Clearly learning online is different to how most of us learned at primary and secondary school. So to what extent will the skills we acquired and used there help us? Probably not a lot. In fact, it is probably better to forget about how we did it at school altogether. Learning online is completely different and it is confusing to try to equate the two things.
When you’re learning in a classroom setting, the teacher is always there to help you learn and to structure your learning. But when you’re learning online, there is nobody actually physically present to help you with your online study. However, you are usually given a structure within which to learn and e-tutors to help you. But in the end it depends on you to be motivated and dedicated. Of course, this is true of any learning – only YOU can do it.
How to learn online: What tools are needed?
Your main tools for online study are a computer/laptop/tablet and the Internet. And if you are already using one of the social networking sites such as FaceBook, then you will probably have most of the basic skills.
You will need to be able to send an e-mail and use the Internet. You will also need to become familiar with posting messages to a discussion forum, so try doing that on some of the public forums first. Remember to observe the network etiquette (sometimes called “netiquette”) outlined below.
You will probably be creating documents (e.g., in Microsoft Office or Open Office) and attaching them to e-mail messages or uploading them to an “assignment post box” in the learning management system used by your institution.
Learning online using network etiquette
Here are a few of the golden rules for Internet communication in the online learning setting:
- Always show respect for your classmates and instructors. Although computer-mediated communication can seem impersonal, there is a person at the other end. Think of the feelings of that other person. And always avoid offensive language.
- Read all the posts related to the discussion before commenting. That way you avoid unnecessary repetition. If you find that someone has made a comment that you agree with, say so, but build on it so that the discussion is taken further.
- Learn the language of the Internet. There are a lot of conventions that have emerged in this form of communication, e.g., using all capitals means that you are shouting. So best to learn them or you might find yourself upsetting someone.
- Stay on topic. Keep what you are saying brief and to the point. Do not introduce new topics or it creates a very confusing string of emails. If you want to talk about a new topic, start a new email thread with a new subject heading.
- Review you work before sending it. Sometimes we write things in the “heat of the moment”, or make silly mistakes. So always leave aside what you have written for a little while, then review it with a fresh mind, modify it, review again and then send it.
- Always respect the privacy of others. Do not share their email or other details with people without their consent.
- And, of course, do not use the Internet to send inappropriate material.
List of online schools and programs