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

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First time to join an online class? It’s ok to feel lost. It can be overwhelming sometimes. The first thing to do to is not to 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 your reference point for everything that relates to your online course. This page will have a full description of the course (or a course outline), dates, schedules, instructions, names of contact persons, supports and other links that you will need to participate in the course. You will be referring to this page every now and then so it will be wise to bookmark it. Usually, you receive an email confirming that you registered for a course. The email will also contain instructions on how to start, when the classes will begin, links to resources, email or phone numbers for inquiries, and other particulars about the course. Some courses may assign special codes or passwords for you to enter the site and join the class.

If you need additional 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.

What do I do to prepare for an online class?

Start with your learning goals. This can sound a little tedious to do but your goals serve as the map that will guide you in your studies. Reminding yourself of your goals will also come in handy when you need motivation in your learning journey.

Other things you can do to prepare:

  • Check your equipment. See if your computer fits the needed specifications. You may also need accessories like a headset or a microphone.
  • Download all needed software and apps and be familiar with them. Check the functionalities and test it out if you can.
  • Find a good place to study, preferably an area where there will be no distractions.
  • Schedule your time. Set time for attending the class (if there are), 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 their expectations from the class.
  • Do some 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 tech-savvy. How do I get technical 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 smart phone in case your laptop is not working.

If you need more technical help, you have several options. You can check the FAQs on the course page if it has an answer to your specific problem. Search Google for answers to general tech questions or the specific app’s website for help (for example if you’re using Skype). You can also ask for help from your peers or your instructor if they are online. Technical problems happen all the time. Don’t worry that you’ll sound like a newbie if you ask for help. Some of your peers may have experienced the same problem and would be glad to help you out. If all else fails, you can always reboot 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 with by setting realistic goals (read Setting English learning goals the SMART way). It is highly motivating to be reminded of outcomes. Discipline is also an essential part of self-directed learning. But if you feel that you are not disciplined enough, don’t worry. It can be developed. Nurture good study habits by setting a routine. Schedule your study time and be consistent. Designate a study area where you can focus. Organize your study materials and make it so easy to study that you won’t have an excuse to slack off. The best motivator is when you start seeing results and start ticking off your list of 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.

You can even start your own online community by setting up a Yahoo, Google or Facebook group (or other platforms like groups.io) for your class or for people interested in the same subject matter. These are free to use and would just require email addresses.

Maybe it’s not for me?

For some, 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. When this happens, you’ll be able to enjoy and keep up with it. This is the point where learning becomes more effective because you’re having fun and taking charge of your own learning. But if your first online course was not a good experience for you, start small. Maybe try webinars first or shorter term online courses (like Live & Learn Coffee Chats, drop-in sessions or multi-week workshops). Slowly build up your digital skills and good learning habits. Get to know learning strategies that work best for you.

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