The First Week

The first week of an online class is usually designed to help you get to know the course, the instructor and students, as well as learn how to navigate the online learning environment. There are a few things that you should pay special attention to during the first week.

Study the Syllabus Carefully
This is especially important for online learners. In a traditional face-to-face class, the instructor will usually spend some time explaining the syllabus and course agenda to the whole class and answer any questions that come up; however, an online course doesn't operate in the same way. The syllabus, therefore, is the most important source of information for you, including the learning content covered in the course, grading methods, assignments, and participation requirements. Read the syllabus carefully and take note of specific deadlines and assignments. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to email your instructor or post questions to the Discussion Forum.

Get to Know Your Instructor and Your Classmates
The instructor will usually post a brief introduction about him or herself on the course site, and may provide the URL to their personal website. Take this as an opportunity to learn about your instructor's expertise. The instructor may also ask every student to post a self-introduction on the Discussion Forum. This assignment will allow people to get to know each other and to foster a sense of community.

Get Familiar with the Blackboard System

You are going to use it for the rest of the semester, so give yourself some time to get used to the features of Blackboard. Click and explore the course navigation, online Discussion Forums, learning units, and so on. The sooner you familiarize yourself with the system, the sooner you can focus on the course content. You can find more detailed documentation on how to use Blackboard here.

Allocate Regular Time to Study and Create a Schedule
One of the advantages of online courses is that the course materials can be done at any time of the day that you choose, but this can lead to procrastination. You will want to allocate time to get your course work done so that you don't fall behind. Any course work that involves collaboration with other classmates will need to be done in advance of any weekly deadlines to allow time for revision and feedback.