The DOs and DONTs of Online Learning

Forward by Rick Reis

The Standford University Center for Learning and Teaching



The posting below gives some insights on making online learning more effiective. It is from Chapter 8:The Online Instructor's Point of View, by Judy Donovan in The Student Guide to Successful Online Learning: A Handbook of Tips, Strategies, and Techniques by Ken W. White Everett Community College and University of Phoenix Online Campus, Jason D. Baker, Regent University. Published by the College Division of Allyn and Bacon, 75 Arlington Street, Suite 300, Boston, MA 02116 []. Copyright 2004 Pearson Education, Inc. Reprinted with permission.


Rick Reis

The DOs of Online Learning

I wanted to get many instructors' points of view to include in this chapter, so I posted questions in an informal survey to listservs and online college faculty bulletin boards. I also emailed the entire faculty at one online college. Over fifty online instructors responded, and what struck me was how similar their answers were. There does seem to be general agreement in what instructors appreciate and don't appreciate in their students.

The first question I asked was "How should students go about establishing a good instructor/student relationship with you?" Many instructors mentioned the points covered above: read the syllabus, understand the course software, make sure you have your textbook and other materials, and make sure your email is working. In addition, they mentioned things such as "communicate, put forth a good effort, show an interest in the course and in your fellow students, ask questions if you don't understand something, and be courteous." Additional comments included:

The DON'Ts of Online Learning

I asked online instructors for their pet peeves regarding online students. As with what instructors appreciate, the things they don't appreciate are quite specific. They include:

Other responses to the question "What are your pet peeves when it comes to students?" were:

The main concern of online instructors is communication.

The online syllabus, assignment descriptions, lectures, and postings are all forms of communication that contain clear instructions for how work is to be completed, by what due date, and where to submit it. Ignoring this information can be time consuming for you and the instructor.

You may feel instructors are being contradictory when we say we appreciate students who ask questions, but then list students as pet peeves who post questions that are already answered in the course materials. You have read in this book about student responsibility and how it is important to the online classroom. This translates to making an effort to find the answer rather than posting a question to the class or emailing the instructor. In addition, don't be a student whose work is chronically late for one reason or another. If you are constantly in a state of emergency, perhaps you need to get your life in order before you take classes. Make sure your problems don't impact the instructor or the class.

Finally, plagiarism can be a real problem for the instructor in the online world. A few years ago, a quarter or more of my students turned in papers that contained plagiarism. The most common form of plagiarism is copy and paste. Students copy entire paragraphs or sentences from their sources and paste them into their paper. They might stick the source at the end, but they don't use quotes to indicate that someone else wrote the section. I have received five-page papers composed entirely of these types of paragraphs. Through experience, I have hones the Academic Honesty section in my syllabus so that it is crystal clear:

"You can never use someone else's words without quotes. Ignorance is not an excuse."