Roane State Community College

Confessions of an online learner

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Since coming to Roane State, I’ve completed more than 50 hours of graduate courses online through Austin Peay and East Tennessee State University. One of the benefits of taking classes while working here is that it puts me in the role of a student, a valuable learning tool for someone in communications. I experience the same anxiety, including that moment of uncertainty when logging in to Momentum at the start of a semester, that our students feel.

As somewhat of a connoisseur of Momentum courses, I want to share with you best practices I have experienced as an online learner.

Thank you

Owen Driskill


Organization is key.

My favorite courses were highly organized. The due dates were clear. The structure of the courses made sense, and most importantly, the content was current. I knew I was in for a long semester if the syllabus had due dates from three years ago.

Participate and grade participation.

One of my favorite classes was a communication law course at Austin Peay. The professor was brilliant and friendly. He posted detailed, and fascinating, responses to our discussion posts. Of course, he also expected us to read his responses, and he reinforced those expectations but asking exam questions based not on his lecture notes, but on his responses to the discussions. I felt like he worked hard to make sure that his online students had as lively a class as his face-to-face students. This could not have been easy for him. I noticed he often posted in the early morning hours and replied within 24 hours of a student’s post. I very much appreciated all he did to give us a great learning experience.

Use YouTube selectively.

I can tell when professors have carefully selected YouTube videos that complement the course content and when professors have slapped a hastily searched YouTube link into their lecture notes. Take the time to make sure videos are useful.

Encourage group work.

Allow me to invite you into the mind of an online learner. As an online student, I have a physical aversion to group work. I’d rather watch 400 hours of Gilmore Girls episodes than participate in a group project. I want to work at my own pace. I do not want to interact. Just let me please read this material on my own and get my assignments turned in! You have to break me out of this bubble. Make me work with other students. Yes, I’ll have to buy a Web cam, figure out Adobe Connect and learn to collaborate with google docs or Prezi, but this will make me better. Make your online students work together.

Have fun

One of my professors started a “name this 1980s cartoon character” contest in the discussion forum. It was fun for those of us who remember Skeletor and SilverHawks. Classrooms allow for a little laughter between lectures and exams. Trying bringing a little cheer to your online classroom space as well.