Κολέγιο CITY College
Main Campus, Thessaloniki, Greece
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13 April 2020

Online Learning: Tips and Guidance for Good Practices

This document is a short guide for students. It is provided as a response to questions, remarks and comments we received during the first two weeks of online classes, from students and staff. There has been a positive attitude towards online delivery, from both staff and students, which will further facilitate maintenance of quality in learning and teaching. 

Following government social distancing measures due to the coronavirus pandemic, most leading Universities around the world switched to online delivery to address the temporary suspension of face to face classes. Universities chose between synchronous or asynchronous online models (or a combination) and made provisions for alternative assessment types to fit the current reality. We have to recognise that online learning is different from face to face learning, neither inferior nor superior.

The below tips aim to address the key challenges that arise due to the sudden switch from face-to-face to online learning under a “lock-down” condition. Remote study is changing our university life so we hope the following tips will help you to maximise your online learning experience and to ease some of the current anxiety that is triggered by the global crisis.

 

Prioritise your well-being

Worry and stress are normal during this global challenge. Different people act differently, but your well being needs to be your priority. If you remain mentally and emotionally healthy, you will be able to protect yourself and keep your daily functionality intact. We are here to support you through the counseling center or e-help. Stay well informed about the crisis using only reliable sources. If you feel that you are running out of mental or emotional strength, please refer to your tutor and your Department. 

 

Focus on your minor and greater goals

No matter what the situation is, you should stay focused as much as you can on your major educational goal “to learn, enhance your skills and become better”. This will entail subgoals such as “to complete the semester successfully”. Given all other personal and family circumstances, it may be challenging but you must not relax your goals and expectations. Sooner or later our lives will gradually return to normal. So, stay focused and achieve what you have planned for this academic year, that is, to proceed to next year or graduate. 

 

Keep yourself technically skilled

This is the time you accept that technology is the only means to get you out of stagnation. You belong to a generation that compromised face to face social interaction with online social networking. It is time to accept that at these challenging times, technology will not only be there for your leisure and fun but for your education too. Get prepared. Be equipped with a camera and a mic. If you do not have or plan to buy one, your mobile and your handsfree perfectly do the job. Isolating yourself during the educational process will negatively affect your learning. Get used to the tools. Keep a positive attitude for technology, it is here to help. A decade ago technology would not be able to deliver. Be tolerant with glitches because little issues will always exist and no one is to blame. Problems are normally solved within seconds or minutes. 

 

Preparing for on-line classes: 

Setup a study environment

Setting up your class attendance and study space is of absolute importance. If possible, choose a quiet room where disruption can be minimised. Keep away from physical distractions (e.g. other people moving around and talking, music background, TV on etc) but also isolate online distractions (mobile, web browser, videos, social media etc). Needless to say that good lighting contributes to your eye safety and health. Sitting at a desk is the most appropriate posture to attend classes or study which allows you to mentally focus on the on-line delivery. 

 

Do some pre-reading

When you prepare for a class, this has an add-on effect to your learning. There is already uploaded material from previous classes you can revise. In some cases, the material for the next lecture is available in advance, You could even make a list of questions that you want to ask or even look at the syllabus to see what is coming next. In all cases, your chances to maximise learning are increased.

 

During on-line classes: 

Follow your class schedule and make a new study routine

Due to the abrupt way of stopping face to face classes, your study routine as it was before March was interrupted. We have decided to offer you the same schedule so that your daily routine interruption would be as minimum as possible. We encourage you to follow your classes and develop a revised study routine. Do not assume that class attendance will be easy. We understand that it is different to attend an online class in the sense that you are not physically “stuck” in a chair of a classroom; you might have other obstructions around you. But we suggest to focus in the same way as if you were in a physical classroom.

 

Participate in classes actively

As in face to face classes, some of you may choose to stay silent and listen. This is understandable although it does not facilitate your active learning. Online teaching gives you more opportunities to make one step forward and engage with the rest of the class. The chat box is an additional feature which most of you are acquainted with (due to social networks) and more open to use. The optimum, however, would be to use video and voice. Ease your fears, you are not going to be assessed neither on what you say nor on how you look or sound like. To the contrary, all lecturers will greatly appreciate seeing you on the screen and discussing with you. If you think it is a lonely task to attend a class, you can imagine how lonely it feels to teach a list of names on the screen with no interaction. On our side, we have been making tremendous efforts to engage you and we would be grateful if you respond, ask questions, make comments and challenge us. Again, be positive and tolerant with technology and small issues that might appear. They should not affect the whole spirit and learning process. And don’t forget that participation will help you to develop a skill, absolutely crucial for your future career.  

 

After your on-line classes: 

Organise your time for self-study

We are living through challenging days during which time feels unstructured. Don’t you ever get the feeling that being at home you have all the time in the world but again when the evening comes you wonder where all this time went? You need to employ and enhance your time-management skills. We suggest you commit to a plan and pay extra attention to monitor your progress. This is one of the most challenging tasks in online learning. As you do with your assignments (coursework map), make a plan for your daily study tasks (study map).  Organise your time wisely so that the workload is evenly distributed. Check the material on MOLE and address any questions to the lecturers. Make sure that you take regular breaks and some off-screen time.

 

Become an independent learner

One of the most important attributes a University graduate should possess is to be an independent learner. An independent learner must find the appropriate time in the schedule to revise material, understand what he/she knows, realise what she/he does not know, search for additional clarifications and resources, watch the recorded lectures, practice on exercises and frequently do self-assessment reflection. It is normal to identify gaps to knowledge and skills but it is of extreme importance to be aware of what you can do about those gaps. Keep asking yourself: What? Who? When? Where? How? What-if? The answers are somewhere around you and you can always get help and advice from you teachers.

 

Keep yourself connected with fellow students

As you belong to the generation of social media, you have your own way to contact friends and family. We suggest you do the same with your fellow students. You are not on your own in this. Other students may be facing the same problems and you can share your concerns with them along with good practices. For example, the things you did and helped you out. It is a good opportunity to master the collaborative tools for group assignments. Organise and join study teams. Get involved with clubs and other activities. Many are offered online. 

 

Keep yourself connected with your lecturers and your tutors: open-port

Your teachers are working as usual. Our open-door policy still applies in a different form though. We call it open-port policy, and includes all synchronous (skype etc) and asynchronous (email etc) communication you can have with your lecturers and tutors. As mentioned already, you are not alone in this. Contact your lecturers and your personal tutors. 

 

Get library support

Library services are offered to students online. You have access to the Online library collections and resources including the electronic collections of databases, journals, ebooks and dissertations, the University of Sheffield library resources and all Open Access Resources. In addition, if you wish to borrow a book or other material, you may contact the Library staff to arrange it. The Library staff is available to help you and answer student queries via phone, email and our newly introduced library chat tool to enable faster and direct communication with the library. 

 

Finally, online learning yields positive learning outcomes:

How will it be when this is over? What we can assure you is that on-line learning yields positive learning outcomes for each one of you: 

  • Development of new skills: “self-regulation” and motivation. This relates to your ability to plan, monitor and evaluate your behaviour and learning strategies. You also adapt to a new way of learning, learn how to manage time and communication on-line.
  • Online delivery normally requires students to prepare and reflect on the subject matter before each class takes time-real time. This results in increased reflection and active learning experience. 
  • Online session recordings are available for future reference. This is an incredible added value as you can review at your own pace any session and allow more time to engage with the content. 
  • Collaborative learning: There are multiple options and tools available that you can master and use at a later time for collaboration and sharing.  
  • Good preparation for a changing workforce. Getting comfortable with technology is an excellent side benefit of the current situation. It is very likely that your future employers will require you to take classes on line as part of your life long training requirements. More and more often you will be asked to use online collaborative tools. Also, as companies cut down on expenses for corporate travel more and more meetings are held via video conferencing.  

This crisis has planted seeds for innovation and transformation in many aspects of our lives including teaching and learning. Your positivity, active engagement and commitment to keep doing what you are expected to do, will significantly contribute to maintaining the quality of your learning. 

 

 

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