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Expectations for Online Students

What to Expect When Taking M.L.I.S. Online Courses

The M.L.I.S. online courses at Kent State are offered primarily as asynchronous (any time), Web-based instruction. While anytime, anywhere learning increases the accessibility of M.L.I.S. courses, students should reflect carefully on whether online courses match their learning style and expectations for graduate study. In particular, students should self-assess their level of readiness to learn in an online environment. Online courses are geared for the mature, self-motivated learner. They are not easier or less time-consuming than face-to-face (F2F) courses; many students feel that online courses initially require additional effort to adapt to new modes of course delivery and new ways of interacting with the instructor and fellow students.

Online courses are designed as active and collaborative (including peer-to-peer) learning environments. The instructor will provide his or her expertise through lectures, readings, activities, and discussions with students, serving as a facilitator, and encouraging students to explore and interact with fellow learners to reach new levels of understanding and knowledge. Some instructors may even schedule optional synchronous (a.k.a., real time) meetings to aid students.

Successful peer interactive learning requires regular attendance and participation; students enrolled in online courses are expected to log into the course website frequently (at least four or five times per week).  Although asynchronous courses allow for flexibility in how students schedule their class work, activities and assignments often follow a rigorous schedule with firm deadlines. Typically, students will log into their course at the beginning of each week to receive instructions about what learning activities to complete; these activities are often bundled as a "learning module." Over the course of each week, they will be required to complete various activities (e.g., quizzes, exercises, short papers) and participate in online discussions by the dates the instructor has established in the syllabus and weekly learning modules. Students may also work on term projects over the course of the term in addition to weekly assignments.

Throughout the semester, online classroom participation through Web tools such as discussion boards, weblogs, and wikis is expected on a regular basis and often represents a significant portion of the final grade for the course (30 percent or higher in many cases). Students should examine the syllabus closely to determine requirements for the course and weighting of each assignment.

Are You Ready? Traits of the Successful Online Learner

To excel in the online learning environment, students should be comfortable with technology and able to adapt to the virtual learning space, which may use new techniques and methods from what students have experienced in face-to-face classrooms. Successful online learners exhibit the following characteristics:
  • Self-motivation;
  • Ability to schedule own activities and effectively manage time;
  • Ability to follow written and spoken instructions;
  • Awareness that successful graduate studies requires deep learning, as opposed to surface or strategic learning;
    • Deep learning "involves the critical analysis of new ideas, linking them to already known concepts and principles, and leads to understanding and long-term retention of concepts so that they can be used for problem solving in unfamiliar contexts. Deep learning promotes understanding and application for life. In contrast, surface learning is the tacit acceptance of information and memorization as isolated and unlinked facts. It leads to superficial retention of material for examinations and does not promote understanding or long-term retention of knowledge and information. " http://www.engsc.ac.uk/learning-and-teaching-theory-guide/deep-and-surface-approaches-learning
  • Ability to communicate effectively in writing;
    • Students should expect a significant writing component to be an essential part of all online courses, as many activities that would involve oral communication in a face-to-face environment, such as discussions or small group exercises, require students to communicate through message boards, blogs, and wikispaces.
  • Ability to start work in a timely manner, in case questions or technical problems arise;
    • Students should seek help from instructors promptly when questions or problems arise. Students are expected to explain in detail what the question is and what they have already done to try to answer the question or solve the problem. Even though many online courses are offered as asynchronous courses, your instructor may not be available 24/7 to answer questions.
  • A good understanding of Internet etiquette. For a list of netiquette rules, see http://www.swref.com/story/20090705/the_rules_of_netiquette;
  • Appreciation of and respect for the talents, intelligence and opinions of peers and co-learners;
  • Adaptability to new situations, teaching techniques and learning experiences;
  • Willingness to collaborate on group assignments or projects;
    • Collaboration, defined as a group of people working together toward a common goal, is an essential part of learning in an online environment. Online students should view group projects as opportunities to develop critical interpersonal and project management skills;
  • Willingness to try new ideas or technologies;
    • Online learners should not be easily frustrated by technology and should be willing to solve problems proactively by seeking assistance from the university when needed to resolve basic technical problems. Students should remember that the primary role of the instructor is to facilitate learning, rather than provide technical support.
      • SLIS directs students to contact the Help Desk http://www.kent.edu/is/helpdesk/index.cfm (330-672-HELP [4357]) when they have difficulties with basic computer functions and problems with the Blackboard course management system.
      • Faculty will provide an online discussion board, either within the Blackboard system or on a course wiki, to serve as a knowledge base for the instructor and students to share information about resolving technical problems relating to the use of course software.
  • Willingness to provide constructive feedback by participating in evaluation of online courses;
    • In order to understand how students are learning in the online environment, instructors need input from students regarding their experiences. Successful online learners recognize that their feedback is valued and will provide it by completing the online survey made available to them by the university at the end of the course.
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