According to the National Survey of Student Engagement, research has shown that a student’s success is directly related to his participation, or involvement, in the educational experience. This is particularly true in the online courses where face-to-face connections are extremely rare. Understanding the ways in which participation occurs is important for online students, instructors and administrators.
Discussion boards are one of the most widely utilized participation tools in online courses. Discussion boards are similar to Internet forums. Students post a statement or answer a question and other students reply. Students are typically required to post an original thought and respond to at least two classmates. Discussion boards may be open for the duration of the semester or for a specific time period, depending on the purpose of the board.
For some instructors, real-time chats are preferable to the standard discussion board format. Professors will post a meeting time for the chat well in advance, requiring each student to attend. The chat may take the form of a question and answer session with the instructor, or require students to discuss an assigned reading or given topic. Chats cannot be made up so it’s important to pay attention to dates and times given by the instructor.
Blogs and wikis are a newer format for the online classroom. Both are used, typically, to cover a particular topic. For example, an assignment may require students to create a blog or wiki about child development. Once the original blog or wiki is posted, other students are encouraged or required to post a response. These formats can be daunting for students who have not completed them previously, but they are both quite easy to complete and are quickly becoming the preferred format for participation among students.
Labs are typically found in science courses and in some math courses. Rather than meeting face-to-face and receiving hands-on instruction from a professor, students are sent materials or utilize virtual experiments. Students work on their own, completing the lab and documenting their findings. Labs are an excellent learning tool and students should take full part in the activities presented in order to enhance understanding of a subject.
No matter how they are offered, assignments are the key to your grade. Assignments may be more frequently given in the online environment where teachers have a more difficult time of gauging student progress and understanding. It may feel as though you have a never-ending list of things to get done for class but, if you organize yourself correctly, keeping up is entirely possible. It’s always advisable to complete assignments days before they are do. This ensures that connection problems or family emergencies will not stand in the way of turning in an assignment.
Students who think they can skate through an online course quickly find that they were mistaken. Online courses, in fact, may be more difficult for many students. Participation and organization are a must in the world of virtual courses; if you aren’t prepared to be engaged, you will not succeed.