What to expect when attending a school online. Courtesy of Walden University
Time Expectations for Online Learning General Expectations If you were attending a traditional university with a physical campus, chances are that, in addition to your study time at home, you would spend time driving to campus, parking, walking to class, sitting in class for 1–3 hours, walking back to the car, and finally driving home. The hours add up quickly. You may have chosen online learning because it offers the convenience and flexibility of schedule you could not get at a traditional university. And, because there is no traveling to and from campus or sitting in class, you might associate online learning with saving time. What you need to remember is that, as an online learner, the time you save by not attending a traditional university is time you spend on other tasks online. For example, the hour you save by not driving is an hour you spend reading Discussion postings in the online classroom. The 30 minutes you save by not walking between the parking lot and the classroom is 30 minutes you spend reading the weekly Introduction, weekly Learning Objectives, and the list of weekly resources. Overall, then, the total hours per week for traditional learning and online learning may be similar for you. Expect the following activities to take a little longer than you might think: • Communicating. When students and the Instructor are in the same physical location at the same time, listening and talking happen immediately. In online learning, students and the Instructor are often in different locations and time zones. In online learning, “listening” becomes the process of reading, and “talking” is the process of writing. You compose an e-mail or Discussion posting, wait—perhaps 24-48 hours—for a reply, read the reply, then compose your response. As a result, conversations can take more than one day. Accessing Course Materials. In a traditional campus setting, an Instructor might provide you with printed handouts in class. In online learning, the Instructor may provide a handout in the online classroom, but to read it it, you have to click the link, open, save, and print the document. Or your Instructor may ask you to search the online library for a resource instead of providing it in the classroom. In that case, you would log in to the library, search for the resource, access the resource, save or print the resource, and then finally read it. Completing Assignments. While technology can make writing a document faster and easier, it takes time to create new documents and folders and to locate and open existing files and folders. And if you do not have a folder or file management system, you spend time searching for a document. Moreover, there are times when your Internet connection may be slow, a website you need to visit for an assignment is unavailable and you have to come back later, the document
you need for your assignment has disappeared from your computer, or your computer crashes. Weekly Time Expectations You will likely spend between 25 and 30 hours per week on your first two courses,. In subsequent courses, the time you spend each week may vary.. How will you spend that time? 1. On the computer in your online classroom, reading announcements from your Instructor, reading information on screen, accessing and reading resources, participating in online discussions, and submitting assignments 2. On the computer outside of your online classroom, doing research in the Walden Library or on the Internet, using word processing software to write assignments, checking e-mail 3. Away from the computer, reading textbooks and other resources, thinking about your readings and the course topics, and planning your assignments Following is an example of a typical online week. Each day of the week below shows how you would spend time in the online classroom and on offline tasks. Day Day 1 Monday • • • • In the Online Classroom Read the Announcements. Click the weekly button and read the weekly Introduction and Learning Objectives. In the Resources, download study material for the week and start reading. Enter the weekly Discussion area to read the discussion assignment for the week. Start preparing for it. Enter the weekly Application area to read the assignment for the week. Start preparing for it. • Tips It takes time to access and read everything on the screens in the online classroom. Plan to spend time on Day 1 accessing, saving, and printing information. Spend time at the start of each week planning and organizing your school week. What are your assignment due dates? What family or work obligations occur this week that may need extra time and attention? How can your personal support network help you this week? Each day of the week you should do the following: • Check the classroom for announcements from your Instructor. • Continue working on weekly assignments.
Tips • Stay up to date on activity in Discussion. Compose your Discussion posting in a document. That way you can work on it over several days if needed. Review the course rubrics or evaluation criteria for Discussion. This helps you make sure your posting meets all expectations for the assignment. As you read your classmates’ postings, note to which classmates you want to respond. Copy and paste their postings into a document, and start composing your responses.
Day 4 Thursday
Read your classmates’ postings in Discussion.
Day 5 Friday Day 6 Saturday Day 7 Sunday
• • • •
Respond to two classmates in Discussion. Check Discussion for responses to your initial posting. Check Discussion for responses • to your initial posting. Submit the weekly Application Assignment. •
Work on your Application assignment a little bit each day during the week so that you are not pressed for time to complete it the day before it is due. Review the course rubrics or evaluation criteria for Applications. This helps you make sure your Application meets all expectations for the assignment.
Below is a list of tips for creating an effective study environment. And having an effective study environment can help you with your time management. You will not waste time looking for materials or being interrupted by others, thereby being able to complete your online learning tasks more quickly and with greater comprehension. 1. Designate a primary and a secondary study space. You may be able to work on your online course at your place of work and at home. Or, you may prefer to study in an Internet café or coffee shop. Whichever locations you prefer, decide which one will be your main place to complete your work for your online course, and which one will be your secondary place. You may decide that one place is better for when you need to log in to your online course and complete online tasks, whereas another place may be more suited to sitting and reading materials and completing offline tasks. The study space you prefer may be the one that helps you reduce or eliminate distractions. 2. Reduce or eliminate distractions and interruptions. It is likely that you have many demands on your time and that you are juggling several obligations at once. To help you reduce or eliminate interruptions or distractions while you study, consider the following tips: • Do not answer e-mail until your study time is finished. • Allow any phone calls to go to voicemail, or turn off your cell phone. • If you use an instant messaging system, set your availability to “Busy” or “Study Time.” • Hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door or on your desk. • If you use a shared electronic calendar system, such as Outlook, set blocks of study time on your calendar so people know not to schedule meetings during that time. • If you are working at home, make sure your household members know when you begin your study time. Consider having a calendar the household can see in which you write your study time on it, like an appointment. That way they know not to disturb you during those times. 3. Develop a study ritual. You may find it useful to have a ritual you perform at the beginning of your study session that helps signal to you—and to those around you—that it is time to study. This may include making a fresh cup of coffee, placing your study materials on your desk, and taking out the pen and notebook you have designated for the course.