Success in an online class

The blessing and curse of an online course is that as students you get to set your own work schedule. With no face-to-face classes to attend, your time is really your own (at least in relation to the course). This works very well for many students, but some students struggle with setting their own schedule. As such, I like to provide a few words of advice at the beginning of each online course I teach.

  • How much time should I spend?

If we were in a face-to-face class for this session, we’d be meeting for six hours each week.  For our class, the equivalent of those six class hours is the time you spend on this website reading site content and writing posts and comments.  How you want to put in those hours is mostly up to you.  Trying to do it all in one day won’t work. Doing two three-hour sessions is tough, but it’s possible if your life beyond the class demands it.

I recommend that you plan to visit this site 3-5 times per week.

  • What should I be doing on the course website?

There are basically three kinds of activity: reading posts, commenting on posts, and writing new posts.

Reading: it’s not necessary to read everything that I and your classmates post here, but my estimate is that you should spend around 2-3 hours a week reading posts.

Commenting: think about this as the online equivalent of class discussion. Ask questions, provide specific information, or make a particular point in response to the post. Comments don’t need to be long. We’ll find the class more enjoyable and rewarding if we are conversing. (1-2 hours a week)

Posting: I’m going to write a separate post on advice about posting, but briefly this is your opportunity to write something substantive about the course.  I’m imagining you’ll spend at least two hours a week writing posts. (n.b. later in the semester you will also be posting about your research, which I consider a separate assignment that fits into the work below.)

  • What about the rest of the work?

You probably have heard the old equation that says you should spend two hours outside of class for every hour in class.  In our case, that would mean another 12 hours a week. Obviously there’s no one walking around behind you with a stop watch. That said, we will be reading five books over the next six weeks and you’ll be writing a research paper (and possibly other things depending on the grade contract).

You should expect to spend a fair amount of time in the last half of the session writing your research paper, blogging about your research and possibly doing other assignments (depending on the grade contract you choose), so you might want to plan accordingly by getting ahead on the class reading and making sure that you don’t fall behind on your class discussion responsibilities.


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