Well, the stats haven’t changed. Online classes still are seen as a wonderful option, but the persistence rate isn’t great. Prior to COVID, students drop out of online classes at alarming rates, but now that COVID is our new normal, the stats aren’t looking any better. In 2011, Columbia released a study showing that well prepared students who enrolled in online classes were more likely to drop those courses than students taking traditional face-to-face classes. In 2018, another study was done and students taking fully online courses were significantly less likely to persist than students taking a blended model or fully face-to-face classes. So, while online registration continues to increase, persistence does not and that’s something to look at.
While I cannot solve online education from an institutional point, I can offer solutions about making online education easier for the student. Many students (I was one of them) enroll in online classes because they need the flexibility. Whether it’s a changing work schedule, transportation issues, childcare issues, classes not being offered when needed, etc., taking online classes offers advantages. However, taking a class online is a lot like working from home. Everyone thinks you don’t need to do much, but you’re actually working more than you did when you were face-to-face. In order to be successful taking online classes, preparation is key! So as a student, let’s look at ways to make online learning work for you.
Plan class hours: In order to be successful, it’s important to plan your online hours just like you would class hours. If a regular class is 3 hours per week, plus study time, schedule that for your online class. Literally, block off time in your calendar for class time (watching videos, listening to lectures, reading articles).
Plan study hours: Just as you would plan for class time, you’re going to plan for study time. The general rule is that for every hour in class, you’ll need 2.5x that amount for studying, but each student is different. You know whether or not you need more study time for a science class versus a history class. The most important part is that you dedicate weekly time to it.
Use office hours: Okay, this is a big one. Even though you’re online, your professor still dedicates hours to visit with students, answer questions, and discuss assignments, etc. Use those hours. Even though you’re not physically meeting, that time is so important. Take advantage of it.
Pick a place: Some students taking online courses do not study from home, simply because there’s no quiet place. You can study anywhere: park, library, coffee shop (my favorite place), friend’s house, etc. The main point is to find a place where you can concentrate and won’t be interrupted.
Connect with classmates: This is something many students forget, unfortunately. Use the chat features, exchange phone numbers, form an online study group. That online community will be your saving grace a lot of times.
Disability services: Just because you’re online, it doesn’t mean that accommodations go out of the window. Make sure that your professor knows about any and all accommodations that you need. Check with your Disability Services for any paperwork that needs to be completed or any accommodations that need reviewing.
Take a break: I cannot stress this one enough. If you want to damage your eyesight, look at the computer screen for hours without a break. Make sure you schedule time to decompress and give your eyes and brain a break. It can be five minutes or 10 minutes, but do not try to tackle online work in large blocks of time.
Play around: This sounds more fun than it really is. I’m part of the Gen X group (actually I’m borderline Gen X and Millennial depending on which chart you view). I remember my dad bringing a computer home and I don’t think we ever touched the manual. The way we learned how to use a computer was playing around with it. Press buttons, view features, see what another tab does. While our world has progressed, that same ‘don’t be scared’ feeling is what will help you online. Pick a time to view everything that has been set up for your online class. Press buttons, click on tabs, ask a question in the chat and see what happens. The more comfortable you become with your online world, the better off you’ll be.
Online learning does not have to be difficult. It is truly about learning a new way to navigate your education, but once you get it, you’ll thrive. Regularly communicate with others and allow yourself time to get accustomed to your new world. This may not be your favorite mode of learning, but it can be a successful.
Keep moving forward and be safe,