Understanding and Maintaining Balance
Basically, you’ll be reading, writing, and communicating from your Internet-connected computer through a course management system (CMS). Text will be the primary method for disseminating information, although the use of video and audio technologies is growing (see “The Technology of Online Courses”). You’ll be reading lots of materials required by your instructor, ranging from academic journals, contemporary magazines, and news articles to various website content, case studies, academic papers, books, and more.
There will be homework assignment deadlines on a regular basis, typically weekly. You’ll be communicating by e-mail and possibly by telephone with your instructor, as well as posting your comments and questions to the course discussion board several times or more each week. You may regularly take some online quizzes and exams, and you will more than likely be required to research and write one or more essays and/or academic papers, with proper citation of the resources you utilized to arrive at your conclusions/opinions. You also may be put into a team of three to five students who will work together on one or more projects remotely, requiring you to regularly communicate with your team members.
One of the greatest challenges you will face is balancing all this with your work, family, and social lives. Although you will have the luxury of working on your own time schedule from your personal workstation, there are deadlines that you will have to meet each week. Frequently procrastinating, asking for extensions, or submitting assignments late will throw you into a constant catching-up mode that can cause a lot of stress, so doing your best to stay on task and on time will make your online learning experience more enjoyable (see “The Skills, Habits and Qualities of an Online Learner”).
Finally, make sure you know exactly what is required of you in your online course(s) at all times and do not hesitate to ask for clarification from your instructor if there is something you don’t understand. Read the syllabus carefully; know what all your assignments are and when they are due, as well as how you will be graded for your work.