Things to Do and Questions to Ask When Enrolling in Online Courses

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Online courses spring up like mushrooms after a heavy rain these days and it is estimated that online learning will continue to be one of the fastest growing market segments in the near future. Online learning appeals to students who are interested in flexible options to gain a new qualification without leaving their jobs. However, many students sign up for distance courses without a clear understanding of expectations or what it entails to be an online student and quite often without any course self-management plan. This blog post will hopefully shed some light on the challenges, expectations and realities of online learning. I would like to offer you a list of questions you need to ask your course provider and yourself before you make a decision to study online.

Even if you are not completely new to online learning, this mode of study will pose some challenges:
• Feeling of isolation
• Impersonal communication
• Time and energy drain
• Technological hurdles
• Change (which can be quite uncomfortable to deal with)

Being aware of these challenges can help you avoid frustration and prepare strategies for dealing with them in advance.
Questions to ask the course provider:

Learning Management System
• What Learning Management System (LMS) is used for the course?
• Are there any tutorials available to help me learn how to use the system?
• What are software/hardware requirements?
• Will I need to purchase any additional software/hardware?
• What computer skills and knowledge do I need?
• Is there any technical assistance offered? By who? When?
• How many times has this course been run in the online environment?

Communication
• How will I communicate with the course provider/online facilitator? Is it all online or is there a number I can call for help?
• What level of interaction with other course participants/facilitator is expected?
• How are the activities organised? (Individual work, group/pair work, webinars?)
• How often will I work with my peers (if required)?
• How big is the group of students and how many facilitators will be assisting them?

Content/Activities & Assessment
• Can I see sample activities and resources?
• Is there induction to the course/online learning? What does it cover?
• What assessment tasks will I need to complete?
• Is this a self-paced course or deadlines must be met?
• What are the time requirements to complete to the activities?
• Is there a practical component? Who can help me with the placement?

Facilitator(s)
• What education and experience (including teaching in the online environment) do the facilitators have?
• What is their availability to help me with the questions I may have?

Questions to ask yourself:
• Do I feel comfortable in the online environment?
• How can I address the gaps in my computer skills?
• Do I have the required software/hardware?
• How much time can I devote to my studies?
• Do I know where to seek help with technical issues, content, activities, and assessment?
• What do I want to gain from this course?
• Do I have a support system of family and friends to help me with time/effort demands of the course?
• Is online education right for me?

Things to do next:
• Thoroughly research the course provider
• Assess your computer skills for Online Learning
• Check your computer for the required software/hardware specifications
• Refresh your understanding of Netiquette
• Create a schedule
• Create a dedicated place for your studies
• Create a support system of family and friends

      

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