Online courses at TSU are offered primarily as asynchronous (any time), Web-based instruction. While anytime, anywhere learning increases the accessibility of TSU courses, students should reflect carefully on whether online courses match their learning style and expectations for study. In particular, students should self-assess their level of readiness to learn in an online environment. Online courses are geared for the mature, self-motivated learner. They are not easier or less time-consuming than face-to-face (F2F) courses; many students feel that online courses initially require additional effort to adapt to new modes of course delivery and new ways of interacting with the instructor and fellow students.
Online courses are designed as active and collaborative (including peer-to-peer) learning environments. The instructor will provide his or her expertise through lectures, readings, activities, and discussions with students, serving as a facilitator, and encouraging students to explore and interact with fellow learners to reach new levels of understanding and knowledge. Some instructors may even schedule optional synchronous (a.k.a., real time) meetings to aid students.
Successful peer interactive learning requires regular attendance and participation; students enrolled in online courses are expected to log into the course website frequently (at least four or five times per week). Although asynchronous courses allow for flexibility in how students schedule their class work, activities and assignments often follow a rigorous schedule with firm deadlines. Typically, students will log into their course at the beginning of each week to receive instructions about what learning activities to complete; these activities are often bundled as a “learning module.” Over the course of each week, they will be required to complete various activities (e.g., quizzes, exercises, short papers) and participate in online discussions by the dates the instructor has established in the syllabus and weekly learning modules. Students may also work on term projects over the course of the term in addition to weekly assignments.
Throughout the semester, online classroom participation through Web tools such as discussion boards, weblogs, and wikis is expected on a regular basis and often represents a significant portion of the final grade for the course (30 percent or higher in many cases). Students should examine the syllabus closely to determine requirements for the course and weighting of each assignment.
COURSE COMPLETION GUIDES
Confirm technical requirements and Workspace: Online classes can benefit students with busy schedules, but only if they can access the materials. Make sure you will have access to a good working computer with appropriate productivity software suites, reliable internet connection, and an ideal location to take tests and participate in online web conferences as needed.
Connect with instructors early: Send your instructor a note, an email, introducing yourself and what you hope to get out of the class. Share your thoughts and course needs as the semester progresses. Instructors love to hear from students, however, keep the communication chatter free.
Create a schedule: Familiarize yourself with the full semester schedule and contact your instructor early to see if accommodations can be made if you sense a conflict might occur during the semester. Otherwise, stay on schedule.
Stay organized: Students enrolled in traditional courses usually have a consistent schedule to follow each week, with in-class instruction followed by out-of-class assignments. Find ways to stay on top of your coursework by utilizing tools such as electronic calendars, digital reminders, and other mobile electronic resources that can alert you to pending deadlines.
Know your rights: Students taking online classes have very similar rights as on campus students. You may contact the university for all auxillary services from student accounting, athletics, library, financial aid, etc as the need arises. Consult your student handbook for more information.
Documenting attendance when students are enrolled in distance education courses
In a distance education context, documenting that a student has logged into an online class is not sufficient, by itself, to demonstrate academic attendance by the student. A school must demonstrate that a student participated in class or was otherwise engaged in an academically related activity, such as by contributing to an online discussion or initiating contact with a faculty member to ask a course-related question. Examples of acceptable evidence of academic attendance and attendance at an academically-related activity in a distance education program include:
- student submission of an academic assignment
- student submission of an exam
- documented student participation in an interactive tutorial or computer-assisted instruction
- a posting by the student showing the student’s participation in an online study group that is assigned by the institution
- a posting by the student in a discussion forum showing the student’s participation in an online discussion about academic matters
- an e-mail from the student or other documentation showing that the student initiated contact with a faculty member to ask a question about the academic subject studied in the course
“Title 5, section 55200. Definition and Application. Distance education means instruction in which the instructor and student are separated by distance and interact through the assistance of communication technology. All distance education is subject to the general requirements of this chapter as well as the specific requirements of this article. In addition, instruction provided as distance education is subject to the requirements that may be imposed by the American with Disabilities Act (42 U.S.C. §12100 et seq.) and section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.”
Title 5 is clear that online classes must fulfill the requirements of the Americans with Disability Act and section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (often abbreviated as “ADA” and “508”). These requirements deal with things such as media, format, alternate descriptions, color, tables, html code, and image maps.