Tips for Getting the Most of your Online Classroom Experience

Roberta Heale, Deputy Editor Evidence Based Nursing @robertaheale @EBNursingBMJ

As summer draws to a close during this strangest of years, many nursing students and instructors are getting ready for the new academic year.  It will most likely be quite different from other years with a great deal of content delivered online instead of face-to-face.  I’ve learned, and have taught by distance for decades and I happen to love it.  However, I know that online teaching isn’t simply offering classroom lectures through an online format.  That’s a sure way to lose students’ interest and, let’s face it, really difficult to sit through.  There are numerous strategies related to teaching approaches and learning activities that engage and motivate students.  However, many of faculty members and students alike were forced into an online format with little to no previous experience. Many will also have to adapt to an online environment in the next few months.  Ultimately, you want to get the most from your courses so I encourage you to think about how to make the best of the situation.  Here are some ideas to get you started.

Prepare Your Environment

How well do you think you’d learn in a classroom setting if you brought your young children along, sorted your laundry, or completed your grocery list?  Most of us will probably not learn the material well, or be able to give the course our full attention.  Yet, lack of preparation of the environment is very common for many online learners.  The first step is to remove distractions from your environment as much as possible.  Have your partner watch the kids, leave the laundry and other tasks until later.  Find a quiet, well-lit space to set up your desk and computer. Think about investing in a standing desk, so that you are able to switch positions regularly.

Technology is another essential consideration. “Can you hear me?” has become one of the most commonly heard questions of this time. Taking a large amount of time testing microphones during a class is tedious, to say the least.  If you can afford it, ensure you have high speed internet, a computer with a working microphone and webcam. Test them ahead of the class.  It’s also helpful to try out any of the technology tools that are part of the learning platform, such as the chat feature, raising your hand virtually, sharing documents and more.  Proficiency with the technology removes one stress from the online experience.

Prepare Yourself

There is a great deal of evidence to prove that online teaching is effective.  However, just as in any course, students have an active role to play in their learning.  You might discover the need to shift your learning styles to ensure that you get the most out of your online courses.  The first step is to remain open-minded and remember that even though you may not like online courses, it is possible to achieve high quality learning (1). Chances are that if you are frustrated and upset with moving to online learning, others feel the same way.  I don’t doubt that your instructors and other students are likely doing the best they can under these difficult circumstances.

Online learning requires self-discipline and self-motivation. It can be difficult to shift from a style of interactive lectures and discussing face-to-face to listening online and typing questions into a chat box. Moving through this transition will be easier if you plan for your classes.  Block time each week to devote to the course. Review class material and complete any pre-class activities so that you’re fully prepared for the class. Type out questions ahead of time to bring up during the class.

Who knows? You may find that you really enjoy the flexibility and independence of online learning. Alternatively, you may find that it will never be your cup of tea.  Either way, many of us are facing the online learning experience, at least for a little while longer. Preparing both your environment and yourself will go a long way to making that experience a good one.

(1) What Makes a Successful Online Student?https://www.uis.edu/ion/resources/tutorials/pedagogy/successful-online-student/

 

 

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