Expectations for participating in online courses

This section outlines our general expectations for you as a student in our graduate program. If you anticipate any problems in meeting these expectations or should you require assistance or special accommodations in order for you to meet the expectations, please contact your cohort team leader or advisor. Specific expectations for you within each class will be explained to you by your instructors at the start of each course.

Task: After reading the expectations in this section, you will be asked to take an online eLearners survey that will provide you will feedback about your readiness for online learning. You should use this feedback to help you prepare to be an online student. As part of this task you are also asked to complete a reflection exercise and submit it as a journal entry within Moodle. We will use your responses to the exercise to help support you as you go through the program. Please be sure to complete this task before your face-to-face class meeting.

  1. Time commitment: Taking courses online (fully or partially) enables you to attend graduate school while continuing to work and fulfill the other responsibilities in your life. In order for you to be successful in your studies it is essential that you plan your schedule to include 2-3 hours per week of school work for every credit in which you are enrolled. This means that if you are taking 6 credits a semester, you should set aside (and build into your schedule) 12 - 18 hours per week for your studies. In most classes you will be expected to be online and participating in online discussions at least every 2-3 days. While the times of day and specific days of the week in which you do this work are flexible (meaning you can do your work in the middle of the night if this is best for you!), in order for you to be successful in your classes and to fulfill your responsibilities as a member of your class learning community, you must participate actively and regularly in online discussions. This means setting aside aside specific time in your schedule every few days, each week.

  2. Technology skills: These are the basic ones that you will need to participate in the online components of your classes. In addition to these, you will also learn more advanced skills through the different courses that you will take during your program.
  3. Interpersonal skills for participating as a member of an online learning community: A key component of your graduate coursework will be participating in online discussions with classmates and instructors using a variety of different online communication tools. During the initial face-to-face class meetings as well as in subsequent classes you will be introduced to these tools and to the "netiquette" (appropriate ways of communicating online) of being an online student.

What you can expect of your instructors & of UMD

  1. Clear communication of expectations from instructors: Expect that instructors will convey their expectations at the start of the course, and that these will be different depending on the class and on the instructor.

  2. Availability of instructors: The availability and responsiveness of instructors to online communication varies, depending on a number of factors such as the instructors' other teaching, research, service and advising schedules; the type and speed of technology access that instructors have when they are off campus; the nature of the course. Some instructors will respond to you at all times of the day and night, 24-7; some will reply within 24 hours, others will take 48 hours, or may not be available to respond to you over weekend; some instructors are teach 12 months of the year while others do not work over the summer. However, what you can expect is that each instructor will (a) respond to you in a timely fashion and (b) make clear to you, at the start of the course or when they begin working with you as your advisor, when and how often you can typically expect a response from them.

    Note: Required courses and final project course registration typically are offered during the school year, when faculty are on contract and available to work closely with you. Electives are more typically taught over the summer, and faculty are paid an additional stipend for this work. Although you will find that our instructors are frequently willing and available to work with you over breaks and the summer, many have other commitments during those times. In the case of advising, although we may not always be able to accommodate you, if you wish to do most of your work on your final project over the summer, you should request an advisor who is available to work with you over the summer.

  3. Availability of administrative and support staff: Our administrative and support staff work on 12-month contracts and, with the exception of their personal vacation days, are available during the work week to provide assistance and support.

    In the case of technology support, UMD ITSS does offer a Help Desk that is staffed outside of the 8-5 work day hours (but not around the clock). These hours vary depending on the time of year. ITSS often have staff monitoring their systems and Help Desk voicemail during off hours (see the Help Desk website for details).

  4. Variety of beliefs about and approaches to teaching and technology: In addition to offering a range of areas of expertise and experience, our instructors each have their own beliefs about and approaches to teaching. Although all of our graduate courses use Moodle as the "entry point" into the class, you will find a wide variety in the extent to which instructors use the different tools within Moodle and other UMD technology resources outside of the Moodle course management system. We consider this a strength of our program and of our faculty. Technology is not the point -- learning is, and thus which technologies are used and how they are used will vary depending on the context. Just as for face-to-face classes, where there is a wide range in the methods of instruction used, so too is this the case in the online courses or components of courses in your program. The methods that instructors use will depend on a variety of factors, such as the nature of the courses and course objectives; the background, skills, abilities and interests of the students in the class and of the instructor teaching the class; and the teaching philosophy of the instructor. There isn't one "right" way to teach, and what may work effectively for one instructor may not work as well for another.

  5. The value of varied approaches: Although you will find that some approaches work better for you and fit your own preferences more than others, you will benefit a great deal as a result of experiencing learning from the range of approaches and philosophical perspectives of different faculty. Even when you struggle with using some of the tools and learning through some of the instructional methods, make the most of your struggles as they help you understand how you might help your students/clients/coworkers when they experience similar struggles. Our programs are grounded in critical pedagogy and reflection, so the process of learning is as important as the products and in fact the two are inextricably connected.

Task: What does it take to be a successful online student?

eLearners has devised a survey to help you identify your readiness for online learning. Your task is to take this survey and respond to reflection questions within Moodle (you will need to login to Moodle to do this). After to take this online survey you will receive immediate feedback from eLearners with suggestions that can help you be successful in an online learning program. We ask that you complete this survey as it is a very useful guide in helping you understand the demands of an online program or of the online elements of a program. It will also help us in providing you with support to strengthen the areas in which you are not as strong.

Steps to this assignment:

  1. Take survey: Go to the eLearners Advisor. Once there, click on the button "Start the advisor" and complete the survey. This should take you about 10 minutes.

  2. Review short results: As soon as you complete the survey, a window will open showing you a short summary of your results, consisting of a rating in four areas, namely: Technology Access, Personal Factors, Technical Skills, and Learning Style, along with an overall e-learning compatibility factor. Print this screen or save a copy of it.

  3. Request full results: Next, click on the button to request the full results. You will need to enter your UMD email address to receive these. Once you have entered this, click on the button to have your results emailed to you. You should receive an email with a link to your results within 24 hours or less. Note: We have been finding that for a number of students, the eLearners email notifying you of your results has been "caught" by students' spam/junk mail filters. If you do not receive the email, and know how to check your spam/junk mail box, please do so to see if the email is there. Print the results page (or save it in some other way, such as copying and pasting into a text file, or doing a screen shot).

  4. Write a reflection on your results: Once you have reviewed your survey results, write a short reaction paper (in word processing program such as M.S. Word). If you are not able to access the full results, you can still reflect on your results using the short summary results that you were shown as soon as you completed the survey.
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