Relatively speaking, online learning is still not as common as traditional classroom learning. While more people have taken an online course or training for work, online school is still becoming a more common approach to getting a degree.
Colleges and High Schools have offered courses and degrees online for years now and more and more students are becoming comfortable with going this route. People's lives seem to be busier now more than ever and the freedom that comes with taking classes online is welcomed.
That being said, it's quite possible students aren't yet aware that there is a certain way of behaving, of doing things, while online. Call it online etiquette. You're not sitting alongside fellow students in a classroom.
There's no whispering, passing notes or raising your hand to speak. It's a different world, you're on your own, on your own time, in your own space. Still, there are rules.
With that in mind, we enlisted the help and expertise of Concorde's Dean of Online Operations, Nikki Fox, to spell out some of the rules of etiquette for working and learning online.
What we believe is "gone" isn't
Online etiquette is critical not only to a student's success but also could impact a future career, Fox cautioned. Much of what we believe to be "gone" when we hit the delete button isn't.
When a student in a health care online careers program posts to a discussion board, there is a certain piece of anonymity. Therefore, we sometimes let our manners go out the window.
"It is important to maintain respect and discipline at all times," Fox said. "Who's to say the instructor teaching from a different city or even state may not one day become our supervisor or someone we need for a recommendation?"
Fox said she has in the past read some horrendous comments left by a frustrated student, and the lasting impact the type of communication has on both the instructor and the overall student/professor relationship can be almost unsalvageable.
"We always encourage students to discuss their frustrations, but it should be done after a cooling-off period and in a healthy way," she said. "Read, out loud, what we have written before we hit the submit or send button. Does it sound OK, or would the typical person find the tone to be cold or full of conflict? Are we still frustrated when we read it back, or worse yet after we have calmed down and we read it back do we become frustrated again?"
"If so, don't send it. Wait a little longer and then figure out a better way to reword the comment or communication."
Be Constructive, not personal
Fox said, when we interact with our peers on discussion boards, we also need to be cognizant of constructive criticism. Don't personally attack another's ideas. Discussion boards are NOT personal, but rather a place to have educational banter that is supported by outside sources.
"It is OK to disagree and often encouraged," Fox said. "But, try to reflect on why we disagree with another person. Is it because of our own beliefs, or because we have read something to the contrary? If so, great. Then provide outside support for the disagreement, provide the reference and encourage thinking outside the box."
When all else fails, Fox said, it's always a good idea to follow a rule mother typically tell their children.
"If you can't say anything nice," she said, "don't say anything at all."
Health care online learning is a whole different ballgame
Although you're in a health care online program, it doesn't mean that you're alone. Concorde recognized early on in the delivery of health care online classes that success came in the form of partnerships. So, in addition to training instructors to interface digitally, we created a role dedicated to serving our online students. Enter the Online Champion.
Online classes, according to a few of our resident online champions, require a different kind of approach.
Students who are taking online classes for the first time need to be aware that the coursework is very time-intensive.
"While there is no scheduled class, there is a schedule for homework," said Larry Hill, Online Champion at Concorde's campus in Garden Grove, Calif. "Most students that find themselves in trouble underestimate the time it takes to complete assignments. They might believe that an assignment is a 15-minute breeze, or maybe an hour at most when it's closer to four hours or more."
It's all about a solid foundation
Natalie Gaspard, Concorde - Kansas City's Online Champion, echoes those sentiments. She tells students to "plan, plan, plan and plan some more."
"I suggest that, on the first day of classes, write down your life on a sheet of paper, Sunday through Saturday, and fill in the blanks," she said. "If you work from 3-10 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, block that time out. You have to take kids to activities Monday and Thursday evening? Block that out, she said.
Once your week has been laid out on that paper, start thinking about when you are going to sit down and do work. Try to stay consistent with that time because you will develop a habit and stick with it. You are essentially trying to set up a class time that works for YOU."
Communication is key
In a nutshell, Gaspard said, Online Champions are "the problem solvers, advisers, mediators and cheerleaders for any student taking online courses."
In his time as Online Champion, Hill noted how his involvement with students has evolved. As a student advocate, he focuses on building trust and respect so that if there is an issue, students will feel confident and comfortable confiding in him so he can help.
Gaspard encourages her students to "email, call and stop in whenever there is a problem."
"I tell my students that there is nothing insignificant when it comes to a question or concern," she said. "I give my students the Online Success card, my card, my direct line, and tell them my schedule. Every student taking an online course should be receiving the Online Success card, and it has their Program Director's information, as well as the Online Champion's."
Optimizing and Mastering Canvas
Canvas is a helpful system that conveniently allows students to communicate with their instructors. It's the system by which students turn in homework assignments and receive future projects. It's how students learn their grades. Health care online learning is made simpler and more efficient through Canvas.
There are a few tricks to optimize the Canvas experience when it comes to health care online learning. To help illuminate some of these tips, we sought the advice of Heather Barkes, Concorde's Learning Management Systems Administrator.
Here's what Heather had to say.
- Ensure you are using a supported browser: Technology plays a key role in creating a successful learning environment through Canvas. If you are using a personal computer, please review the links below to ensure you are receiving the optimal performance from Canvas. Firefox and Chrome are the recommended browsers.
- Find out which browsers Canvas supports.
- View the basic computer specifications for Canvas.
- Customize your Canvas Dashboard for health care online learning: The User Dashboard is the first thing you will see when you log into Canvas. The User Dashboard helps you see what is happening in all your courses and allows you to figure out what to do next. You can return to your User Dashboard at any time by clicking the Dashboard link in the Global Navigation. The Dashboard defaults to the course view, which provides access and updates in favorite courses. The Dashboard also includes a sidebar, which helps show upcoming events in your courses.
- Customize course cards: Course cards can help you organize your courses by customizing the color and creating a nickname. To change the color, click the card's More Options icon, then select a new color. The checkmark indicates the selected color. Or type in a nickname to help you identify the course differently.
- Customize your course list: In Global Navigation, click the Courses link, then click the All Courses link. To favorite a course, click the star next to a course. Courses with filled stars show the course is a favorite.
- Note: After you have manually favorited at least one course, Canvas automatically favorites any newly published course enrollments for you.
- Change Dashboard view: The Dashboard offers several views depending on your preference. The Dashboard defaults to the course card view, which displays course cards for all your favorite courses. To help manage Canvas activity, the Dashboard also supports the Global Activity Stream, which shows recent activity for all your Canvas health care online learning. To change your Dashboard view, click the Settings menu and select your preferred viewing option.
- Mobile app for health care online learning: Another way to navigate through Canvas is through the Canvas Mobile Learn App. The app will let you take your Concorde classes with you on the go. The app is available for download on iOS 10+, Android 4.2+ devices. Just search for "Canvas by Instructure" within your App Store.
- Added bonus- Microsoft Office Applications: You will find that many of your assignments will use Microsoft Office applications. Don't have Microsoft Office? No worries. Office 365 is available to use or download through your Concorde email account.
So, whether you're considering enrolling in an online class or are entering the next start date of your online program, know that at every juncture, we're here to help you seize the opportunities that await.