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Coping In Online Classroom

So you've taken the plunge and enrolled in an online learning course. No matter what your chosen subject, the format of your learning program may be completely different to that of any course you ever took at school or university. Suddenly, the familiar desks and blackboard of your school or college classroom have been switched for the virtual classroom environment. Where you once had notebooks, pens and a teacher talking at you from the front of the room, you now have word-processed documents to prepare, PowerPoint presentations to read, and videos of lectures and tutorials to download and watch. In fact, your only communication with your teacher may be by email or phone calls made via the internet. There's no doubt that the switch to the online classroom can be an intimating one, both for mature and younger students, but there are several steps you can take to help you adjust to the change.

Update Your IT Skills

If you aren't comfortable using a computer, you'll find the online classroom much more challenging than it needs to be. It could be useful to take an online course in basic computer skills in tandem with your primary course of study. Ask your course provider if they offer IT training.

Discipline And Motivation

In the traditional classroom, maintaining discipline and motivation was the responsibility of the teacher. The freedom you experience in the virtual classroom means that much of this responsibility passes to you, the student. Now you have the option to log in and work whenever you like, which also means you have more freedom not to log in and not to do any work, whenever you like! The "virtual" distance you have between you and your teacher may also make it less embarrassing to "forget" to hand in that assignment on time, or to send it off knowing that it's not your best work. Most online courses require some form of payment, so if you do lack discipline and motivation, you are wasting your own money. Here are a few tips for maintaining good study practices and motivation:

- Get a tutor. Some online courses provide the services of a tutor who will be in contact with you to provide support throughout your learning experience. Some courses, however, do not have this feature. If you are highly disciplined and self-motivated, working completely independently may be the right choice for you. On the other hand, having someone to turn to when you get stuck and someone you will be answerable to if you don't attend a tutorial or complete an assignment could be what you need to help you keep going when things get difficult.

- Join a forum. Many online courses provide chat forums in which students in the same (or different) courses can exchange ideas, talk about their experiences and support each other's learning. Knowing that you are not alone in your virtual classroom will motivate you to attend lessons and make you want to do your best. You will, after all, have other people with whom to share your achievements.

- Draw up a timetable. As an adult student going back to school online, you need to manage your time well. You may have considerations now that you never had as a younger student: your job, your kids, caring for needy relatives, etc. You'll manage to balance all these responsibilities and your online learning only if you make a realistic plan for what you will study and when. Be sure to factor in the time required to attend to your other essential duties.

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