There are many elements of distance education that vary from traditional face-to-face courses. However, with the right effort and focus, you can succeed!
Scheduling Time for your Course
Organize your time. Use a planning calendar to schedule time for fixed responsibilities such as work, on-campus classes, religious obligations, etc. Enter study time of at least 10-12 hours per week, per class.
Don't over-schedule your time. Be realistic. Allow for "time crashers," (appointments that take longer than expected, computer program malfunction, ISP service not connecting, emergencies, etc.) Schedule breaks and free time. You need these so don't feel guilty for taking a well-deserved respite.
The best time of day to do virtual coursework is when you have the most energy. Distance learning is difficult enough without trying to accomplish it while not at your peak performance level.
Study in a quiet area without distractions. Turn off telephones, cell phones, and televisions (unless studying televised educational programming). If using your computer while connected online, turn off software and programs that may distract you. If you don't have a quiet place to study at home, consider the College or public libraries.
Planning & Preparing
Planning ahead can save you tons of time and headache in the future. Work smarter, not harder.
If you’re new to higher education or technology, be sure to familiarize yourself with basic skills necessary for success. Be sure you are comfortable with navigating the internet, using a word processor and email and other basic computer functions. In addition, be sure to familiarize yourself with My Canyons, COC Student Email and Blackboard. It’s also a good idea to have the contact information for help resources in case you get stuck!
It's best to always have a current printed copy of your course syllabus, assignment sheet, and instructor contact information. That way you won't be stuck if you can't access Blackboard or the internet. Also consider having the phone numbers and email addresses of a few classmates just in case!
You may encounter problems or have questions with your assignments. Some careful planning early in the semester will help avert problems later. Start working on your assignments with plenty of time to work through technology issues or other problems you may encounter.
If you have a problem, first check your course’s FAQ page or discussion board, or your instructor’s instructions or communication with the class. Your teacher or another student may have already addressed the issue and provided solutions.
When emailing your instructor or classmates, please remember that your instructor will have many emails to respond to, so they may not get back to you right away. If you look at assignment ahead of time, you will have more time to wait for a response from your instructor and still complete your assignment on time.
Another thing you can do ahead of time to make your experience smoother is to bookmark or write down web address of Blackboard and other pages you visit frequently during your coursework.
Stay Motivated & Focused
Even students with the best intentions may lose inspiration and motivation at some time during the semester. Remember your goal. Whether it is a class grade, a necessary course for a job promotion, or a degree. Maybe you are taking a course for the self-satisfaction of learning. Remember the benefits you will receive once you’ve completed your course. Remember the support team you have (family, friends, COC instructors & staff).
If you live near College of the Canyons, consider setting up a study group or partnership to help you stay motivated and focused. This will also help you overcome feelings of isolation that can be associated with distance learning courses.
Be Flexible & Adapt
Life happens. We schedule too many things into our busy lives. Whereas, flexibility is a positive factor of distance learning, it is also easy to mismanage, and you may find yourself falling behind in your studies.
Review time management and study skills to keep from falling perilously behind. If you know about some potential "time crashers" looming in your future, consider completing your assignments ahead of time. Many instructors do not want individual students to advance ahead of the rest of the class, but will sometimes allow students to work ahead, with prior permission and a valid reason. If you do fall behind, don't panic! Contact your instructor ASAP, and notify them of your situation. Most will attempt to accommodate you.
Don't be shy! If you are having a problem, or have a question, contact your instructor or the teaching assistant. You will waste valuable time floundering without a clear notion of what is going on in class.
Be a Responsible Learner
Distance learners are responsible for their learning and must take the responsibility for being active learners, rather than passive learners. The student does not sit passively, ready to be filled with information, but must discover the information by doing his/her own research. Follow the instructor and College’s rules and procedures. But if you have a question, seek out the answer. If you have a problem, contact your instructor.
With hard work, focus and discipline, you can accomplish great things in distance education!