Question and Answer Session with Lynn Burks, Ph.D., DeVry University, Dean of the Faculty, Center for Teaching Excellence .
Online learning provides a convenient setting for students to continue their education. Unlike traditional face-to-face classes, online courses offer students the flexibility to access course material whenever they want, wherever they want, creating a personalized learning experience for each student.
If you are considering enrolling in your first online course, you may be wondering what to expect. While course policies and offerings vary between schools, online students across the board can benefit from implementing several tried and true strategies for success. We asked Lynn Burks, Dean of the Faculty at DeVry University, to share with us advice for first-time online students.
Online learning basics
DeVry University offers students a wide range of degree programs and specializations. To get started, we asked Burks to discuss the basics of online education at DeVry.
Q: How long does DeVry University offer online courses?
Burks: For more than 20 years, DeVry University has offered distance learning opportunities for students along with a variety of support services, in addition to our physical location.
Q: Do faculty members need to adapt their teaching style for online classes?
Burks: Our faculty are practitioners in their field and pride themselves on mastery of online teaching skills. The Faculty fosters a modern and attractive learning approach. Student-centered teaching with real-world experiences woven into content to help students meet their academic goals, whatever the capital.
Q: What if a student needs to speak to an academic or career adviser? Are career events and consulting appointments available for distance students?
Burks: Our team of student advisors uses powerful tools to offer academic and financial advice remotely. Key tools, processes and systems are in place to ensure students return to meeting their academic and career goals.
In addition to academic tutoring, students have access to career tutoring, virtual job fairs, and internships. Students are required to take a career planning course to ensure not only their academic goals are being achieved, but also on a path to achieving their career goals.
Lastly, we believe that technical and workplace readiness skills are important. Skills such as web conferencing tools, group work applications, chat, simulation, and virtual labs. These skills not only assist students in navigating the course curriculum, but build what we call workplace readiness.
Tips for beginners
Q: What advice would you give students who are just learning online?
Burks: The ability to manage one’s time is the foundation of college success, especially for distance learning. To help with self-management skills, create a weekly routine. Take advantage of scheduling tools that can be built into your Learning Management System or vintage and purchase a timer / calendar.
Need help tracking your assignments? Check out this blog post featuring apps for taking notes, scheduling, and studying.
Q: Can you offer tips for maintaining a successful study schedule?
Burks: Set specific times during your week to devote yourself to your studies. This will cultivate healthy study habits throughout your student journey. Add personal obligations to your calendar – volunteer activities, family gatherings, professional community gatherings. This will help you balance your personal and professional commitments. It also gives you the opportunity to take ownership of commitments and learn how to prioritize.
Q: How can students stay focused and engaged throughout the course?
Burks: Goal setting is important, even from the start. This can be short-term, such as course-based, co-curricular-based, or career-oriented. Review these goals regularly to keep yourself motivated. Acknowledge them, and even consider posting to your computer or in your study as a reminder. Meet regularly with your advisor to make sure you are on track to meet your goals.
Make a connection
Q: How can students feel connected to their classmates or professors online?
Burks: Take the opportunity to get to know your classmates and friends. Get involved in student professional societies which provide additional opportunities to connect with peers and practitioners outside of your classroom. If you need help, contact your professor. Attend virtual hands-on lessons, work hours, or homework chat to encourage relationships.
Q: What advice would you give students who are afraid of feeling isolated in online classes?
Burks: Just because you take your classes online doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a sense of community with fellow students and faculty. In fact, staying connected can help reduce stress and keep you motivated. You’re not alone – by creating virtual study groups using Skype, Google Hangouts, or other online chat program, you’re building a community of your peers.
Some universities also offer access to peer-to-peer learning communities, such as Get Set or other course communication apps that make ad hoc communities easier to engage with.
Q: What are the technology requirements for online classes?
Burks: A laptop that includes a webcam is important. Know what program you are in and review the recommended equipment requirements. While most courses should be fine with a PC and webcam, some may have additional requirements. In some cases, students may have the opportunity to complete assignments on their mobile devices.
Q: Do you have recommendations on how students should organize their study space?
Burks: No matter where you choose to study, setting up dedicated spaces and routines will help set you up for success. Find a place in your home away from noise and distractions. Of course, having a dedicated office is ideal, but certainly not necessary. Get creative when needed. A small table in the bedroom or basement can be used as a table. Prepare headphones to use to block out noise if needed or to participate in a group project call. Natural lighting, although not necessary, can help conserve your energy.
Have coffee, soda, or water ready to keep you awake or hydrated, as well as snacks to keep your mind energized while you study. If you feel your energy decreasing, take a break. Take a brisk walk around the block or dash up and down the stairs. Making a few movements, if only for a few minutes, can help you return to the study feeling refreshed.
- Online learning requires coursework priority and time management skills. Consider using a scheduling system, mobile app, or planner to track personal tasks and commitments.
- Pay attention to the rewards by setting goals. Acknowledge your accomplishments for accomplishing both short and long term goals.
- Don’t be afraid to connect with your instructors and classmates. Contact your professor if you need help and participate in online study groups.
- Create a study space that is free of distractions. Even a small table in a quiet location will do.
- Use headphones to block out noise.
- Take breaks when needed. Refresh your energy with a breath of fresh air or take a walk.