Online learning is not as simple as logging on and absorbing information: it requires a different approach from the learner and the teacher. We asked the experts how students can get the most out of an online or blended learning approach.
1. Be sure. From our earliest years, we associate learning with physical classrooms and physical presence with other learners and teachers, trainers or instructors. The idea of online learning may therefore seem a bit ethereal, but learners should be reassured that online learning is a well-established tradition which, in practice, offers the same supports and opportunities as face-to-face environment and is subject to exactly the same conditions. academic standards while offering greater flexibility – in time and place – to the learner. – Dr Gearóid Ó Súilleabháin, Head of Technology Supported Learning Department, MTU Cork Campus.
2. Connection: It may seem obvious, but you need to log in. Even if you can’t host scheduled live classes or other events, it’s important to log in so you can stay up to date with what’s going on with your online class. If you go too long without logging in, you may be left behind, and furthermore, it may seem to your teachers that you are not fully participating in your class. – Dr. Gearóid Ó Súilleabháin.
3. Additional support: Make sure you can log into your college’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and have access to all required software, resources, and learning spaces at the start of your course. If you need additional help, please let the College know well in advance. – Dr Jen Harvey, Deputy Head of Academic Affairs (Learning, Teaching and Assessment), TU Dublin.
4. Technical requirements: Check any minimum technical requirements, e.g. computer specs, in advance and make sure you have access to the facilities you need to learn online – i.e. laptop/ PC, a headset with a microphone and a broadband connection. – Dr Frances Boylan, Head of Digital Education, TU Dublin.
5. Technical skills: Prospective students should invest in a good laptop with a built-in camera and microphone and make sure they have a good internet connection. This is true for students in all programs, since all programs will have at least some level of online learning. If you don’t know how to type: learn. In the modern legal environment, basic computer skills are a given and it is no longer possible to navigate the legal learning or professional environment without them. The good news is that there is plenty of time to find out if they start now. – Dr Eimear Brown, School Dean, Kings Inns.
6. Get Organized: Create a study space that allows you to concentrate and let your housemates or family know when you should not be disturbed – try the post-it note system: red means do not disturb; orange means interrupt so important; green means you’re open for a cup of tea and a chat. – Karen Mooney, Head of Student Support and Welfare at the National College of Ireland.
7. Stay organized: Bookmark relevant web pages that you use regularly, such as your program Moodle page, student support Moodle page, library help desk, etc. – Karen Moony.
8. Eliminate distractions: Try to eliminate all distractions when learning online. It is more productive to concentrate for short periods. Consider putting your phone on silent and downloading a website blocker to block apps or sites that will distract you from your work. – Dr. Jen Harvey and Dr. Frances Boylan.
9. Little learning: It is important that participants feel they can undertake a very focused form of self-directed learning, one small bite. The facilitator’s personality and communication skills are essential for participants to get the most out of the virtual classroom experience, with a more structured approach required. At IMI, we have seen participants in our programs respond well to the more experiential opportunities we provide, including simulations and role-playing, all of which can be delivered virtually seamlessly. – Julie Ryan (JR), Head of Tailored and Sector Programs at the Irish Management Institute.
10. Concentrate: Make a planner of all relevant dates and put it on a wall where you can easily see it. Stay focused – attend live lectures when they happen as much as possible and actively participate in class. – Karen Moony.
11. Use the tools: In terms of virtual classroom dynamics, interactivity is key to engagement. Using online tools is key to maintaining engagement throughout the session. Virtual programs work best when breaks are built in, with empathetic and patient facilitators, and with an approach that allows space and time for questions to flow and discussion to take place. – Julie Ryan.
12. Review: You should set aside time each week to review and complete activities outside of your classes, labs, and tutorials. Don’t just skim through the material when you have a spare moment or when you feel up to it – try to block off set times each week and stick to them. – Dr. Gearóid Ó Súilleabháin.
13. Know your deadlines: Know what aspects of your course are taking place online and understand your responsibilities, i.e. what you need to have done, when and in collaboration with whom. Check review requirements and guidelines such as word count, formatting, and references. – Dr. Jen Harvey and Dr. Frances Boylan.
14. Commit to: Always try to actively engage in the course content and participate well in all activities and discussions. Your teacher designed them to help you learn and pass your assessments. Maintain your academic integrity by developing your own writing style and expertise. – Dr. Jen Harvey and Dr. Frances Boylan.
15. Interact: Connect with your classmates and participate in all online discussions. Participate in all opportunities available to you to connect with your fellow participants and other stakeholders. This could be an online discussion or other activity for a particular online workshop or tutorial, or simply a request for help or an offer of help from your fellow learners. . – Dr. Gearóid Ó Súilleabháin.
16. Build relationships: Try to build strong working relationships and social networks with your peers. Maybe help set up a study group. Contact your class’s student union representative for information about meetings or related activities. – Dr. Jen Harvey and Dr. Frances Boylan.
17. Attend workshops: Participate in all learning experiences and content. Review the learning content made available and attend any online workshops or tutorials that can be scheduled. Pay attention and take notes. Be sure to use every opportunity to ask questions [and] seek clarification. – Dr. Gearoid Ó Súilleabháin.
18. Make a list: Knowing what to do is essential. Keep a calendar for important dates and deadlines, keep a to-do list for small daily or weekly tasks. Being disorganized is perhaps the online learner’s greatest enemy – don’t let it hurt your chances of success. – Dr. Gearoid Ó Súilleabháin.
19. Look for support: Students less familiar with online learning shouldn’t be put off. Many resources are available to support and guide them. For example, at the national level, the Enhancing Digital Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (EDTL) project team has developed a range of resources to help students engage in online learning. – Advice from the Maynooth University Digital Learning Team.
20. Be motivated: You chose to take this course for a reason: write down your goal, as a reminder to keep you going on low energy days. Stay motivated – good sleep, good food, fresh air and exercise help you maintain a sense of well-being and balance, so you can keep the commitment you made. Finally, enjoy! – it will be challenging but it will also be exciting and rewarding! – Karen Moony.