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Guide to Hybrid & Online Learning at JMU

Tips for Success in Online Learning

Being successful in online learning will require some new habits and other adjustments. You'll need to log in to Canvas frequently. Here are some other steps you can take to prepare for success in the online learning environment:

Concentration & Chunking Time

Time can feel different in online/hybrid modes, since walking to a classroom at a specific time will be replaced by online/hybrid classes -- either asynchronous (working online on your own time) or synchronous (working online when your professor and/or classmates also work online).  

When taking online courses, you'll be working almost entirely on the internet, which may be more distracting than working in an in-person environment. Researchers have found that students who plan their schedule to include concentrated chunks of study time and reduce distraction tend to be more successful. Consider turning off social media when you plan to study. 

Owning Your Learning

Your professors will likely host class-based instruction in Canvas, and you will read, discuss, reflect, analyze, and collaborate with classmates without the classroom environment, and perhaps not the set class time if the class is offered in an asynchronous mode.  

A major aspect of online learning relates to your time management, particularly your study time. You can take ownership of your learning by trying some of these tips:

  • Familiarize yourself with the essential technologies supported by JMU and where and how to get support.
  • Read your class textbook content, assignments, worksheets, the syllabus, etc., critically and analytically -- and ask questions about them.
  • Follow your professors' instructions as closely as possible.
  • Check your class site on Canvas regularly.
  • Communicate with your instructor and classmates clearly and thoughtfully. 

Written and Asynchronous Online Communications

With your class moving from a classroom in Harrisonburg to an online environment, more of your class discussions will be written in text, not spoken. Strategies that can help you communicate clearly and respectfully with your professor and classmates -- and professional etiquette tips that can lay a strong foundation for your future career -- include:

  • Use clear, concise, and descriptive subject lines in emails and online discussions.
  • Think carefully and refer to textbooks, class notes, and the professor's instructions, before you post to class discussion or submit an assignment.
  • Respect the time of your professors, other class members, as well as your own, when you send or post content for reading or responses. 
  • Spell-check and re-read your written communication before you send it out, thinking carefully about what you're saying from the perspective of your readers and how it could be misinterpreted.
  • Before posting your question to a discussion board, check if anyone has asked it already and received a reply.
  • Stay on topic. Don't post irrelevant links, comments, thoughts or pictures.
  • Avoid typing in ALL CAPS; it may look like you are yelling.
  • Don't write anything that sounds angry or sarcastic even as a joke, because without hearing your tone of voice or seeing your face, your peers might not realize you're joking.
  • Respect the opinion of your classmates. If you feel the need to disagree, do so respectfully and acknowledge the valid points in your classmate's argument. If you reply to a question from a classmate, make sure your answer is accurate.
  • If you ask questions, many people may respond. Summarize all answers and post that summary to benefit your whole class.
  • If you refer to something your classmate said earlier in the discussion, quote a few key lines from their post so that others won't have to go back and figure out which post you're referring to.
  • Check the most recent comments before you reply to an older comment.
  • Be thoughtful to class members even when you have a different opinion or perspective.

Synchronous Online Communications

Synchronous class interactions, when you are online at the same time as your instructor and/or fellow students, can replace online classes, visits to office hours, or attendance at advising seminars. You may use video conferencing (or other tools) for this type of interaction. Here are some etiquette tips for video conferencing:

  • Prepare yourself. Think about how you want to look to your classmates or instructor. 
  • Tidy your desk. Don’t have anything between you and the camera. Consider the visual message you are sending.
  • Aim your camera. Check your camera angle so that it's the way you want it to look.
  • Prepare your background. Consider whether a bright background such as a window will make it difficult to see your face.
  • Use verbal cues. When video conferencing with many sites, start your comment by saying your name and maybe even location (for example, "This is Carolyn in Harrisonburg.”) Doing so helps your colleagues identify who is speaking before the video catches up.
  • Convey clear audio messages. If you can, wear a headset or a pair of earphones or earbuds with a microphone to eliminate echo. Consider muting your computer when you are not talking.

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