Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Make the Most of Online Learning

Thinking about enrolling in an online college?  Like anything, there are pros and cons to online learning. Doing a little research ahead of time can help make the experience positive and successful!
Rio Salado student
Amanda Carrero

Like traditional universities, online courses bring content, instructors and students together for the purpose of learning. The curriculum of an online program may be similar to a traditional academic or career program, but the delivery is very different. Online colleges use the Internet to deliver course materials and manage student and instructor communication.

Benefits of Online Classes

There are three main advantages to online learning that a traditional classroom experience won’t bring.

• Convenience – You can attend class at home, out-of-town, or wherever you are as long as you have access to the Internet.

• Access – What if the program you are interested in is not offered at your local college? With access to online programs and classes, you are no longer limited to the traditional education options.

• Flexibility – Online classes means having access to course materials 24/7, so you can schedule your study around your other commitments, such as work and family.

Challenges of Online Classes

A successful online experience requires some extra motivation and discipline from a traditional learning environment. Students must have basic computer skills and be familiar with the Internet, and be able to adhere to class and assignment deadlines.

“While online courses give you the opportunity to work at your own pace, the best way to succeed at Rio Salado is to use good time management skills,” said Amanda Carrero, an honors student at Rio Salado College in Tempe.

To help stay organized, Rio students can take advantage of RioLearn, the college’s online course management system. RioLearn provides a calendar and alert system to help students track their assignments and manage coursework.

While your classes may not be in-person, they may occasionally require that you attend online events at specific times, take proctored exams at a testing center, or meet other face-to-face requirements such as science labs or internships.

Because online classes rely on technology, sometimes forces beyond your control (thunderstorms, dog unplugging your laptop, etc.!) can affect your classes. Rio Salado has a 24/7 helpdesk giving students access to technical support and assistance with passwords, pdfs, downloading files and more.

You’re Not Alone!

Online learning does not mean you are on your own! Online students connect with each other, and their instructors, in a variety of ways, including online discussions, email, video chats, and social media. Frequent communication with your instructor is encouraged. The more you connect with the course content, your classmates, and your instructor, the more successful your experience will be.

Rio Salado offers a wide range of student services to further help you throughout your online experience, academic advising, tutoring, college and career success classes, online library and more.

So once you’ve done your homework on online learning, you’ll see that Rio Salado College is the place for you!

-Published in the Tempe Republic, 3-17-12