Succeeding in Online Courses
Live online courses have certain similarities to traditional courses at a brick and mortar school, but also key differences. There are a few things you can review to see if live online courses will be a good fit for your family:
- Students should be typing at minimum 25-30 words per minute.
- Computer – Laptop or Desktop
- Digital Camera and/or Scanner
- Microsoft Office
- High Speed Internet
- Notebooks, Pens, Pencils for each class
- Headset with Noise Cancelling Feature
- Second Monitor
- Student Planner
- Comfortable Chair or Standing Desk
Tips for Success
Provide your child with a suitable location for studying and participating well in live class.
- Keep video games and other electronic distractions away.
- Turn off cell phones during “school hours.”
- Use internet parental control devices or apps such as Disney Circle to help keep your child focused during live class.
- Try to keep sibling distractions to a minimum.
Kolbe provides several ways for students and families to “orient” themselves to a new way of learning online.
- Student Orientation – a self-paced course that allows students to get familiar with the technology and school rules. This course is opened for students the first week of August and “due” the Monday after Orientation week.
- Parent Orientation – a live session offered multiple times leading up to and during orientation week.
- Orientation Week – the first week of live classes dedicated to orientating students into each of their live classes. Parents may even consider attending live classes with your child during this week.
Kolbe believes that taking notes the “old-fashioned” way is the most effective way for students to retain information. Please provide your child with a notebook for each course. Students should take notes during each live class session, and as they are reading any course texts. Taking notes on a computer or using a whiteboard or chalkboard for on-the-spot notes is not an effective way for students to review and retain the valuable information they receive during class.
The most common reason students get poor grades in online courses is due to missing or late assignments. Receiving a grade of zero percent on a missing assignment makes it very difficult to maintain good grades in the course. It’s much harder to make up from a zero than it is from even a 60 or 70 percent. Better to do your best to get something in, than to get nothing in at all.
Parents have access to their students’ grade book throughout the year and can easily check to see when assignments are missed or late. They can also set up their notifications to send them weekly reports on their students’ grades to ensure that everything is being turned in on-time. Parents even have an option to receive an email notification when their child has not turned in something on time.
Attendance & Participation
Regularly attending classes is key to student success. While all of our courses are recorded, we’ve found that student engagement and learning tends to be much lower when they watch the recording of the courses. While watching a recording is an acceptable way to make up for a missed class, it’s no substitute for regular attendance. 5-10% of your student’s overall grade comes from their participation.
Considerations for Online Education
Is your child ready for the online learning environment?
To be successful in the online learning environment, there is a certain type of approach and attitude towards learning that is required of students and parents from the beginning:
- Student should be mature enough to complete assignments with little to no supervision from a teacher (this does not mean no instruction, just no supervision).
- The student should be self-motivated to complete assignments when the parent is not supervising
- Students should have good time management and study skills.
- Students should be technologically inclined, or at least technologically adventurous, to insure efficient completion of assignments. This includes typing skills, basic knowledge of web browsing, attaching documents, uploading and downloading documents, and using word processing software.
The most successful students in Kolbe’s online program are those who:
- Typically have been able to successfully complete homework and daily work on their own in a traditional classroom or homeschool setting
- Have supervision at home and someone to help with technology issues
- Are ready for a rigorous academic curriculum
Parents, are you and your family ready for online learning?
- Make sure you are familiar with the curriculum and books used for each class before you enroll. Students may not opt out of a required text mid-year. Booklists are published before enrollment opens.
- Make sure you have enough computer access to serve all the children taking online courses in your household. Sharing computers does not work for families who enroll their children in several online courses at once.
- Evaluate the number of in-class and out-of-class hours required for the online courses you will be enrolling your child in.
- Evaluate the total number of classes and required hours you’ve scheduled for your child, whether they are online, homeschool, or other classes such as co-ops (see course hours section).
- Evaluate your child’s level of motivation, study skills, and technology skills before you apply. If your child needs extra help in this area, plan to provide a venue to increase these skills, such as enrolling in the summer Study Skills course.
- Be prepared to help your child with good time management skills by helping to carve out times for study, meals, breaks, and extra-curricular activities. Make sure they are utilizing a paper or electronic planner for assignments.
- Evaluate your child’s ability to take responsibility for emailing the teacher when there are course related questions. Review appropriate ways to communicate with teachers and other students (see netiquette and communication).
- Be prepared to monitor your child’s progress in Schoology and talk with your student about expectations from the teacher. Often, a teacher will give more detailed information about a homework assignment during the live classes, so don’t assume that all information is automatically in Schoology. Students should be paying attention to their teacher’s directions in the live class. Encourage the use of a planner and good note-taking skills.
- Make sure you will be able to provide a quiet study space at home that is easily accessible to you, as a parent, but that provides an appropriate space for the student that is free from distraction.
Students, are you ready for online education?
Students who have the following skills and virtues will be most successful in the online environment. Students who succeed in online learning are those who are willing to tolerate technical difficulties, seek help when needed, work daily on every class, and persist through challenges.
Effective and appropriate communication skills
Kolbe’s online instructors are always willing to help students, but since you are not in a traditional classroom setting, they can’t always pick up on nonverbal cues such as a frown of misunderstanding. You should always “speak up” if any problem arises. Your instructor can’t help if he doesn’t know you are having problems with the technology, the course materials, or the lecture.
To help improve communication:
Know how to communicate with your teachers
There are many ways to communicate with your teachers, including via email, Schoology messaging, status updates, and discussion groups. There is also live class-time communication and sometimes additional live office hours with the teacher. Learn the communication preferences of your online teacher, but remember that they have lives outside of school, too! They are only required to check their email and messages once per school day (that’s Monday-Friday), and many of them are in class all day long. Don’t expect answers to questions over the weekend, but don’t be shy about using those tools to communicate with your teacher.
Use appropriate language for school
While you may be accustomed to using informal grammar and language in chat rooms, emails or text messages with friends, when communicating with your online teachers or other administration, you should write in full, grammatically–correct sentences and with a respectful tone. Online teachers are professionals and should be treated with courtesy and respect. Sometimes it is tempting or easy to write things out of anger or frustration because communication is not in person. If you wouldn’t say something to a teacher in person, then don’t say it in an email or chat box.
Communicate and describe the problem effectively
If a student emails a teacher only to say “I don’t understand the homework,” this is not only unhelpful to the teacher, but it is going to cause a delay in you receiving help, as the teacher will have to write back to inquire as to what the problem is. Use the following guidelines to write your initial email to help you receive fruitful replies from your teacher:
- Describe the problem you are having and about how much time you have spent on trying to solve or understand it yourself
- Include what you have already tried to attempt to solve the problem
- Include page numbers or other relevant references
- Remember not to be tempted to write things out of anger or frustration
The online learning environment provides plenty of avenues to interact with fellow classmates, teachers, and administrators, such as discussion groups, chat boxes, email, and Schoology messaging. Students should think about whether a comment or behavior is something that they would do in a physical school or classroom. If they wouldn’t, then it’s also not appropriate in an online classroom. It is especially distracting to have jokes, comments, or side conversations in live classes or in course Schoology discussions. Remember:
- Stay on topic
- Be respectful towards the moderator and other students
- Use appropriate language
- THINK before you type:
- Is it True,
- is it Helpful,
- is it Inspiring,
- is it Necessary,
- and is it Kind?
- Remember that your comments are marked in print forever. If you don’t want a parent or teacher to read the comment later, don’t type it.
- The Core Rules of Netiquette are excerpted from the book Netiquette by Virginia Shea. Click on each rule for elaboration.
While there are live “in-class” components of your online class where attendance is required, much of the work for the class is done outside of live class time. The flexibility of not having to spend all day in class really allows students to work around extra-curricular activities and family schedules. However, this flexibility can be a huge drawback to students who are prone to procrastination or who struggle with maintaining a study routine without constant reminders from a parent or teacher. Students who succeed in the online environment are those who come to class on time, log into Schoology each day and work on making progress every day.
To be affective at time management, follow these tips:
- Plan a weekly schedule for yourself that builds in time to do “out-of-class” work every day for each online class you are taking. If you like to keep Fridays free for traveling or extra-curricular activities, make sure you build in extra “out of class” work time Monday-Thursday.
- Most courses will have major assignments are due at some point during the semester, such as papers, projects, lab reports, or exams. Keep abreast of the due dates for these major assignments and mark them on the calendar as soon as you have that information.
- Use a daily planner to make a “To Do” list for your day, and check items off the list as you complete them. It takes time to develop good habits, but over time, you’ll start to enjoy the satisfaction that comes from being well-organized and accomplishing important tasks.
- Don’t get behind! One of the biggest triggers for the downward spiral into failing an online class is a student who puts off or gets behind on work. Stick to deadlines and don’t make excuses!
- Don’t wait to upload an assignment until five minutes before the deadline. What if your computer freezes or needs to be rebooted? Be conscientious of deadlines and be proactive about getting them in on time.
Reading, writing and note-taking skills
Reading and writing are ingrained into Kolbe’s curriculum and even more prevalent in the online classes.
- Make sure you or your parents have secured the proper edition of your textbook. Kindle and e-books do NOT always have page numbers, which can make it difficult to follow along with the quick pace of your live class. Kolbe recommends purchasing all books through the Kolbe book store at https://books.kolbe.org.
- You should be prepared to read a lot of material on the computer screen as well.
- A nice goal for students entering online courses is to increase typing skills to around 40+ wpm. But, at minimum, students should be typing 30 wpm.
- Kolbe courses will involve writing papers and reports. Plan on taking a Composition Bootcamp during the summer if you need to improve your writing or allowing extra time to work on composition for writing-intensive classes such as Literature and History.
- Consider keeping any video games on a separate computer in your house so as not to tempt yourself to play.
- Turn off your cell phone/iPod during the hours that you will be “at” school. If you were in a traditional school setting, most likely this would be a requirement of all students during classes. Make it a rule in your homeschool.
- Beware of the time easily lost in surfing the Internet. It is easy to get pulled into distractions such as Facebook, Twitter, news sites, or YouTube. Make a rule for yourself that the only tabs you have open are for Schoology and Adobe Connect.
- Work out a quiet place with your parents that avoids television or sibling distractions.
- Make sure your study area has good lighting and comfortable seating to avoid eyestrain or other discomforts.