This page is
designed to serve as a common portal for questions or problems you may encounter
while enrolled in online courses. While the nature of learning at a distance
may make accessing some student services more challenging, we stand ready to
help you get the full benefit of your Truman experience. While we hope
this page will fulfill most - if not all - of your needs. You may call the
Truman Institute from 8 AM - 5 PM Central
Time at 660-785-5384 for help
troubleshooting difficulties with our systems.
We have included here for quick reference some commonly
requested documents that are also available online or from some of the
respective offices listed above. Consult these offices directly for more
Many students approach an online course with the mistaken
belief that either (1) an online course is easier than a course in a traditional
classroom (what we often call a "brick and mortar" class), or (2) the same
skills that one uses in a traditional learning environment can be used in an
online course. While there are no absolutes in the world of student
learning (since we all learn differently!), experience tells us that online
courses can both be more challenging than a traditional course and require a
different kind of engagement than what you might need in a regular class.
So, what's so different? Well, consider these factors:
A traditional class normally forces (or at least
encourages) one to attend class in a physical space on a regular schedule - say,
three days a week. An online course is typically (though not always)
"asynchronous," meaning one
can log on to the class at their convenience. Thus, in an online
environment, learning requires an added level of personal discipline. The
temptation to procrastinate and catch up later is powerful, but must be
A traditional class presents students with opportunities
for real-time discussion, lectures from which notes can be taken, and an
opportunity for immediate feedback from the instructor. Online classes
almost always include
"threaded discussions" which are conversations
facilitated electronically within the learning management
system. The asynchronous nature of online
learning means that you may not receive immediate feedback on your comments or
questions. Thus, a student must regularly return to the course discussion
board to remain engaged. You will find that the best online courses use
other interactive tools - not just discussion boards - to build community and
create a good conversation.
A traditional class sometimes makes it possible for a student
to avoid doing assigned reading, or at least makes it possible for certain
learners to obtain the information they need from lecture slides and classroom
discussions. While this is a dirty secret nobody likes to admit, every
experienced student probably knows someone who has tried this. While such
an approach to learning is ill advised in a brick and mortar class, it is even
MORE ill advised in an online course. Most instructors will expect
students in an online environment to take responsibility for familiarizing
themselves with the content of the course. This means students will need
to read materials completely, participate in online activities and assessments,
and actively seek-out alternative sources for supplemental information.
There's no cutting corners in an online class.
At this point you might be asking: "If these things are
so different, why would I want to take an online course?" This is a fair
question, but there are a lot of really great answers.
First, a lot of research indicates the power of online
learning. While research seems to suggest that the optimal combination for
learning is a "hybrid" environment involving both online and brick-and-mortar
components in the same class, other research suggests that online learning can
be as effective as the traditional classroom experience. Some studies even
suggest that online learning may have an edge with some learners. Thus,
if there is a compelling reason (such as cost, convenience, work schedule,
family obligations, etc.) online learning can be a great option.
Second, for the serious learner who is really interested in
taking charge of their own learning, online learning can be inspiring.
Moving online doesn't replace the teacher.
In our view, your professor is as important
in an online environment as they are in the traditional classroom.
However, if you're the kind of person who LOVES digging deeper, surfing the
Internet for those little pieces of trivia, or engaging material that touches
the range of your senses (text, video, audio, etc.), you'll find online learning
Finally, there are very practical reasons for the convenience
of asynchronous learning. Particularly for adult learners, working
professionals, or undergraduate students with other obligations competing for
their time, online courses allow the disciplined student to manage competing
obligations and go to class when they have the time to focus their attention on
The thoughtful student will try to keep the following factors
in mind when planning for their participation in an online class.
Are you prepared to do a lot of quality writing?
Online courses require a lot of writing. Many courses
will involve small writing assignments, such as journal entries or blogs, to
keep you on task and help the instructor evaluate whether or not you are
understanding the material. There's also an expectation, in most courses,
that you will engage in regular discussions using discussion boards. You
may have full-length papers as well. Because you aren't using your voice
the way you would in a traditional classroom, your writing must substitute for
Are you comfortable asking questions on a regular basis?
Online courses do not provide the immediate feedback you get
in a traditional classroom setting. Where you might be able to remain
silent in a traditional classroom and rely on others to ask the questions you
really need the answers to, you cannot always count on that happening in an
online course. Moreover, asking questions in an asynchronous environment
is an essential part of moving discussions forward. Not only will you need
questions answered, but your professor will expect you to ask questions in order
to demonstrate you are an active part of the learning community.
We've assembled some useful resources in the links below to
help you think critically about the choice to take an online course.
Online learning is not for everyone, so be sure you make your decision with the
benefit of good information! If you're unsure if online learning is right
for you, feel free to contact our office with questions!
Here's some advice other leaders in online education have
added to the conversation about success in online learning.
Technologies team has developed detailed tutorials for faculty to create the
various modules needed for a robust Blackboard experience.
You can also contact the Learning
Technologies team for assistance and a host of
resources on best practices for the online instructor.