management System tutorial, or ask the LMS specialist at your school. Your instructor might also be able to walk you through how to do this.
In this final video of Module 5, I talk a little about the mindset of an online instructor. I thought it might help to give a little insight into the mind of the person on the other side of the computer screen, so to speak. Of course, there is no “typical” online instructor these days, but I included this information mainly to get you in the habit of thinking of your instructor as a person just like the teacher in your traditional classroom.
When instructors don’t include videos of themselves, and/or fail to respond to your emails, it can really negatively impact your relationship with them. There’s really no excuse for an instructor to ignore student emails, so I advise you to assert yourself with ‘second request’ type of email subject lines when your initial inquiry goes unresponded.
Today we will talk a little bit about how the way you interact with your fellow classmates differs in an online class. Some students report these differences are a major drawback in online learning. They feel more isolated and crave the more human interaction that traditional classes bring.
On the other hand, there are others who are more introverted that actually feel more comfortable interacting with their peers online instead of face-to-face. Regardless of how you feel about this kind of interaction, many online classes attempt to mimic the back-and-forth dialogue of traditional classes by using discussion forums, and I’ll introduce these briefly in this video as well.
Now we will talk about the necessary steps to get ready to make a post to a discussion forum, as well as the actual posting process. Much of the technical ‘how-to’ of posting will be LMS-specific, and the content will be class-specific. I give you a bunch of tips and strategies for preparing yourself to make a high quality post, how to choose classmates to respond to, and the workflow best practices you want to consider incorporating.
In summary, discussion forums challenge many online students, and are hard to catch up with after falling behind, so make sure to have a definitive weekly schedule of when and how you plan to complete them on a consistent basis.
This video provides more helpful strategies for performing well in the discussion forum section of your online class. I give some instructor insight, as well as some basic suggestions for making sure you do not have unnecessary points deducted for problems that can easily be avoided.
The syllabus and/or forum rubric of course will be the final say in terms of what is required of your forum replies, but if you can make yourself stand out a little bit in terms of depth, quality, and/or interest, it will go a long way towards improving your grade.
I also discuss how the relationships you form with your classmates differ in an online class.
This next series of three videos will focus on how to best approach the content of your online class; in other words, the actual stuff you need to study and learn. It will cover the types of content you might expect to see, and explain some of the best ways to capture that information.
This video gives an overview of mastering content, and then breaks down the amount of time you should be dedicating to your class. It concludes with some suggestions for minimizing distractions and improving focus while engaged with your online class.
This video outlines the importance of note-taking for college classes. I discuss the concept of encoding, and the gap that exists between the current point in the lecture/video, and the point at which you are at with your notes. Figuring out little ways to keep that gap as small as possible is the overall take-home point here.
Note-taking is not easy, and I try to provide many different strategies and suggestions for taking the best notes you can, as well as how to best learn from them. Despite it not being easy, it is hard to argue against note-taking being an essential requirement to true success in all learning, but especially online learning.
This final video of Module 7 discusses one of my favorite study tools for acing your online class - Flash Cards! You may not have tried making flash cards since grammar school, so now’s the time for me to give you permission to return to your roots and use this extremely effective study tool. I talk about how to make flash cards in this video, as well as how to use them one you have created them.
Making and using flash cards jives with much of what we have talked about in this course - building healthy small habits in order to learn the content (making cards weekly), and then studying in small batches (review periodically throughout the day) to reinforce it.
Today we will go over what online testing looks like. We will also look at some of the major differences between traditional tests and online tests. There is a good deal of time spent on the concept of the ‘testing window’ and how you need to document this in your calendar so that you don’t miss it.
It concludes with a quick review of the different types of questions you might find on your online test. Many times even students new to online learning in college have taken some kind of online test in the past, so for those with previous experience, the concept of how to take an online test should be one of the easier ones to master.
This video breaks down test preparation strategies and the best ways to approach studying. Studying can mean a few different things, depending upon how much time you have spent learning the content. Hopefully, you are prepared and studying means just a cursory review of the material.
If you have fallen behind, and are having a hard time carving out the time needed for studying, it is time to sit down, make a study plan for that specific test, and kick the learning into high gear. Details on how to do this are in the second half of the video.
This final video of Module 8 discusses some more good study habits you can use to prepare yourself well for online testing. There are strategies you can use on your own, as well as with others. Some people are better social learners than others, so think about the ways you have found you learn most effectively. What has worked in the past for you?
It also discusses the issue of cheating in online classes, and the tools that instructors have at their disposal to detect or discourage dishonorable cheating practices. In short, I do not suggest trying it, nor do I suspect you are considering it, or you probably would not have purchased this course!
As we begin nearing the end of the course, let us discuss your approach to large projects in your online class, including papers, presentations, and group assignments. One early strategy is to confirm the percentage of the grade, so you can estimate how much time your instructor is expecting you to spend on it. After that, it is all about ‘breaking it down.’
There is a big picture view of the importance of chunking assignments before a discussion about why it is valuable to set yourself up with ‘artificial due dates’ that lead up to the final (actual) due date of the project.
First we talked about the 50,000 foot view of breaking down large assignments, now we will get into the nuts and bolts about how to do it, using the example of a research paper. This video breaks down this process, highlighting the major steps involved in composing most research papers, and discussing how to document when you are going to get these tasks accomplished in your calendar.
When you break any project down in this manner, it allows you to easily see what the next action step is at all times, which should be written down on your To-Do list as well of course! The major keys here are to start early, and chip away a little bit at a time.
This video discusses the delicate nature of group work assignments for online classes. Many of the same principles from the previous videos apply as far as taking the large project and breaking it into smaller chunks. It’s easier then to delegate out pieces and check in regularly thereafter if you have an effective group leader. The most important tip is to decide on a leader.
The video also discusses synchronous activities and what they might take the form of in your online class, and concludes with a discussion about common plagiarism issues.
This video provides an overview of the very real issue of struggling academically in online classes. It discusses the importance of reaching out early when things are not going well, and how to ‘negotiate’ with your instructor if you have valid need for specialized assistance.
There are so many kinds of ways that students struggle, and so many potential school limitations placed on the instructor, that the exact help you are looking for is not always possible, but it really never hurts to ask when you have a legitimate reason for struggling to succeed.
This video summarizes the process of withdrawing from a class when you are struggling, and there is a more than distinct possibility you are going to fail the class.
It also discusses how to go about requesting an incomplete, the most common reasons for granting incomplete, as well as what happens afterward.
Hopefully these are not strategies you will need to rely on very often, but I know many students are not aware of their options, so I felt obligated to include this section, even if it only ends up helping one person.
The final video of the course outlines the process for requesting academic accommodations from your school’s Office of Disability Services. It concludes with a discussion of some other tools you might find helpful if you are struggling to achieve success in your online class. Some of these are on-campus supports, others are services you can obtain off-campus, or find online.
The most important point of this module is to simply reach out when you are struggling, and ask for help. It is harder for instructors to see the signs of struggle from behind a computer screen, so be vocal about your needs. You are your own best advocate.
Thank you for taking the time to take this course with me. Hope it helps you ace your online class!
Hello everyone and thanks for stopping in to learn more! My name is Derek Malenczak, and I am a faculty member at Rutgers University. I presently work in the Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation & Counseling Professions as an undergraduate instructor, both in the classroom as well as online teaching. Prior to my academic career, I spent 13 years helping people with mental illness who were discharged from long-term psychiatric hospitalizations, teaching them skills so they might recover and become better integrated into their communities.
I eventually took a special interest in helping college students with mental health issues and goal-setting with more of a career focus, learning a specialized practice called Supported Education, where I tailored my skill-teaching to those needed for college; writing admissions essays, selecting courses, improving study skills, requesting an incomplete, etc.
I helped train the agency I was employed with in Supported Education, and that led to a job with school where I earned my Masters Degree with, doing research on this population. I taught cognitive remediation to college students with mental health issues in order to help them succeed with better grade and remain in school longer.
I now teach the majority of the time, but am still involved in research related to online learning. I also host a podcast called the College Student Success Podcast, which helps college students with mental health issues set and achieve goals for themselves.
I knew my blend of experience in skill teaching, goal setting, Supported Education, Cognitive Remediation, and online instruction was unique, but wasn't exactly sure how to apply it until I started teaching online more regularly. I saw students that I knew from traditional classes to be excellent students, now struggling with how to succeed in online classes. I talked to them. I considered the struggles they identified, and the idea for this course was born. I hope you find it helpful!