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June 22, 2007

New Online Learners and Some FAQs

Sometimes, we tend to forget that there are plenty of people who have never taken a course online and might be a little nervous, so here are some typical questions and possible answers. Please feel free to add additional questions or ideas on the comments section.

I’m nervous about being an on-line learner. What can I do to relax?

First of all, it’s natural to be nervous. Remember, you’ve had an entire lifetime filled with classroom instruction. You know all the rules…don’t talk when the instructor talks, raise your hand for a question, sit in the front of the class if you are really interested…sit in the back if you don’t want to be there. However, you probably have had little experience learning on-line. You are probably a little uncomfortable because you don’t know all the rules. However, it is simple, you read some material, interact with the computer and answer the questions. After one or two classes, you'll be a pro.

How do I learn with no instructor to help me?

The first several times you are engaged in an on-line session, it will seem a little strange but you will quickly adjust. The reason is because on-line learning modules are specifically designed to be efficient and effective using a specialized design process; you can be assured that they are getting the information that is required (in an ideal situation). On-line quizzes and exercises will help you to access your own learning and you can always go back and review any topic that you want within the on-line instruction.

Does on-line learning take longer than classroom instruction?

No, in fact, studies indicate that the same subject can be covered in an on-line environment in 40 to 60 percent less time than in a traditional classroom environment. This is because the common distractions of breaks, student interruptions, and administrative details do not need to be attended to in an on-line environment.

How do I avoid distractions at my desk when I take an on-line class?

Just as you go way to take a course in a classroom, you should “go away” when you take time to learn on-line. This means you should turn off your phone’s ringer or have your calls forwarded to your voice mail. Close your email and don’t check it during the lesson. Also, put up a sign on your office door or cubicle indicating “Learning in Progress: Please Return Later.” These techniques will let people know that you are serious about learning and that you should not be disturbed during the process.

When should I schedule my on-line learning session?

Actually, one of the great things about on-line learning is that you can schedule the session for whatever time you like. If you are alert and ready to learn in the morning then, that would be a good time to schedule your session. If you are a better afternoon learner then take the instruction in the afternoon. You are responsible for scheduling your own time to learn.

Is on-line learning a good way to learn?

Yes, in fact many studies indicate that on-line learners actually have increased retention of information by as much as 25 percent over traditional teaching methods. Also, learners report high satisfaction rates with on-line learning because they are in control of the learning process.

Karl Kapp is the Assistant Director of Bloomsburg University’s Institute for Interactive TechnologiesLogoggg_2 and a professor of instructional technology. See his own blog, Kapp Notes for information on the convergence of learning and technology. He is the author of the book Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning.   

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