I can’t follow my online class. What do I do?

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First time joining an online class? It’s ok to feel lost. It can be overwhelming sometimes. But don’t panic and don’t give up. You’ve already taken the first step; it’s just a matter of following through.

Here are some questions and answers that can help you get back on track:

How do I know how and when to start?

The Course Page is the reference for everything regarding your online course. It will have a course outline, dates, schedules, instructions, names of contact persons, supports, and other links you may need to participate. You will need to check this page often. It will be wise to bookmark it.

Aside from the course page, students usually receive an email after enrolling in a course. It will have detailed instructions. It can also include links to resources, email or phone numbers for support, and other particulars. They can also send codes or passwords to enter the site and join the class via email.

If you need more help, look for the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page. You can also call or send an email to the organizer, instructor or help desk at any time.

How do I prepare for an online class?

Start with your learning goals. This will be your guide. It will also come in handy when you need motivation to help you continue learning.

Other things you can do to prepare:

  • Check your equipment. See if your computer fits the specifications. You may also need accessories like a headset or a microphone.
  • Download all needed software and apps and become familiar with them. Test them out and see their tools and functions.
  • Find a good place to study, preferably an area where there will be no distractions.
  • Make a schedule. Set time for attending the online class, reading resources, studying, answering quizzes, writing a report or creating a project. Getting into a study routine will help you stick with online learning.
  • Join the forum. Some online classes set this up in advance to allow students to introduce themselves to their instructor and classmates, and to tell the group about their expectations from the class.
  • Do advance reading. Check the Course Page for links to resources and references.

“The good news is that the more you take online classes, the better your digital skills and learning habits will become. This is the point where learning becomes more effective because you’re having fun and taking charge of your own learning.”

I am not good with technology. How do I get help?

It’s good to anticipate technical difficulties ahead of time. One way to do this is to test everything before your course starts. Check your computer and internet connection. Make sure to have everything plugged in and turned on. If you want to be extra prepared, have a second device on stand-by, like a tablet or your smartphone, in case your laptop malfunctions.

If you need more technical help, you have several options. You can check the FAQs on the course page. If you don’t find the answer, search Google for general tech questions or the specific app’s website for help (for example, if you’re using Skype). You can also consult your peers or your instructor through the forum.

Technical problems happen all the time. Don’t worry that you’ll sound like a newbie if you ask for help. Your classmates may have experienced the same problem and would be glad to help you out. If all else fails, try rebooting your computer and start again.

I know I should be self-directed but it’s hard to push myself to take the time and study. What do I do to motivate myself?

Start by setting realistic goals (read Setting English learning goals the SMART way). It is motivating to be reminded of outcomes so make sure you have them listed somewhere (read them when you feel like giving up). A great example of an outcome or result would be “getting a promotion because of better communication skills,” or it can even as simple as “understanding others better because of improved English proficiency.”

Discipline is also an essential component of self-directed learning. But if you feel that you are not disciplined enough, don’t worry. It can be developed. Start by setting a routine. Schedule consistent study times and follow them. Designate a study area where you can focus. Organize your study materials and make it so easy to study that you automatically get into it. The best motivator is when you start seeing results. You’ll be internally motivated to sustain your progress and make new goals.

I feel that I’m alone. How do I connect with others?

There are so many ways to connect with others when you’re in an online class. One of the best ways is by participating in an online forum. Ask questions, share what you learned and share resources (read Why you should join online forums for more tips). Use Skype, FaceTime, and other similar apps if you need to see actual faces to talk to when connecting with your instructor or peers. You can also send an email to your instructor anytime for your concerns, questions, comments and suggestions.

If you have time, you can even start your own online community by setting up a Facebook group (or use other platforms) for your class or for people interested in the same subject matter. These are free to use.

Maybe it’s not for me?

Online learning takes getting used to. The good news is that the more you take online classes, the better your digital skills and learning habits will become. You will get used to it as some point. This is when learning becomes effective because you’ll start to have fun while taking charge of your own learning. If your first online course was not a good experience for you, start small. Maybe try webinars first or shorter-term courses (like Live & Learn Coffee Chats, drop-in sessions or multi-week workshops). Slowly build up your digital skills and learning habits. Soon, you will discover learning strategies that work best for you.

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