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Campus Overload
Posted at 01:55 PM ET, 08/30/2011

#College101: Communication is critical in online classes, too


Today’s guest blogger is Ellen Bremen, a tenured professor in communication studies at Highline Community College outside Seattle. Bremen teaches both face-to-face and at a distance, and has won two national awards for her online speech course. You can follow her on Twitter at @chattyprof.

I teach an unlikely course online: public speaking. Because it’s a core class, tons of students flock to it, yet only the chatty survive (and I’m not just talking about students who give great speeches).
(Ellen Bremen)

If communication between students and professors is important in a face-to-face class, it’s downright critical in an online class. Without in-person, in-class nudges from profs, online students can quickly fall behind; some remain terminally behind.

The key to making online classes work? Continued conversations with your prof! Here are tips:

First, read your syllabus on the first day of class. Read it again, and e-mail your prof saying you’ve done so. This initial e-mail is a time to introduce yourself and ask specific questions about the course. Another question vital for your success: “Do you review work early? How early?”and add “How should I submit that? Dropbox? E-mail?”

Next, don’t wait until the first assignment is assigned to dive into Angel, Moodle, BlackBoard, etc. If you have a paper due in a week, click through content documents immediately, and take yourself through the steps to upload the work. If you’re confused, ask for help well before the deadline — when others bombard the prof with questions.

Finally, remember that at any time, your communication with your prof can expand beyond e-mail: Make an old-school phone call or, if you are within reasonable distance, a face-to-face appointment. You may eliminate six e-mail strings with one 15-minute conversation. And a call is a must if the prof isn’t responding to your e-mails in a timely manner.

Distance ed students usually juggle many responsibilities. Put “e-mail my professor” high on your to-do list. You’ll not only feel more satisfaction with the class and likely receive stronger grades, but you’ll have incredible practice for future online interactions with colleagues.

Every day in August (and perhaps some in September, too), Campus Overload will feature a 300-word-or-less essay centered around one piece of #College101 advice for the Class of 2015. To participate, e-mail Jenna at johnsonj@washpost.com.

By Ellen Bremen  |  01:55 PM ET, 08/30/2011

 
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