When Jason enrolled for his first online fire science class at a local community college, he thought that a few hours at the keyboard and some fast and loose research would produce three college credits with minimal effort. He found the schedule inviting, but the work nearly overwhelming. "I admit...
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One of the best ways to stay current is to construct a daily routine for class participation and assignments. For example, if you are a morning person, plan to do discussion questions and replies before the rest of your household stirs. This quiet time allows online students a focus necessary to succeed. Plan larger time slots in your weekly calendar for reading and writing assignments. But remember, if you pencil in Sunday at 3 P.M. for research, stick with it.5. Polish Your Reading, Writing and Research Skills
The online environment, with its icon the computer keyboard, necessitates students do considerable writing. Unlike traditional classrooms where verbal skills prevail, e-learning requires good writing. "In these online courses," says NFA's Kaplan, "responses must be written accurately, unlike in a traditional classroom where it might be easy for a student to spout off." Well-constructed sentences and a fluent vocabulary are necessary.
If you have not written much recently, a good reference that is an invaluable asset for all writers is Strunk & White's Elements of Style. This classic book is an indispensable reference and refresher. Depending on which institution you attend, plan to become familiar with a particular method of citing references, such as MLA or APA. These stylebooks are available from a variety of sources and some precognition of a particular style makes for smoother organization and composition of research papers.
Research methodology has changed considerably with the ubiquitous Web. But be cautious of what sites you rely on when researching. Some professionally designed sites offer "research" that is nothing more than an infomercial. Be careful when using sites such as Wikipedia, because anyone can edit the information contained within. Peer-reviewed, scholarly literature should be available through your institution's electronic library.6. Develop Team-Player Attitudes
Education, like American industry, has adapted the notion that teams can accomplish bigger, more complex projects than an individual working alone. In the online environment, according to researcher Seung Won Yoon, writing in a 2006 edition of The Quarterly Review of Distance Education, virtual teams can explore many avenues of research via the Internet that result in a complex method of problem solving. As e-learning educators have discovered, a well-structured team with clear-cut goals can be an engine of innovation and efficiency. They also allow teammates a non-threatening environment to learn from one another, which is a key ingredient of online learning.
To successfully attend a virtual team, some of the same etiquette rules used in a face-to-face meeting apply. These rules are called "netiquette." They apply to all posts and e-mails, and are especially applicable to the learning team environment. The rules help you avoid unintended offensive behavior and include:
- Do not type a message in all capitals; it indicates shouting.
- Use smiley faces in moderation; they can clutter up your message and add no real emotion.
- Do not forward a message to others unless you have the author's permission; this is especially important with any private e-mail.
- Delay replying to a message that inflames your sensibilities or emotions; give it some time before writing something that you might live to regret.
- Always remember when communicating via written messages that you can unwittingly use poor judgment in your tone; your recipients are human — not e-mail inboxes.
If you have not already researched some of the concepts of online learning, before plunking down your hard-earned cash, open that search engine and start polishing your research skills while becoming more familiar with the design and structure of online learning principles. E-learning is here to stay. Experts agree its growth will continue and become more prevalent in the education market. For shift-based firefighters, the asynchronous schedule can be easily managed. As Jason attests, before going online make sure to have the correct skills you need to succeed. E-learning is a rich, innovative way to learn, provided you are prepared for it.
- Choose a Good Program
- Possess Adequate Computer Skills and Hardware
- Wield Strong Motivation
- Develop Strict Time-Management Skills
- Polish Your Reading, Writing and Research Skills
- Develop Team-Player Attitudes
- Familiarize Yourself with E-Learning Concepts