Getting Started

Here you are in an online class! Maybe your first fully-online class? It’s not my first (I’ve been teaching this way–not exclusively–for more than 10 years).

I wanted you to be able to get started right away, so I’ve made a very short video tour for you.  It would be good to watch this right away!


And I have a few more getting started tips for you.

  • Is an online class easier than a face-to-face class?  No, not really.  Some people find that, in some ways, it’s harder.  You have to do a lot of reading and a lot of writing.  You have to be motivated yourself, without a daily schedule enforced on you, to do your work (but no travel time, no sitting in a classroom, and yes, you really can do your work anywhere at any time).
  • Is an online class better than a face-to-face class? Well, in some ways, for some students, it really is.  You set your own schedule, which means that you’re in class at your best time of day (or night).  When you’re ready to concentrate, you really can concentrate.
  • But is there a schedule? Can you just do all the work at the last minute? There is definitely a schedule! We work on a semester schedule, just like any other class, and you need to be working and participating regularly, throughout the semester, just like in any other class, to meet all the deadlines (they’re all there for you under “Schedule.”
  • But do you have to be online all the time? Or at any specific time? You don’t have to be online all the time. But you do have to check in (usually on the forum) very frequently. It’s not a bad idea to check in once a day, at least just to see if anyone has responded to your posts (and yes, you can subscribe to get an email update every time there’s a response). And you should definitely not let more than two days go by without stopping in. But that “stopping in” can happen at whatever time is convenient to you–no specific hour of the day or night–and it doesn’t have to be for very long. A quick 20-minute visit to get you caught up, and then spend an hour or so later on. Or spend two hours one day and then just five minutes or so the next. Whatever works. If you find yourself falling behind, or not participating enough, you’ll know (I’ll tell you! But you’ll probably know even before you hear from me).
  • How will you interact with other students? With your professor? Most students report that in online classes they end up interacting with their classmates and their professor more, sometimes much more, than in a face-to-face class.  You’ll be posting your own reflections.  You’ll be discussing in the forum.  And we will probably do some live skype and other audio-visual meetings.
  • What’s the most important thing to know? I’m glad you asked that! (Well, you didn’t, did you? But I did!)  The most important thing–the primary way to succeed in an online class–is to participate regularly.  You need to be in this class, on this site, reading and posting, three times a week at least.  More like five or six times a week.  In a face-to-face class, you might meet for three hours a week.  And spend another five or six hours a week doing homework and studying.  In this class, too, you will probably be spending around ten hours each week.  But in this class, you can spend those ten hours in half-hour blocks, in between other classes.  Or at 930 at night or 630 in the morning.  You set the schedule.  We’ll be talking about how (or whether) that makes things different for you.

I know you saw the quick video tour already, but if you want an even more basic summary of how to get started, let me give you the 1-2-3.

  1. Read everything in this Course Information section
  2. Start the reading assignments for this unit (and buy the books so you have them for the future units!)
  3. Read the mini-lectures for this unit and start posting on the forum!

Posting your own reflections is the next step–the step number 4–but it’s OK to wait on that until we really get rolling.  Watch the announcements (you see them? Right over there on the right? =======>) for the “go” signal and more guidance about that.

I think you’re ready.  If you’re not, you know what to do, right? If in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.  No, that’s not it.  If you have questions, post on the Question and Answer Forum, or email me!