By David Hoang
Getting off to a strong start on your first week of online classes isn’t too difficult. But, there are a few things smart students should definitely avoid:
1. Don’t forget to log in on the first day
A surprising number of students simply procrastinate logging in to their online class during the first day, particularly in general education courses. Perhaps it seems like there’s plenty of time. But, one day turns into one week, and soon it’s too late to play catch up.
Avoid this mistake by logging in as soon as possible, getting a feel for the course, and making note of any first week assignments.
2. Don’t ignore the “getting to know you” board
Many online classes now have a sort of “open chat” or “getting to know you” discussion board. It’s a place for students to have discussions that may not directly relate to the topic at hand. Participation in these boards is generally optional. However, smart students are often the first to jump in and start a conversation. Remember, your professor is a real person. Your peers are real people. Forming relationships can help you academically (such as when choosing partners for group projects) and professionally (like when you need a reference for a job interview). Forming relationships online can be a challenge, so make the most of any resources that are provided to help you connect.
3. Don’t bombard your professor with emails before you read the syllabus
“What textbook do I need to buy?” “Is there going to be a final?” “Do you grade on a curve?” Avoid emailing your professor with any of these questions (or pretty much any questions at all) until you take the time to read the syllabus.
Your professor has heard these queries hundreds of times and has likely already written a rather comprehensive answer to share with the class. If you’ve read the syllabus and first week material and still have questions, then don’t hesitate to ask for help.
4. Don’t procrastinate starting your first week assignments until the day they are due
Realize that you aren’t going to be able to accurately judge the difficulty of assignments in a new course until you actually sit down and start working. Avoid waiting until the last minute to begin your assignments. If you’re confused about instructions at 10:30 a.m. on Friday for an assignment that is due at 11:00 a.m., it’s unlikely that you’re going to receive a reply to your desperate email. Start ahead of time to make sure you get a feel for the kind of effort that will be required and are able to ask your instructor for assistance should you need any clarification.
5. Don’t send an email to the entire class (or the entire campus)
Email can be a bit dangerous when it comes to some learning management systems. A single click could send your email meant for a friend to the entire class, or even worse, the entire campus. Many administrators have become frustrated with an email thread sent to 1,500 people, a dozen of whom respond back to all 1,500 asking “why did I get this email…I don’t think I’m in that course?” Use a bit of caution when you email and make sure that you never use campus email to send something you wouldn’t want a professor or school administrator to see.
6. Don’t forget to drop the course if you’re not going to take it after all
Almost inevitably, a number of online students remain on the roll the entire semester after logging in only once. If the student does not formally withdraw from the course, most schools require instructors to give the no-show a failing grade. If you’re going to stop participating in the course, formally withdraw before the drop deadline.