A few tips to make your online classes go a little more smoothly

Thanks to COVID-19, we may or may not be headed toward a time when much of our classroom activity is done online. President Donald Trump wants schools reopened, and many Republican governors are parroting Trump’s insistence that classes be held in a classroom.

Trump says online classes are “terrible,” but the truth is, they can be effective. I know, because I’ve taught university classes online for years. They’re different than face-to-face classes, for sure, but teachers can still teach and students can still learn.

I don’t think we’ll know for sure for a while exactly how pervasive online classrooms will be come late August or early September, but when we do, here are a few tips about working in an online classroom:

— Don’t be afraid to learn how to use this stuff. If an old goat like me can master it and run class that way, you can learn to use it as a student. It really isn’t that hard.

— Technology isn’t something you’re born knowing how to use. It takes training. Be sure your instructor has a practice session or two so that you can learn how to operate your platform, leaving you time in class to actually think. That’s why you’re there!

— Platforms — at least all the good ones I’ve used — often provide their own tutorials. Use yours, and if you can’t find it, ask the instructor. Navigate the platform using the tutorial. Don’t worry — you can’t hurt anything, and now is the time to lose stuff, instead of losing it later, when it counts.

— Once your class opens, check in at least once a day for new announcements. You don’t want to miss anything, and if you’re a college student, you won’t even have your parents to hound you.

— READ THE ANNOUNCEMENTS!!! It’s unbelievable to me how many university students simply don’t do this. Then: “Oh, I didn’t know…” Teachers (most of them, anyway) have enough to do without making USELESS announcements. When we make them, we think they are important. Even if YOU don’t, you’ll get some insight into what the teacher thinks is valuable.

— Once your “live” class starts, be on time. In fact, be a little early in case something’s not working.

— If your instructor asks you to mute your sound, please do. I’ve had the unpleasant experience of forgetting, and mildly embarrassed myself talking to my wife while I was waiting for class to open. Nothing major hurt, but still… 🙂

— If you have trouble getting regular, strong Internet access, try to find another place where it’s stronger. Be sure to let the instructor know if you’re having problems. Most of us occasionally do, too. Most of us will cut you some slack if you have trouble.

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