The Online College Education ExperienceBy Debra Leonard Mertz
What Should You Expect from the Professor?
How to make the most of your learning experience from your teacher
While online professors differ just as students do, you should expect to find your professor knowledgeable about the materials for the course and subject area. Professors enjoy bringing their professional experiences to the classroom. Take advantage and enjoy this aspect. It is like a gift to you because life's experiences are precious and new knowledge is gained by sharing. Get involved, share your experiences too. The professor will encourage you to do so.
You should expect the professor to be present during the course, if not every day, at least every other day. Most often you will have a professor who signs online daily to check into the classroom. While professors are usually not required to be online seven days of the week, they will put more effort into their online course than students realize and are online more often than not. Now, on the opposite side of this coin is that not all professors do this, but generally most do.
You should expect the professor to be very professional and considerate of all students in the classroom. The professor will be accessible by every student via email and/or via phone. While the professor will respond back to you, and you should expect this, do not expect a response before 24-48 hours of when you sent the professor the email in the first place. Remember, they do have lives too. The professor for your course will post a schedule in the course syllabus so that you are well aware of how to reach him/her and what times frames are best.
The professor will also post a course syllabus that will outline what to expect in the course and how the course will be run. Please take the time to read this very important document. Additionally, the professor will post documents that will aid your learning process in the class as well as lectures and materials needed for the course. Furthermore, the professor might post web sites (see webliography) or other reading materials that you should refer to throughout the timeframe of the class.
You can expect to discuss topics in some sort of online format, usually similar to an email format, where you post a response to a topic based upon criteria outlined by the professor so that you build upon the learning knowledge of the classroom. Students learn by participating in discussions in the form of threads where students build upon topics that thread-out and grow diagonally. The more diagonal shows more interest. The professor will post questions for discussion that you will respond back to. Then other students will post to your response or to another student's response in order to build more knowledge. This can be a great deal of fun. As you see the threads grow, students can't wait to log-on and see what was posted and add to it.
You can and should expect the professor to be present as noted above, but also, to be actively available and participating in the online class. Keeping the classroom active helps participation remain active and grow. Keeping students actively involved helps students to share their learning experiences, and in turn, helps the discussions grow and new knowledge formed. Active involvement also reduces isolation and helps to retain students.
Feedback will be given on a regular basis. However, if you have questions about your performance at any time, ask your professor. All assignments should be graded and feedback given to the student in a timely manner. Most professors will usually note in the course syllabus when and how feedback will be given.
You can expect your professor to be somewhat flexible. Please realize professors are people too. They have lives of their own with commitments and responsibilities just like you do. They realize things happen, life happens. Have the courtesy to call or email your professor if and when something goes awry. Do not wait until after the fact, do it as soon as you can. Otherwise, professors tend to be less flexible afterwards. They will also note their policy in the course syllabus. If you can't find it, always ask. The only dumb questions are the questions not asked.
Online education allows students to be central to their learning process (Flood, 2002) and professors realize that students vary in both their learning abilities and their needs. Just be aware of what expectations are set by the professor and vice versa. Remember, just as online learners are in class to succeed, so too are online professors. They are there to help you succeed!
Online Learning Management Systems
Access to lectures, course syllabus, reading materials, assignments and more
The structure of an online classroom may vary from university to university. However, most online courses (programs) exist or are housed in a learning management system (LMS). The LMS will provide you with access to all that you will need during your time in the online classroom. A simple LMS will consist of areas similar to a home page or main online campus area where students will then find a section for their login or access into their specific course/program area. Within the online classroom, upon login, the student will find everything he/she needs in the form of icons or buttons where folders or conference areas exist for all classroom discussion.
The learning management system should include conference areas, folders, or specific areas where students can gain access to the course syllabus, reading materials, lectures, articles, and so forth needed for the course. You can expect to have written lectures posted weekly for you to read and also discussion questions that you respond back to in order to invoke thoughtful discussion that relate to the course objectives. This will be your participation in your online classroom. Sometimes you will find actual requirements that you must meet in order to gain full participation points for the week. In other words, you might be required to post so many responses per week in order to meet the participation requirement for your online course. This should be spelled out in the course syllabus.
Participation is critical to an online learning environment because this is where a great deal of the learning takes place. This will vary per course and based upon the professor's requirements. Take note of this as you check into any online program you are reviewing or ask about it since it will vary, but could become a potential problem if you are not willing to put forth the necessary time needed for the course (program area) you are interested in pursuing.
Additionally, you might also find you will have to meet specific requirements to be in attendance weekly. For instance, you might be required to log-on so many days per week in order to be just in attendance for the week. Again, be sure you can be present and meet the requirements so that you are not surprised later on while already enrolled into a program and then later realize you cannot be present and have problems down the road. The attendance requirement is usually because online universities must meet specific criteria in order to maintain accreditation as an online university as well as the financial aid requirement. This could vary from university to university. Be sure to be comprehensive when you check this aspect out.
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