Online Student Resources
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 Institute for Academic Outreach from 8 AM – 5 PM Central Time at 660-785-5384 for help troubleshooting difficulties with our systems.
|Business Office-Student Accountsemail@example.com||660-785-4074||660-785-7420|
|IT Help Desk||Customer Web Interface||660-785-4544||NA|
|Library, Pickler Memorial||Ask A Librarian||660-785-4038||660-785-7415|
|Institute for Academic Outreachfirstname.lastname@example.org||660-785-5384||660-785-7202|
|University Counseling Servicesemail@example.com||660-785-4014||660-785-7444|
|Veterans Representative (see Registrar)||registrar.truman.edu||660-785-4143||NA|
|Women’s Resource Centerfirstname.lastname@example.org||660-785-7224||NA|
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 information.
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 resisted!
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.
Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning (A Dept. of Education Study) http://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/tech/evidence-based-practices/finalreport.pdf
A Longitudinal Comparison of Online Versus Traditional Instruction http://jolt.merlot.org/vol7no1/wagner_0311.htm
The Evidence on Online Education http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/06/29/online
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 really attractive.
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 their work.
The thoughtful student will try to keep the following factors in mind when planning for their participation in an online class.
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 your voice.
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.
Advice About Being an LD (Learning Disabled) Student Online http://www.ldonline.org/firstperson/Advice_About_Being_an_LD_Student
Advice About Juggling Work and School http://www.elearners.com/back-to-school/jobs-and-careers/how-to-juggle-work-and-school.asp
Our 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.