Skills for Success

Photo: Learn Button on computer keyboard.

Online learning requires a certain level of technical proficiency, as well as the ability to self-direct your learning experience.

Technical skills you will need include the ability to navigate your virtual course space and use the internet through a browsing program. You will also need to understand how to use email, word processors, video chat programs, presentation software, and other similar technology as directed by your instructor.

Online students must be self-directed in order to succeed. Discipline, time management, and independent study skills are key. It’s important to be present in your course space, check email daily, plan assignments ahead of time, avoid procrastination, and maintain regular communication with your instructor and classmates.

Skills for Success

by Dr. Samantha Swindell, WSU Clinical Professor of Psychology

  1. Use the WSU Global Campus support team and other available resources. There are great people in WSU Global Campus who are there to help you. They will not think your questions are stupid; do not hesitate to use them as a resource. Also, take advantage of other resources available to you, such as the Technical Support page for technical problems and/or computer questions. If this is your first online course, access the online environment as soon as possible. This will give you some time to familiarize yourself with the online format and work through any technical problems.
  2. Make contact with your instructor. Take the time to introduce yourself to your instructor. You’ll be able to do this in the course space. A personal introduction will help distinguish you from a sea of faceless names. Sometimes students must make requests of instructors (e.g., extensions, requests for additional information) and instructors are inclined to be more receptive to students they know better than those they do not.
  3. Chart the course schedule on a calendar. This will help you see how the important dates for the course (e.g., assignment deadlines, examinations) correspond with other important dates and obligations in your life. It will also make those dates more salient to you so that you can plan accordingly.
  4. Avoid procrastinating and complete assignments on time. One of the advantages of online courses is the “collaborative environment” that they provide. Students who complete and post their answers online early have the best chance of getting corrective feedback, both from the instructor and from their classmates. Postings made close to the deadline leave very little opportunity for feedback and improvement.
  5. Take advantage of the collaborative environment to interact with your classmates. This has several advantages. First, exposure to the material increases retention, so the more you think about the course material, the better you will learn it and remember it. Second, your classmates can offer additional perspectives and suggestions that you may have never considered.
  6. Read assignments before completing assigned readings. If you read the assignments before completing the selected readings, you can have the requirements for the assignment in mind while you are processing the information.
  7. Print the assignments. Some students find it difficult to read assignments online and remember all of the requirements of the assignment, particularly if they cannot view the entire assignment on the screen at one time. Printing the assignment enables you to highlight the specific requirements and helps ensure that you will address all of those specifics in your response.
  8. Determine if evaluation criteria apply, and use those guidelines when completing assignments. Some instructors provide evaluation criteria (e.g., learning rubrics) for assignments. These may distinguish “strong” post responses/answers from “weak” post responses/answers and give you some idea of the information instructors are looking for when they are evaluating the assignments.
  9. Write your posts offline. Writing posts as “Word” documents outside the online environment allows you to use support features like spell check to fix writing errors that weaken the quality of your work and may lower your grade. You can then copy and paste the “Word” text into the response window to post online.
  10. When studying, rephrase material in your own words and apply to personal examples. Learning can be demonstrated by one’s ability to correctly apply the information. When studying, do not simply try to memorize the course material. Instead, try to think about how you could apply this information to novel situations, express it in other ways or use it to explain aspects of “real life.” This process makes you process the material, rehearse it, and associate it with other information already in memory. This should aid retention and recall.

Time management is a skill everyone needs. As a college student, time management is essential for your success. Unlike high school where teachers frequently structured your assignments and your day was full of classes, in college you will have less in-class time, more outside of class work, and a great deal of freedom and flexibility.

These tips provide you with strategies for managing your time well so you can get the most out of your WSU experience. In order to begin managing your time effectively, you must set out some clear goals and create a personalized and flexible schedule.

Create a daily plan:
Plan your day in the morning or the evening before. The plan gives you a good overview of how your day will go so you won’t be caught off guard.

Give a time limit to each task:
Be clear that you need to finish certain tasks by a specific time. This prevents your work from eating into your time reserved for other activities.

Use a calendar:
Using a mobile calendar gives you access to your schedule no matter where you are.

Be early:
When you aim to be on time, you’ll either be on time or late. If you aim to be early, you’ll most likely be on time or have some time to spare. Always strive to be early to appointments or for deadlines.

Eliminate time wasters:
Facebook, Twitter and email checking takes time away from your work. Check in less often to be more productive during work time.

Leave some buffer time:
Don’t pack everything so close together. Leave a 5-10 minute break in between each task.

Plan rewards:
Reward yourself after something has been achieved or as a well-earned break from a task. The more you reward yourself for small achievements, the less you will feel like you are missing out or being deprived and you will procrastinate less.

More Tips for Time Management

  • Find something to enjoy in whatever you do. Even if it isn’t “fun”—think about how it contributes to your goals.
  • Remind yourself: “There is always enough time for the important things.” If it is important, you should be able to make time to do it.
  • Examine your old, time-wasting habits and search for ways to change or eliminate them.
  • Keep paper or a calendar with you to jot down the things you have to do or notes to yourself.
  • Look ahead in your month and try to anticipate what is going to happen so you can better schedule your time.
  • Try rewarding yourself when you get things done as you had planned, especially the important ones.
  • When you catch yourself procrastinating—ask yourself, “What am I avoiding?”
  • Start with the most difficult parts of projects.
  • Concentrate on one thing at a time.
  • Think on paper when possible—it makes it easier to review and revise.
  • Be sure and set deadlines for yourself whenever possible.
  • Delegate responsibilities whenever possible.
  • Ask for advice when needed.
  • Review Pro Tips for Time Management at the Global Campus Video Vault.

Online Collaboration

The essence of education is exposure to diverse viewpoints. In your threaded discussion posts you’ll meet students with vastly different opinions and backgrounds. You’re encouraged to disagree with the substance of others’ ideas and opinions, but do so with respect, and without losing focus on the topic at hand. Personal attacks and inflammatory statements do not have a place in academic discourse. Please review these tips and academic regulations.

At Washington State University, netiquette is governed by both conduct rules and common sense guidelines:

Conduct Rules

Your instructors will promote high-quality academic discussions by removing posts they view as disruptive of the educational process and alerting students whose posts have been removed that they have violated course expectations. Students who continue to misuse the discussion boards after a warning may be subject to removal of access rights, course failure, and referral to the Office of Student Conduct.

Postings must comply with university policy on use of computing resources, including those regarding harassment and discrimination, as well as conform to the Standards of Conduct for Students. Students are encouraged to review the standards, particularly WAC 504-26-218, 504-26-220, and 504-26-222.

Netiquette Guidelines

  • Be polished and professional. Write your post in a word-processing program, such as Word. Reread your post for spelling, grammar, tone, clarity, and relevance. After using spell check, cut and paste into your group discussion.
  • Treat others with respect. Encourage conversations by asking questions and explaining your position: “I didn’t understand what you meant by this. Can you explain it more clearly?” “I found your argument unconvincing because…”
  • First, be nice. Before you raise a concern with someone else’s idea or work, first point out something positive: “That’s a good point, but …”
  • Discuss issues or concerns, not individuals or personalities.
  • Be specific. Responding to individuals by name, commenting on specific ideas and approaches, and providing specific suggestions encourage learning.
  • Set clear deadlines that allow time for editing, questioning, and revising. If someone cannot meet the deadline, discuss how the group would like to manage the situation.
  • Use humor cautiously. Someone else may interpret what is funny to you as disrespectful or negative. Sarcasm and irony often fail to be humorous online.
  • Avoid using jargon and acronyms. If someone uses terms you don’t understand, ask for clarification. If you don’t understand the terms, others may not.
  • Avoid judgmental responses such as, “That doesn’t make any sense.” Try phrasing it as a question: “How do you reconcile that with what we read in Chapter 2?”
  • Be tactful. Read your communications carefully, and try to imagine how they could be interpreted by other people. Be more tactful than you would be in person
  • Encourage others. Your role is not only to learn, but also to help others learn.
  • Be open to being wrong. Remember that you may be wrong, and there’s no shame in that. Nobody is right all the time, and everyone is here to learn.

Online Harassment

The definition of harassment includes a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person that seriously alarms, annoys, harasses, or is detrimental to such person, and which serves no legitimate or lawful purpose.

For more information, please visit the WSU cyber harrassment webpage.