Top 10 Ways to Make the Most of Your Online Class

girllaptopOnline training appears to be all the rage. After all, it’s a great way to develop the skills you need to master the latest technology, improve your business acumen, prepare for a certification exam, or do whatever it takes to stay awesome at your job—all without having to leave your desk. As an instructor in classrooms and online classrooms for well over a decade, I’ve accumulated some tips to help you make the most of your online training. In fact, I have 10 of them, and just for fun, I’ll count them down Letterman-style.

10. Test your system ahead of time.
When you get the pre-class email that advises you to test your system before the first day of class, take the advice and click the test link. Taking those few minutes to make sure that your laptop has the latest plugins for your training software will save valuable time and stress on the first day of class.

9. Consider how you will communicate with the instructor during class.
You can either use your computer’s audio system or access a conference bridge. If you choose to use your computer’s audio system, having a headset is optimal.

8. Make sure your company does not block Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP).
Some company firewalls block RDP, and if yours does, it might be impossible for you to complete the remote labs associated with your class. Check with your IT department to see if they allow it, and give them plenty of time to either allow you to use RDP or let you know that you cannot. If the IT department cannot allow RDP, you can speak to your employer about working from home during the week of class so that you can complete your labs.

7. Set up your own classroom environment.
If you are attending class from work, let your coworkers know that you are training and will be unavailable during the day. Change your voice mail to indicate that you will be in training for the week and available on a limited basis, and set up your email to automatically reply to all emails that you are in class for the week.

If you are taking the class from home, set up a separate work space away from your normal household traffic. If you have an office, that would be ideal. If not, be creative. Figure out where you will be interrupted the least and set up your classroom there.

6. Don’t be on time for class. Be early.
You should log in thirty minutes ahead of time. That way, if you have any difficulty logging in, you’ll have time to resolve the problem before class begins.

5. If you know that you will miss part of the class, inform the instructor ahead of time.
That way he or she can tell you what topics you will likely miss. You can then plan to review the missed sections on your own. Generally, the instructor will be happy to address any questions you may have about the material.

4. Use the step away icon.
If you have to step away from the class for an unplanned interruption, use the step away icon. In addition, if you’re going to be gone for more than 10 or 15 minutes, type a quick note to the instructor via the chat box to let him or her know when you will return. This is important to the instructor for a couple of reasons:

  • If the instructor asks a question, he or she will not expect a reply from you.
  • Some labs require a lab partner to be present. If you are not present when a lab begins, your instructor can determine the best way to handle the situation.

3. Stay focused.
There are many distractions available to you on the Internet. Avoid the temptation to let your attention wander when the instructor is covering a topic that you are familiar with. Remember, one of the benefits of attending a class is that students can share information about a topic that they’re familiar with. Don’t miss the opportunity!

2. Participate.
Unlike in a face-to-face class, the online training instructor cannot see your body language. That means that if the instructor has not addressed a topic you’d like addressed, ask about it. The instructor cannot see by the look on your face that you don’t understand. You need to be proactive and ask your question(s). In an online class, the responsibility for understanding lies more on you than if you were in a face-to-face class.

And the number one way to get most out of your online class:

1. Understand that an online class takes as much commitment and time as a face-to-face class.
Plan to put the same time aside that you would for a face-to-face class. That way, you will be able to get the most out of your class, so you can and will enjoy it!

About the Author
Carol Kavalla, CCSI, CCCNP, CCDP, BS, has been a Cisco instructor for more than thirteen years and has a small consulting firm out of Charleston, SC. In 2012 and 2013, she earned a Top Quality Instructor award from Cisco.

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  1. nick Reply

    Does GK send this (or something similar) to all students? It would be very useful for a “nubey” to online classes.