Picture of students using computers in the library

Sand Shark Synopsis for Online Classes: Insight for the Site

January 25, 2014

I thought this blog would be an excellent forum to share the nature of online classes at USCB. I myself had very little idea what online classes would be like prior to taking any and am familiar with the apprehension to do so. I also hear tones of this “online-course world” mystery voiced by fellow peers who have not yet ventured into the web class setting. The idea to write an informative reflection of my online class experiences came from one of my very own online class professors. This professor opened a discussion encouraging us to write about our online experience with her class for future students. My hope is to give you a realistic perspective on the nature of what online classes are like, revealing what it requires, the challenges, the benefits, and the various and differing experiences people receive amongst the range of classes and professors.

So you're a second year sand shark, or maybe fresh out of high school, perhaps a dad returning to school, a transfer student, or maybe-- just maybe even a very cool grandmother still soaking up every ounce of the world...whatever the case may be, YOU are thinking about taking an online class at USCB! Are you unsure or apprehensive? Well, I am here to give you the scoop! I hope that my educational experience may help inform yours!!!

I have posed some possible inquiries you may ask about the online class experience. In my answers I reflect upon my own experiences! Please feel free to email me with more questions or personal experiences and insights at: daileye@email.uscb.edu


If I have never taken an online course should I take one now?

The only way you will learn if online classes are compatible with how you function as a student is to take one! However, I suggest if you have never taken an online class before (even if you have but not at USCB) start off with one online class and see how you manage. This is not to say every online class is the same but you will develop an idea of:

  • how well you are able to meet deadlines in this forum
  • how well you are able to stay responsible to your “attendance”
  • how well you are able to stay accountable in checking the online forum for updates, new assignments, etc. etc.
  • how well you are able to navigate the online forum (including checking various tabs or folders, submitting assignments, participating in written discussions, accessing posted online readings or videos, etc. etc.)
  • how well you are able to manage your time in both a productive and constructive way in the online forum (this includes managing time with "attendance" on the site and actual participation of finding assignments, readings, submitting work, etc. etc.)
  • how well you are able to possibly transition between reading a textbook or printed material to reading, watching, or responding to a given material on the actual computer screen

It is important to remember that although an online class provided for one subject may have a light workload another online class on the same subject may have a heavier workload. Again this is true amongst different subjects provided in the online class forum as well. In addition to this it is important to keep in mind that each professor has very different lesson plans, where as one may have you read more routinely from a text, another may have you read various articles and only use the required text as a reference or study tool. However in either case, it is my experience that it is of paramount importance to complete all assignments posted, to the best of your ability, whether it be reading a textbook, reading an article, writing a paper, participating in a short discussion, watching films, etc.

What kind of time-investment do online courses require to succeed? Pointers?
In my experience online courses are significant time commitments (that is if you wish to succeed!), this is not too unlike the normal attendance of an on-campus class (yet perhaps even a little more). I have taken two online courses at USCB and both required significant time investments to succeed. It is essential to not only complete the assigned reading (or film watching) posted by the teacher but to also familiarize yourself as you go (whether this is a specific assignment or not). Familiarizing yourself is taken care of by:

  • remaining attentive to your assignments-- what you are reading or watching
  • taking a moment to do available exercises (whether this be offered within an assigned text or exercises provided by the instructor and again whether it be assigned or not: if it is helpful=utilize it!)
  • participating in the required discussions or writings for the course throughout the semester

If the teacher does not provide you with a weekly “to do” list --make one for yourself and follow it, that is of course to the best of your ability!!! A great way to create “to do” lists is studying your syllabus, noting what assignments, readings, projects, etc. lie ahead!

How will I know how to navigate the online course?

The online courses at USCB are formatted through Blackboard. Whether attending online courses or not, every student will utilize the online site of Blackboard. Each professor at USCB utilizes Blackboard in different ways. Typically most professors will use Blackboard to post some assignments, to post grades, to post announcements (in which sometimes you will also receive an email to your school address), and professors may also use blackboard to have students submit some assignments. There is no reason to fear Blackboard, we have an excellent support system and various tools and groups that can give you the low down on how to use, navigate, and function successfully on this site.

When you attend the Blackboard website it says write on the login screen: “If you need help with Blackboard you can call 803-777-1800 or email...” and people will be there to help! I’ve utilized this in the past!

Your familiarity with Blackboard will increase with your time as a student at USCB. When you attend an online class you may simply be using some of the available tabs or folders you have simply not yet utilized with other (offline & on campus) courses in the past. Many professors at USCB are also very helpful if you have confusions or inquiries about the online class format.

How do you study for online courses?
Online tests and exams can be fill in the black, written response, matching, or multiple choice, just like most on campus class tests can be. Designing your study habits for an online course will depend on the course, material, and you! I typically made flashcards because I am a flashcard junkie. However you may also be able to utilize your notes, previous assignments, readings, or your book during the testing unless the professor specifies this is not permitted. It is most normally against the rules to search the web for answers or ask / work together with others (everyone from fellow peers to your pet fish). It is important to honor this because a. it defeats the purpose of the educational experience to not, but b. it is not worth it in any measure of desperation, cheating is easy to detect and the reprimands are severely harsh: more harsh than would be failing the test.

As an online course student what do you wish you had done differently?
If I had done anything differently in my online course I would have read more efficiently-- many times with my online courses I was not only reading but underlining and highlighting (sometimes even taking a plethora of notes)--that became laborious, tiresome, and stressful (particularly when it was a chapter weekly from a textbook). Later in the course I would read through chapters or articles as if they were a story book: staying in tune with what was happening and not fretting over instilling every ounce to immediate understanding and memory, and not trying to dissect it or force it into my memory. Often times the reading that our teachers assign at USCB make this kind of reading easy with the interesting even humorous material they provide. I like to say our professors have excellent educational taste!

Who may benefit from online courses and what are the benefits to taking online courses?

  • It allows room for you to better create your own schedule weekly! (If you are taking 12 credits, and your classes fall weekly on a Tuesday and Thursday, you are not spending your entire day running around campus attending classes. For instance if you had these 4 classes back to back Tuesdays and Thursdays, and your first class stated at 8am your day might run 8am to 2pm, and if you had a break in that day your classes might run 8am to 4pm...)
  • If you are a “commuter” and do not live near the campus you may find benefit in taking all online courses or in taking a few online courses! Picking up a few online courses that may have fallen on a weekly Monday, Wednesday, Friday rotation as on-campus classes could prevent you from driving out to the campus everyday. If you are traveling an hour to campus you may find it worthwhile and advantageous to be attending school on campus two (picking Tuesday Thursday classes) to three (picking Monday, Wednesday, Friday classes) times weekly as opposed to five days weekly.
  • If you’re a parent or you work full time you may find online classes beneficial because your day hours are occupied with other highly important responsibilities!
  • Perhaps you simply learn better in a space more secluded than in a “live classroom” format. This is not to say you are not interacting with your teacher or other students. However if you are sensitive in an environment in which there are groups of people (perhaps this setting disables you to learn to the best of your ability due to medical issues or other personal preference / experience) you may find great convenience and success in the online (i.e. at home) setting.
  • Taking online courses familiarizes you with a format that is being utilized more and more everyday. Becoming acquainted with online usage and online communication prepares you for our world that so often runs through the web. Many professions utilize different computer programs and being exposed to Blackboard and other online formats is an experience you will reap benefits from!
  • Knowing you can take an online course gives you confidence for future endeavors online!

What would you do again if you were to take another online course?
FOR MYSELF I do not think I will take another online course, they always prove difficult to the format of how I feel my brain functions. It is stressful for myself remembering to continually check this type of forum for assignments etc. I much prefer having everything in a binder and interacting in person and occasionally (not several times throughout day every day) checking Blackboard. This being said the courses I did take online at USCB have been the best online course experiences I have ever had. The teachers make themselves available, and were always gracious and supportive.  I treasure the experience of having taken a course online because of what I learned working and functioning in that format.

What advice can you share? What suggestions and/or tips do you have for success in online courses?
Stay interested! Whatever the course, online or offline! Find ways to be and stay interested! When you read and learn something new share it with friends and family, coworkers or peers. You will fascinate them and practice what you have learned. I sometimes even read interesting sections in my assignments to my mom to blow her mind as much as mine was. Teaching others what you are learning is a way to better instill and understand what you are learning. Don't be afraid to go above and beyond when it comes to your education, to not do so when you know you can is selling yourself short! Yet this being said find a balance, make schedules of what you need to get done (don't wait to the last minute!)-- as to not let your stress consume you. Always find ways to say "okay this is manageable."

I hope you have found these insights helpful and that you may feel more confident in venturing into the web world to gain a different kind of educational experience! I hope for you great success and awesome adventure on your educational pursuits!!!

Yours Truly: Sand Shark Student "On-Site",

                                                                   Erin Dailey