What online instructors would like to say to students (part 2)

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At the Minnesota elearning summit this year, I had the chance to 'read' the minds of several online instructors when they were asked an important question, "What would you like to say to online learners?"

Below is the continuation of the list of comments that instructors would like to say to students (Read part 1 here):

  • Online courses are not easier than traditional courses

This is perhaps one of the most common misconception about online learning. The workload for online and offline classes is usually the same, and can sometimes be even more demanding to make up for the lack of group exercises, discussions and activities typical in a classroom setting. The University of Minnesota online programs are equivalent to the on-campus degree programs, generally with the same instructors, program requirements, and curriculum. As a result, the online courses at UMN are not any easier, and require the same amount of work and dedication as a classroom-based course.

Many students report that online courses require that they be more disciplined, self-motivated and independent in order to complete readings and assignments on time. Students who lack those qualities may in fact find online courses much more difficult than traditional courses.

At the end of the day, whether an online course is easy or hard really depends on many factors such as the individual student's comfort in an online environment, the level of engagement in the course, and the difficulty of the course materials. Students who assume that a course is easier just because it is offered online would definitely be in for a rude awakening.

Sources: Are online courses easier than campus classes?; Are online classes are easier than traditional classes?; FAQ: General questions

  • I might need a few days to respond to your questions

It is not uncommon for many online students to expect an email reply from their instructors minutes after sending out an email, especially if they notice that the instructor is online. This is especially the case when an assignment deadline or test date is near. It is important to recognize that many instructors teach more than one course and often have many emails to reply to. As a result, they may not always have the time to reply to your email minutes after you send it. To ensure that your instructor replies to you on time, do not wait till the last minute to look at the requirements for the assignment or test.

  • Just because a course is online does not mean it has less involvement or less interaction

This is another commonly held misconception about online learning. It is a rare online course at the University that does not require interaction between students, often through discussion boards, group assignments, shared readings, and even small group synchronous chats. The level of interaction will depend on how the course is designed by the instructor. National research shows that students who feel engaged and connected to their classmates and instructor are more likely to succeed in online courses, so the group activities serve an important purpose.

  • Do not be quitters!

As with any course, traditional or online, to be a successful student requires determination, keeping a positive attitude and believing in yourself. If at first you do not succeed, understand what went wrong, make efforts to learn from the mistakes, pick yourself up and then try again. Never be afraid to ask for help if you are having problems understanding the course materials, and knowing your learning style will definitely make learning a lot easier.

Take a survey to help determine your study habits and learning preferences. Also, read here for characteristics of a successful online learner.


Get the complete picture. Read part 1 of this article.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michelle C published on August 29, 2011 9:34 PM.

What online instructors would like to say to students (part 1) was the previous entry in this blog.

More dropout in online classes: What should we do? is the next entry in this blog.

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