How to thrive in an online learning environment


[ Stephanie Baldwin, 2L at the University of Arizona ]

It appears that my school will have online classes for the next two weeks, maybe longer. Like many of you, I’ve taken a few online law school classes.  I’ve also taught online courses for several years, so I have experience on both sides of various platforms. While I enjoy learning and teaching online, I know the shift to online learning might be a struggle for some. Here are my tips and best practices for thriving in an online learning environment.

Get to Know Your Schools Platform.

The most common platforms are canvas and blackboard, and some schools have custom environments. At the University of Arizona, we use D2L. Here, the move to an online environment will not be too different, because this is how we receive and typically submit our assignments, but if it is new to you, be sure to watch the help videos available from the companies, so you know how to navigate your class.

You will also likely live lectures or a class using either Zoom, GoToMeeting, or Google. Once you know, be sure to download it and play around with it. You can do this by creating your own session. Understanding how the platform works will make you feel more comfortable. Some have chatrooms for students to submit questions; some let you raise your hand. Familiarize yourself with the mute and unmute buttons.

I also recommend downloading the associated apps; it makes the class much more accessible.

Prepare like Normal and Participate Early

Prepare for the class like you usually would. People often think online courses will be “easier,” but that is rarely the case, as they can take more work than a typical class. Keep up on all of your reading and extra assignments. In an online environment, teachers will have quizzes to ensure you completed the reading and required discussion posts that you rarely encounter with in-person classes. While it is REALLY tempting to leave these to the last minute, you will get more out of the discussions (and so will your classmates), if you engage in them early on.

Find your Wifi

If you are accustomed to using school wifi, and you do not internet access at home, be sure to find out where there is free wifi is near you. Here knowing that McDonald’s, Starbucks, and your public libraries all have free wifi can be a lifesaver, and can even be accessed outside, while in your car, if necessary. If you need to stay at home, some internet providers have exclusive deals or even free wifi for students. If you are struggling here, be sure to let your professor know.

Use a Headset/Earbuds During Class

During class, the mute button will be your best friend, but even if you effectively mute and unmute yourself, you will have a better time in class if you use earbuds or headsets while participating. Be sure to check that your headset has a mic. Using a headset/earbuds will eliminate background noise too. Keep in mind, most of these sessions will be recorded. Don’t be the person that makes it impossible to replay the class.

P.S…. Still dress for class…

Ok… so I shouldn’t have to say this, but… get dressed for class… yes… this means wearing pants too. Zoom automatically connects your camera in most cases, so be prepared for that, or simply set the default to not automatically connect during one of your “test” runs.

Did your class move to an online learning environment? Have tips or questions about online learning environments? Let me know over at the @The2LLife on twitter and Instagram.

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