Being an online student is an empowering position to be in. You choose when to start classes, you decide when to log in to work, and you decide on the program that best benefits your lifestyle and career purpose. There are times that you can even pick your instructor. One thing you typically cannot control is the lesson plan for the class. This is something your instructor is supposed to create ahead of time during their course review.
Most instructors even have the discussion forums laid out in advance so you can get a sense for the path you will be taking throughout the class. In order to gain some sense of control during your class you can create a reverse lesson plan. You won’t need to submit this for review to your professor and the rest of your classmates. The goal here is to create your own plan for class and what you plan on getting out of the subject material. If you’ve ever felt like you didn’t get as far as you liked on topic this is an opportunity to change that before it ends. Most schools will send out end of course surveys and that is also an opportunity to share what would have improved the course, but it is after the fact.
To get started make a copy of the current plan laid out to you within the classroom. Cross reference the assigned reading material with your books and resource links. Do you see overlap, or are there areas that were left off? This doesn’t mean that your instructor is not thorough, it could just mean that there are more pressing issues in the time allotted for your class. Make note, or highlight areas that interest you. If you are in a core class then pay special attention to the subject material. Some things being discussed could directly impact your current or future career positions.
Utilize real-life scenarios in your classwork as well. Write down questions from work and bring them to the discussion forums. Given your personal time constraints you can piece together your lesson plan as you move through the class, or you can plan ahead like your instructor.
The earliest you can begin to plan is when you register for the class. Each class has a description as well as an overview. Copy those statements and the topics covered, and focus on adding in areas you feel are important or ones you may have questions on. If it’s a history class then consider bringing in current events to compare past events; this type of adaptation can actually render new findings.
You can also elect to start planning once the virtual classroom opens. Again, take note of the reading assignments, cut up the syllabus, and then add in your own thoughts and ideas from other students in the introductory posts. At APU the instructor will ask students to share information on their backgrounds and also what they expect out of the class. Crowdsourcing is a great way to monitor relevancy and to gain various perspectives.
In the end be your own classroom monitor. Online education does have a great bit of flexibility in where you can make your own mark in each class, certificate, or degree program. Don’t sit back and be passive, participate and innovate.
By J. Mason
Online Learning Tips Editor