4 Tips for Getting the Most Out of the Online Classroom

woman on laptop

Participation is one of the keys to success in the online classroom. Unlike a brick-and-mortar university, you can’t slouch down in your seat and take notes on your phone during a lecture. Instructors and fellow students need to know you’re there as they’re relying on your feedback to drive discussions forward.



In a conversation with Forward Thinking, Ashford University Student Community Standards Specialist Dolan Williams offered four tips for students to get the most out of the online forum:



Set a realistic schedule


Online students should be involved in the classroom at least 4-5 days per week, according to Williams. “This could be in the morning with their coffee, over their lunch break, or right after they put the kids to bed,” he added. “Staying engaged in the discussion not only helps the student understand the content better, but it also helps them stay abreast of any announcements and feedback from faculty.”



Keep the conversation relevant


Getting too far off topic can be distracting for other students and the instructor, Williams said, adding that students should think about what they can bring to the academic environment.



“It is important to not only answer all of the questions asked in the discussion prompt, but also to answer those questions with material from the text, videos, or other resources available,” he said.



Understand the forum is a “safe space”


“As a University, we encourage students to think freely and provide their own unique spin on every topic that’s up for discussion,” Williams explained.



Diversity of opinion is beneficial to the discussion, but Williams said that negativity and harassment are not acceptable, and part of his job involves monitoring the discussion boards and addressing misconduct.



“We want students to understand that there may be people whose views may be in opposition to theirs, but part of being a college student is understanding that this kind of conflict is normal, helpful, and contributes to the marketplace of ideas that the University intended to create.”



Work on your writing


Discussion forums not only advance the conversation, Williams added, but they give students a chance to practice and perfect their writing skills, which they’ll need long after college.



“Students may need to submit cover letters to future employers, join in an email chain with colleagues, or transmit information to a prospective customer or client,” he said. “All of these situations require excellent writing skills.”



Ultimately, the online forum is the classroom in which students spend their college careers. Turning in your assignments on time is one thing, but if you’re not actively involved, you’re not getting the most out of your educational investment.



Written by Jason R. Latham, Content Manager for Bridgepoint Education.

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