Get Comfortable with Your Online Learning Environment
How much time should you devote to your studies? One of the advantages of online learning is the opportunity to study at your own pace. Still, earning a degree from UMUC isn't easy, and it will require a commitment of your time and energy.
You know your own schedule and study habits better than anyone, but as a general rule, expect to spend approximately nine–12 hours of study time per week per 3-credit course.
While participating in online discussions are an important part of your grade, don't lose site of other graded activities (defined in the syllabus), and balance your time across all graded activities.
Be sure to review your classroom news each time you log in for instructor guidance on how to spend your time.
Interacting in the Online Classroom
UMUC strives to create a diverse and vibrant community of learners guided by principles that encourage the development and growth of a supportive and respectful academic environment.
You should be familiar with the expectations of online etiquette and civility, acceptable use of computing resources, and the use of social media.
Access these resources for information:
- Primer on online etiquette – Five rules of respectful online communication
- Acceptable use – Guidelines for proper use of university computing resources and Google services
- Code of Conduct – The Dos and Don'ts of acceptable student behavior
- Code of Civility – Guidelines for promoting a positive, collegial atmosphere
- Social Media Policy – Policies and guidelines for participation in social media
Five Rules of Respectful Online Communication
- Respect the confidentiality of what is shared in class in order to facilitate communication and learning in this environment, as well as to respect privacy. Do not reveal or discuss any personal information from or about others (such as employer, comments about organization or persons, views of policies, etc.).
- Keep in mind that confidentiality in the classroom cannot be guaranteed. Do not write anything that would be embarrassing if it were made public, and never disclose trade secrets or confidential information in class.
- Give citations for quoted materials or others' ideas, as in all writing for class.
- Be cautious about expressing emotion, whether intentional or unintentional. For example, when using bold or all capital letters, using words or phrases that can stereotype people, or responding to ideas about which you feel strongly.
- Be sure to reread messages before sending, think about their potential impact, and edit as necessary.
Communicating with Faculty
UMUC faculty are committed to facilitating your academic achievement and are available to field your questions and concerns and respond in a timely fashion.
Your instructor will be checking in to the classroom multiple times per week, so expect a 48-hour response time. If you have not received a response to your inquiry after two business days, reach out to him or her again.
When you first review your syllabus, note the guidelines from your faculty member on how and when to contact them and what their expected response time is. If that information is not there, be sure to ask. Use the LEO communication tools to connect with your instructor and classmates.
Being an Active Learner
How active are you in your own education? Your academic success will depend on being engaged in and responsible for every facet of your learning experience. Evaluate your own participation and readiness against these critical success factors.
It's important to take advantage of your faculty member's active and motivating presence, outreach to students, and facilitation of exchanges with students. As an active learner, you
- Respond to questions and comments from your faculty member.
- Ask for clarification when you do not understand or need more information.
- Participate regularly and fully in class discussion.
- Try to apply your instructor's suggestions in your later work.
- Ask for help when you need it.
Take the opportunity to deepen your own learning by engaging with other students. As an active learner, you
- Share your own viewpoints, knowledge and experience appropriately with the class.
- Participate in groups, teams, peer review, or other class presentations or discussions.
- Carry your weight in group work, contributing to the team and helping to determine the ground rules for collaboration.
- Respect and respond to the viewpoints of other class members and use them to refine your own thinking.
- Offer constructive comments to other students.
- Ask for explanation or criteria when group assignments are not clear.
- Reflect on the learning activity, the group dynamic, and the way the exchange of views changed your work in the class.
Learn through application, summary and reflection, and connection to real-world experience. As an active learner, you
- Present and discuss your work and ideas with the class.
- Relate outside events or activities and your own experience to the subjects covered in the course.
- Support your point of view with appropriate evidence, logic, and explanation.
- Respectfully challenge ideas, including the ideas of other students and those presented in readings or other course materials, and offer evidence for alternative points of view.
- Seek concrete, real-life situations to help you understand the theory and principles studied.
Consider and use feedback and ask for help. As an active learner, you
- Read and consider the feedback you receive on your work, and ask questions when it is not clear.
- Request feedback and constructive criticism.
- Read the course syllabus, project descriptions, and other materials carefully and make sure you are aware of deadlines, requirements, and criteria for success.
- Let your instructor know and ask for advice if you are struggling with the materials or having problems managing your time.
- Use assignment feedback and seek or ask for referrals to student success services where needed (e.g., Effective Writing Center, tutoring services).
Your ability to manage your time and focus on your learning goals is essential to your success. As an active learner, you
- Manage your time well, leave enough time for assignments, and do not overload yourself.
- Take into account the demands of work, family, and coursework in your planning.
- Deliberately practice what you have learned in class.
- Use schedules to stay on target.
- Set aside study time with specific goals.
- Break your tasks into manageable chunks so you can keep progressing.
- Prepare in advance for class discussions and presentations.
- Know the class syllabus, including deadlines, policies on submission and late work, and the consequences of non-attendance and non-participation.
- Set challenging goals for your own learning.
The extent to which you accept your responsibilities as a learner and strive to meet high standards will determine your academic outcomes. As an active learner, you
- Review and understand the criteria for grading in the course and the relationship of grades to course outcomes.
- Understand that grades are based on your performance in relation to course goals, not just time spent on the project.
- Understand and conform to UMUC policies on academic integrity.
- Seek concrete suggestions for improving your performance.
- Accept your role as a partner in learning, work hard in class and set challenging goals for your own learning.
- Look for examples of excellent performance and work that exceeds expectations.
- Ask for help and advice to reach higher levels of performance.
By respecting the wide diversity of culture, ethnicity, academic backgrounds, and individual needs at UMUC, as well as learning styles, you will succeed as a student and grow as an individual. As an active learner, you
- Speak up when you do not understand.
- Recognize that your fellow students come from a broad range of academic, cultural, and vocational backgrounds.
- Relate readings and activities to your background and experience, and ask for clarification of references you do not recognize.
- Attempt to apply your discussion and examples to a variety of contexts and situations, including women, minorities, and globally and culturally diverse populations.
- Respect your fellow students, follow UMUC's code of conduct, and engage in civil discussion even on the most sensitive topics.
Tips for Communication
- Don't be afraid to seek clarification.
- Use proper grammar and sentence structure in all your communications, including responses to other students, advisors, and faculty.
- Reply to your classmates' posts in thoughtful ways, and ask questions to promote further discussion. Participation requirements can vary by instructor, so it's important to review them in your syllabus. There's no hiding in the back row in an online class.
- Keep in contact with your instructor and classmates. Military students, notify your instructor immediately if you will not have access to class during TDY. Be sure to inform your instructor of the length of time you won’t have access.
Build networks as you take classes, developing relationships not only with classmates and faculty, but also with staff, alumni, and other professionals.
- Try to meet and keep in touch with two classmates in each class.
- Maintain contact information for your faculty members, and stay in touch with them.
- Link up with UMUC alumni.
- Seek out professionals who are working in your chosen field. Consider asking one to be a mentor or to meet with you occasionally.
- Take advantage of UMUC's support resources and tools (advising, career services, tutoring, and mentoring).
- Learn about UMUC clubs and professional organizations, and join those that interest you.