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Instructional Design & Support

Getting Ready for Online Learning

Online learning provides many opportunities and offers some unique challenges. With online learning you have the chance to pursue a degree without attending courses on a physical campus. Access to course materials is available via the Internet 24/7, so you can often work on your studies at times and in places that are most convenient for you.

Because online learning is technology-mediated you need to be comfortable with navigating the technology landscape, from using the Internet to access course materials and communicate with faculty and fellow students, to composing word processed documents, developing presentations, and conducting research via library databases and Web sites.

Since there are few or no face-to-face class meetings, special care must be taken to establish relationships with your fellow students and faculty in order to build a supportive learning community in the online environment. You’ll also find that you need to be self-directed and responsible for your own success.

Below are questions for you to consider and resources designed to help you make the most of your online learning experience.

Online Learning Environments

Have you ever taken a college credit course that met fewer than 2 times face-to-face or required accessing materials and content online to complete assignments?

Yes
Good. Please proceed to the next question.
No
To succeed with online learning there are several study and time management strategies you’ll need to employ.

Tips for Being a Successful Online Learner*

  • Log on to your courses at least twice weekly if not more. When it comes to discussion-based activities you may need to log in early in the week to provide an initial response to a discussion question and then visit the course site again throughout the week to respond to others and elaborate on your own responses.
  • You’ll be given deadlines for certain activities. Make sure you stay on track with due dates.
  • Take responsibility for you own learning and plan to be self-directed. Don’t expect the instructor to provide you will all the information and direction you need in a course.
  • Stay on top of your reading assignments and become good at research and analysis. Assume that taking initiative on your part will be positively received and will maximize your learning.
  • Rely on and be responsible to your colleagues in a course. Be willing to provide good, constructive feedback to one another.
  • If you feel lost or confused, ask!
  • Be prepared for the amount of time online learning takes and make time for it in your week.
  • Ask your family and friends for their support. You will need time to complete your work for courses. Share your time management plan with them so that they understand the demands on your life now.
  • Work on being flexible and patient. Life intrudes and technical difficulties arise. You’ll need to be able to “go with the flow.”*from: Pallof, R.M. and Pratt, K. (2003) The virtual student: A profile and guide to working with online learners. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Additional Tips:

Workspace

Do you have dedicated work space for your coursework that is private and will be free of interruptions?

Yes
Good. Please proceed to the next question.
No
A relatively simple thing you can do to get ready for learning is to establish your work space.

You’ll need:

  • 24/7 access to a computer with an Internet connection
  • A private space in which to work
  • Plenty of room to work

You’ll also need to ensure that your computer work space is safe and comfortable. Use the OSHA Ergonomic Solutions: Computer Workstation eTool to learn how to properly set up your space.

Course Management Systems

Have you ever used a learning management system (ex. Canvas, Moodle, Desire2Learn)?

Yes
Good. Please proceed to the next question.
No

The main gateway into each of your courses will be through the UT Knoxville online learning management system called Online@UT (Canvas). If you haven’t used Canvas previously, you’ll probably want to review the Canvas Student Guide.

Communication & Collaboration

Have you used an online discussion board or instant messaging?

Yes
Good. Please proceed to the next question.
No
You’ll communicate and collaborate with your professors and fellow students in a variety of ways. Some communication will be delayed (asynchronous) using tools such as email and discussion boards. Other communications will be instantaneous (synchronous) using tools such as chat, instant messaging, and virtual classroom software — which allows for slide, whiteboard, and application sharing. Either mode — asynchronous or synchronous — can incorporate images, audio, and video as well as text depending on the tools used.

Your professor will choose the appropriate tools to meet course learning objectives and effectively manage the online classroom. You’ll have the opportunity to learn how to use these tools as you participate in course work.

Plug-Ins

Do you have experience installing Plug-ins?

Yes
Good. Please proceed to the next question.
No
You may need computer applications called plug-ins to view and interact with some of the course materials posted online by your professors. Plugs-in are free, easy to install and once installed they just work with no intervention from you.

Commonly Used Plug-Ins:

Software Packages

You’ll be expected to use word processing, e.g. Microsoft Word, and presentation, e.g. Microsoft PowerPoint, software to complete course assignments.

Are you proficient with word processing software (ex. Word, WordPerfect)?

Yes
Good. Please proceed to the next question.
No
Word Processing Help:

  • Microsoft IT Academy: The Microsoft IT Academy provides e-learning for all Microsoft Office software applications. Free to all UTK faculty, staff, and students.
  • Training from Office.com: Tutorial videos for all current and past versions of Microsoft Office software applications.

Are you proficient with presentation software (ex. PowerPoint, Keynote)?

Yes
Good. Please proceed to the next question.
No

Presentation Help:

  • Training from UTK Lynda.com – find video tutorials on various presentation software
  • Microsoft IT Academy: The Microsoft IT Academy provides e-learning for all Microsoft Office software applications. Free to all UTK faculty, staff, and students.
  • Training from Office.com: Tutorial videos for all current and past versions of Microsoft Office software applications.

Information Seeking

Whether through the resources available from the UT Libraries or the Internet at large, you’ll be expected to conduct searches on relevant course topics.

Are you familiar with the research resources available through the UT Libraries?

Yes
Good. Please proceed to the next question.
No
UT Libraries

Are you comfortable with using search tools and evaluating information you locate?

Yes
Good. You are well on your way to preparing for your online educational experience.
No

Search & Evaluate Information

 

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