If you are new to online learning, here is a handy checklist of things you should consider as you begin.
- Have access to an Internet connection. Online learning is exactly how it sounds, learning online. Having access to an Internet connection, preferably a high-speed connection is the key component to learning online.
- Have access to a computer at home, school or work. An up-to-date computer will allow you to access course content, view multimedia files and engage in online forums and discussions with a minimum of trouble.
- Ensure you have current software. Viewing multimedia files is an important part of online learning. Older computers may not have the appropriate software that allows these types of files to be downloaded quickly or viewed at all. Other software such as Microsoft Word allows you to complete assignments and submit them online. Check your course syllabus for each class to see if any special software is required.
- Have current textbooks as outlined by the instructor. Most instructors have a textbook (or two) that they ask students to read, and will refer to throughout the course. Follow the syllabus and know what the requirements are. Whether some or all of the class is online, you must still keep up with the reading materials.
- Ensure you have current software and hardware. Yes, this was already discussed in the "Technical Issues" section above, but it bears repeating. Check your course syllabus for each class to see if any special software is required and if any special hardware is required, such as a headset with earphones and a microphone.
- Set aside a place that provides an environment conducive for studying. Find a place that is well lit, well ventilated, and is free from distractions. If this place is at your residence and you have roommates, consider making a sign for your door that indicates you are studying or taking an online test.
- Procrastination will not make things easier. Inevitably, there will be one assignment that seems harder than the rest. If you are really having trouble, contact the instructor or your support group immediately, to share your thoughts and to devise a strategy for tackling the assignment.
- Organization is an important part of online learning. Being organized is the key to online learning. Planning and organizing will lead to less stress and confusion especially when multiple assignments and projects are due.
- Follow the syllabus. Know the due dates. Break larger assignments into smaller pieces and complete them.
- Make the appropriate time commitment and manage your time wisely. A good rule of thumb is that a typical, 3-credit course should take approximately three hours of class time per week plus an additional six hours of study time per week. In other words, you should be dedicating about nine hours per week to each course. Your online courses are no different in this regard.
- Have access to a support group. There will be times when some tasks seem confusing. It is during these times that being able to talk with the instructor will help make things clearer. At other times having family, friends, or other students to talk things over with will help relieve stress or confusion.
- Know how to get technical support at UNC Charlotte. The Student Computing Help Center can be reached online or by phone, 704-687-5500.