Engage in the Learning Community
Are you afraid if you take an online course that you will feel alone or isolated? Although you will not be in the same physical space as your classmates and instructor, you will still interact with them through discussion forums, chat rooms, collaborative learning with teams, and other activities. In each task, you will rely heavily on your ability to communicate.
There are two important keys to communicate successfully online. First, you will want to be a good listener. Second, you need to write well.
Proper listening techniques will improve your participation in the learning community.
If you have heard of netiquette then you know that it is a general term for courtesy in an online environment. A popular netiquette rule is to not use all uppercase when posting to a discussion forum since the format conveys yelling (and is also hard to read). The most important rule of netiquette is, "Think before you post" . [more on netiquette from Wikipedia]
The crux of online discourse is the written word.
One of the most important writing techniques you can use in an online environment is to write your contributions in a word processing program instead of working online. This gives you four advantages. First, you can spend time composing your thoughts, jotting down ideas and reworking your text in draft format. Second, once your final draft is complete the software can double check your spelling and grammar. Third, this technique may save you from loosing your work if your internet connection goes down, if your session times out or if there is a server issue. Fourth, you will have a copy of your work on your local machine.
You have an opportunity to make meaningful connections with your classmates by participating in eLearning. You may find friendships and professional contacts that endure beyond the last day of class. One reason for this is that students who have been reluctant to speak in a traditional course open up more easily online. Also faculty have reported that students share more information about their knowledge and experiences.
In addition to sharing thoughts your class may become a reservoir of vetted internet sites, books, online groups and resources. Find ways to incorporate the sharing of topical interests to bolster group knowledge.
When you encounter collaborative learning it may be referred to as a group or team project. Working in a team is a necessary component of your education since during your career you will rely on co-workers to accomplish shared goals.
Instructors may set up teams with or without student input. Collaborative learning will require effort by all members to be successful.