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Getting Ready To Begin An Online Class

Congratulations on considering taking your first online course! Online courses offer a lot of advantages over ground-based courses. While they are not self-paced, they do offer increased flexibility for students with busy lives and schedules. Online courses help students develop critical thinking and reading skills. Further, online courses help improve a student’s technical and written communication skills, which are highly desirable in today’s job market. Before you get started, there are a few items to consider to get off to a good start in your first online course:

Your Computer

Access – Taking online courses necessitates that you have reliable access to a computer with high speed internet access. If you don’t have internet at home, be sure to have a clear plan of where you will access and complete your course. Planning to rely on public access computers (at a library, for example) can pose problems because many courses require that you install software programs in order to complete and submit assignments. Public computers won’t allow you to do this.

Software – Most online courses will require you to submit assignments in Microsoft Word or Excel format. It’s important that you purchase and install appropriate software programs prior to taking an online course. As of the winter 2013 term, Northwestern College is including a version of Microsoft Office into student NC email accounts.

Security – There is nothing worse than getting attacked by a computer virus, especially if that virus wipes out a quarter’s worth of your hard work! If you don’t already have a security program installed, do so now. Also, be sure to back up your work early and often. You can use a simple thumb drive, or do what I did in college…email work to yourself as attachments. That way you can always access your work, from any computer, anywhere!

Getting Registered for Classes

It’s always good to start off on the right foot! Being registered early ensures 1) that there is room for you in the course, so you don’t end up on the dreaded waitlist, and 2) that you will have access to your online courses on the first day of the term. An 11-week quarter can fly by in the blink of an eye, and it’s never fun to have to play catch up, especially when you’ve got a full course load, work responsibilities, a family depending on you, and there’s a birthday/ anniversary/holiday coming up!

Order Your Books and Required Materials Early

Having the correct books and resources on hand on the very first day of the term is an excellent way to get started in your online course. The NC Online bookstore carries and ensures that you are purchasing the correct textbook edition and packaged bundles. If you choose to purchase textbooks elsewhere, be sure you are searching and purchasing the correct isbns (book codes). Some textbooks come bundled with software access codes that once used are no longer valid. Though these used books may be cheaper, you’ll have to purchase software access separately to complete your coursework, which may end up costing more in the long run.

Seek out Assistance, if you need it.

The College offers a variety of resources for students: tutoring, advising, disabilities resources, etc. Don’t wait until the middle, or end, of the term to reach out if you need help. You may wish to visit Advising and the Tutoring Center before registering for or beginning an online course. They can talk to you about best practices and answer any questions you may have about online courses. There is an entire support team poised to help you succeed in your courses and academic program; you need only ask.

Get to Know Your Instructors

Logging in early and being actively engaged in your online course is a good way to form a connection.