Am I Ready for an Online Class?

Last updated 5/25/15, 9/14/15
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The online class is a radical departure from its more traditional face-to-face (F2F) counterpart. The demands on you are quite different. In general, the online class favors those with learning styles that are characterized by independence, confidence, and diligence. In addition to those qualifications (or prerequisites) that apply to the standard F2F course, you must be willing to:

1. Create, develop, and maintain a personal blog portfolio (for all your drafts) that meets the guidelines.

2. Create, develop, and maintain a Twitter connection with my tweets @JimKCC.  Click here to sign up for a Twitter account if you don’t have one. I’ll be tweeting course information throughout the semester. Since the tweets are for all my classes, look for the ones that are preceded by your course number. BTW, if you don’t want a Twitter account, you can still follow my tweets in our class blog. See the widget in the right sidebar.

3. Independently, confidently, and accurately read, interpret, and apply written directions. The class that is completely online places a heavy reading burden on students. All of the guidelines for class activities are distributed in written form. Thus, you must be able to read and understand written instructions, and you must be willing to reread them to make sure that your understanding is accurate. Directions are often complex and many faceted. Topics for writing assignments are often intentionally general, forcing you to discover or invent a subject or position that’s best suited to you. If you are not confident in your reading ability or are uncomfortable with this form of independent learning and need constant confirmation that your understanding or interpretation is correct or if you need frequent help in clarifying instructions or selecting subjects, you may want to consider postponing the online class — at least for the time being. Taking the online class when you’re ready for its special demands will assure greater success and enjoyment.

4. Meet all deadlines for tasks and exercises. The traditional class can still function when students fail to meet deadlines. The online class, however, cannot. Your tardiness will affect some or many classmates, who will be unable to complete tasks until your work is submitted. Thus, timely completion of tasks is critical. Deadlines mark the points at which activities begin and end. Once past, your classmates and I will move on to the next phase. We will not have time to return to tasks that are no longer current. Thus, you must keep up.

5. Adhere to the Policy on Late Work.

6. Access class email. All class email will be sent to your hawaii.edu mailbox. Check your mailbox frequently. Daily is recommended – including weekends. Log on at least once a day, M-F, and once over the weekend or holidays. If you keep up, you’ll find that most logons can be fairly brief. For example, you can scan your inbox in just a few minutes. If you find an important message and don’t have time, log on later in the day to read it. Thus, frequent logons will actually shorten the amount of time you spend online, and you’ll always be on top of events.

7. Refrain from using the “Private Messages” (PM) feature in Laulima to contact me. Use UH mail only. I don’t check my Laulima PM, but I do check my UH mailbox throughout the day, every day. Thus, I usually respond to you within hours instead of days. My UH email address: jamess@hawaii.edu

8. Access key websites. For our class, they are: (a) our class blog, (b) our Laulima class site, (c) your personal class blog for sharing drafts with classmates and me, and (d) your Twitter account. Log on daily and at least once on weekends and holidays. If you keep up, you’ll find that most logons can be fairly brief.

9. Actively participate in all online discussion forums, blogs, chats (if required), etc. “Active participation” means posting and responding to messages, commenting, etc. Initiate and guide discussions, encourage cooperation, collaboration, and growth for all participants.

10. Devote time to your online class work. For fall and spring classes, spend a minimum of 6 hours a week (distributed over 3 or more days) online, on class-related activities. The length of each logon may vary from 5 to 30 minutes or longer; however, the total for a week should be no less than 6 hours. Expect to spend additional hours a week on- and offline, completing required activities and composing drafts. For summer classes, spend a minimum of 10 hours a week online on class-related activities. The length of each logon may vary, but the total for a week should be no less than 10 hours. Expect to spend additional hours a week on- and offline, completing required activities and composing drafts.

11. Keep up with the information flow. You are responsible for all information distributed to the class. When necessary, exercises, evaluation criteria, exam/quiz schedules, due dates, course information, etc. will be changed, revised, or updated. These may or may not be announced via email, Twitter, our class blog, or Laulima. You must log on to all of them regularly to keep up.

12. Keep accurate records of your performance in learning activities. Maintain a personal log on what you have and have not done, and whether or not it was completed on time. During the semester, I won’t have time to give you personal reports on your daily work or performance. If you’re not sure whether you’ve completed a Laulima activity, click on it and see if your reply or post is listed. If it’s not, then either you haven’t done it or you’ve misposted. If your reply has been misposted, repost it in the correct thread. You won’t be penalized if you let us know that the earlier post was on time. A simple method to keep track of your work is a learning log:

  • From the schedule in our class blog, copy and paste the list of activities for each paper in a text file.
  • As you complete each activity, place an “X” in the blank before the item. If you fail to complete it, leave it blank. If late, insert an “L.”
  • Use this log to complete the Log of Completed Activities that you’ll be attaching to the bottom of your final draft. It is required on FD1-FD4.

13. Retain all your drafts (RDs and FDs). Maintain copies of all drafts on your computer. Be sure to maintain a sent-mail folder for all email that you send. Do not delete the files in this folder. You may need to resend specific files to me or to classmates, and the original header information (sent-date, to- and from-address, topic line, etc.) is critical. Some Internet providers limit the amount of messages you can store online; thus, be sure to do frequent backups to your personal computer.

14. Retain all the drafts (RDs and FDs) and peer comments in your blog. Don’t delete any, and be sure to keep them in one blog. Do not use more than one blog for this class. Your classmates and I may have to review them every once in a while, and I often refer to the comments classmates have made about your RDs. Also, keep them online and accessible for at least three months after the class is over just in case we need to review your performance.

15. Post readable drafts (RDs and FDs) in your personal class blog. If your classmates or I cannot read your drafts, you won’t receive credit for them. This means that you should use black text on a white background in your your personal blogs. If you use white on white or pink on purple, don’t expect us to read your drafts.

16. Work effectively and collaboratively with peers in online group activities to complete tasks and exercises. Perhaps the quickest and surest way to alienate classmates is to miss deadlines or consistently submit work after the deadline. Remember that they are often expecting feedback from you or waiting to give you suggestions. If you’re late or a no-show, you cause them enormous stress because they can’t complete the activity on time.

17. Serve, voluntarily or on request, as an online tutor or mentor for your classmates in the Q&A forums in Laulima. Taking a leadership role such as this is an important part of the writing process. It requires organizational skills as well as tact — two qualities that are critical for success as a writer, who must be able to gain the confidence of the audience and guide them toward his/her point of view. As a writer or a leader, being heavy-handed or disrespectful toward the audience or teammates is counter-productive. Here’s a post on this subject:

Brandi [Monthei], excellent follow-through in guiding the team. You’re setting an example for your classmates. I believe there’s a strong correlation between leadership ability and writing prowess. The ability to work well with others; the people skills and sensitivities; the ability to persuade without alienating; the courage to take on responsibility; the concern for issues beyond one’s personal welfare; the ability to plan, organize, and clearly communicate ideas — these are all equally important in writing and leadership. As college graduates, the hope of our society is that all of you will become leaders in all your endeavors, passionately addressing the issues that concern us all. -Jim [WB post 1/23/04]

18. Use the “Checklist for All Drafts.” It provides a means to review your paper before submitting it to your classmates or to me. Submitting your best effort is a mark of courtesy. Remember that “RD” stands for “Review Draft” — not “Rough Draft.”

19. Understand how information is presented on webpages. You should be aware of these three quirks: (a) All webpages, including our class blogs, need to be reloaded or refreshed to display the latest page info. Learn how to do this in your web browser. (b) In all webpages, the number of lines of texts and graphics that can be viewed at once is limited by the quality of your communication device, screen, video hardware, and browser settings. This means that you may need to scroll to sections above, below, or to the side of the current screen. In discussion forums, use the buttons and scroll bar to move among sections of a page. (c) In webpages, look for active links, or buttons. Clicking on them will take you to another document or to a different section in the same document. The button or word (or phrase) is usually highlighted. To see if it is an active link, place the cursor over it or click on it. To return from the link to where you were originally, click on the left-pointing return arrow at the top left of the browser screen. If the return arrow is not highlighted, then click on the red X in the upper right corner of the page.

20. Access a backup computer or internet service provider (ISP). Computer or internet breakdowns or lack of access to them will not be accepted as a legitimate excuse for missing deadlines. Thus, you must have easy access to a backup system with Internet capability. Forms of backup are: a second desktop in your home; a laptop in addition to your desktop; access to a friend’s or neighbor’s computer; access to a computer at work; computers in labs at KCC and elsewhere; a Wi-Fi hotspot in the neighborhood or community; etc. To avoid the potential consequences of a computer or network breakdown, I would suggest submitting your work at least five hours before the deadline. If a problem occurs, you would then have time to use your backup system. Needless to say, you must become familiar with the backup before an emergency occurs.

21. Refrain from using “work” as an excuse for late or missed work. Assume that everyone works, too, or has other responsibilities or interests outside of class.  Since we all work, we need to schedule our time wisely.

22. Don’t use “blog troubles” as an excuse. You are responsible for your blog. If you delete your blog, make your blog inaccessible to classmates, or delete works from your blog, you won’t receive credit for the missing work. If  you use more than one blog for this class or if the URL you provide for drafts is incorrect, you won’t receive credit for your work. Carefully read guidelines for developing your blog.

23. Reach out for help. If you’ve thoroughly reviewed the guidelines but still have questions about class work, computers, the web, blogs, discussion forums, email, etc., don’t hesitate to email me at <jamess@hawaii.edu>. However, before consulting me, be sure to give your classmates an opportunity to see if they can be of help.

24. Finally, learn how to make this online class experience exciting for yourself. Here are some tips:

  • Become involved in all Laulima discussions by posting comments and replying to classmates’ posts.
  • Select topics for your papers that interest, challenge, concern, and excite you. I’d say that 50-90% of the success of a paper depends on the topic you select. Choose one that’s boring or meaningless to you, and you’ll end up devoting little time to it. The result will be disastrous with your classmates and with me.
  • Make at least one friend in class — someone with whom you can privately communicate. Be careful, though, in pursuing online friendships. If the other person is reluctant, don’t pursue it.
  • To confirm that you’ve read this document, email the keyword ready to me at jamess@hawaii.edu by the end of the second day of instruction. The keyword should appear in the subject header.
  • Learn to apply what you’re learning in this class to your other classes, especially the writing skills that you’re developing. Perhaps one of the most valuable skills you’ll be mastering is blogging. Experiment with different ways to use them with your other classes, friends, and family. Blogs are free, and you can have as many as you want for different purposes. Be sure to pay special attention to the privacy settings so that the blog is accessible primarily to the people you want to target.

25. Don’t troll or flame. Don’t use the class discussion forums to attack classmates, me (the instructor), or the course. If you have any complaints, email them privately to me. Don’t post them in public forums. A “troll” is someone who posts heated or emotional messages intended to discredit an individual, a group, or the course. His or her sole purpose is to disrupt the class or to harm specific individuals. The best way to deal with a troll is to not respond. Defending or attacking him will divide the class and result in a “flame” war, which is the troll’s ultimate goal. BTW, if you receive a flame in a private message, don’t reply to the sender. Instead, email it to me with an explanation.

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