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Distance Education 101

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What is Distance Education?

East Carolina University offers online distance education degree programs that allow students to access their coursework 24 hours a day, seven days a week via the Internet. At ECU, online courses are taught by the same faculty as our campus classes and the readings, assignments and exams mirror the on- campus section. These programs include structured, well-designed courses and special instructional techniques to help you succeed as an online student.

The course outline and schedule of assignments that an on-campus student would normally get the first day of class are located in an online website devoted to the course during the first few days of the semester.

Students and instructors can communicate in text-based discussion forums where students can "talk" with each other about the coursework and respond to various topics posted by the instructor. Some courses include real-time chat sessions where students interact with their instructor and classmates online at a scheduled time.

Assignments and homework are submitted online electronically via email or the class website, usually on a weekly basis. Many instructors give their tests online.  Students will have a particular "window of opportunity" to login and take tests. Some instructors may require students to secure a proctor to administer tests.

Most courses are taught using a course management system such as Blackboard or SabaMeeting and are posted in a user friendly format.  These course management systems typically have tabs or folders in which instructors can post course information, course materials and assignments for students to access easily.

Tips for ONLINE Success

Investigate the course delivery systems before the class begins. Navigate the class website and familiarize yourself with the help file, links and various buttons.

Don't Procrastinate
Since you don't have to physically go to class, it's tempting to put off studying until later. This may be the most deadly sin for Internet delivered coursework. Staying current with assignments, readings, projects, etc. is crucial. Falling behind leads to troubles compounding exponentially. Don't wait until the last minute to do your work- when you are rushed and trying to do a lot of things at once on the computer it will most likely lock up on you.

Be Assertive
Speak up; take the initiative, when you are having problems. Ask for help and clarification. Don't wait. Pay attention to detail. Carefully read all information and material provided. As you know, to err is human, but to make really big mistakes it takes a computer. Computers are fast, but not smart. They can't interpret what you meant to say. They can only process what they have been given. Accuracy is important.

Buy Textbooks and Other Required Materials
Reading the textbook and other assigned materials, doing the homework and projects, and "attending" class all lead to better performance and higher achievement. Some material will be provided on-line, other material must be ordered. Be sure to find out what material is needed and how to get it. Do this immediately, because it may take some time for the material to get to you.

Study in a Good Workspace
Select an area that will be free from distractions and interruptions. The distractions of the kitchen and other living spaces are not conducive to good study habits and performance. Try to find a time when family obligations and interruptions will be minimized. It is better if you can have a space where you can leave your materials out and not have to put everything away.

Be Self-directed and Self-motivated
Distance learning students need to be self-directed and self-motivated in their approach to learning. The learner has to assume a greater share of the responsibility for learning that takes place in an online environment. Professors assume the role of facilitator and guide for exploration of a subject and not the dispenser of the information.

Cultivate Good Writing Skills
In the Virtual classroom, nearly all communication is written so it is critical that students have the ability to express themselves effectively in writing. How you communicate your ideas is the most crucial element of success in Internet courses. This is the main source of information available to the instructor. There are no non-verbal cues to send or to receive; there are no voice tones or inflections to interpret. In many instances, the instructor knows you only through your written words.

Manage Distractions
It is very easy to get distracted by the "neat" and "fun" sites and to find yourself wandering through cyberspace instead of getting your assignments finished. There are fewer external cues or prompts to return you to the task at hand like in a regular classroom setting. You will be required to preview, study, and review course material without the direct supervision of the professor or the stimulation of classroom interaction

ONLINE Course Etiquette

Share tips, helps, and questions
The best way to get help is to give help. Get over it - no question is too dumb to ask. Someone else probably has the same question. One great advantage of the virtual classroom is the anonymity afforded. No one can give you a dirty look for asking a dumb question or at least it makes no difference if they do, because you can't see them doing it.

Think before pressing send button
Have you written anything you will regret tomorrow? It is best not to respond in haste or in a moment of passion or frustration.

Explain ideas carefully
Remember, what you write is all that people will have to form an understanding of your position. The better your explanations the fewer clarifications and/or amplifications will be necessary.

Refrain from inappropriate comments
Keep comments and discussions positive. Be careful when making personal comments.

Respect ethical standards
Academic honesty and integrity apply to Internet courses too.

Recommended Computer Skills and Requirements

Proficient with an Internet browser and search engines
Some courses will require more extensive web searching than others. All courses will require continued use of an Internet Browser. Many courses will require proficiency at conducting on-line searches using search engines and directories. This is a minimal skill for participating in an Internet course.

Able to install software
Many courses will involve downloading software and/or installing course-specific software.

Able to send and receive e-mail
In addition to being able to send and receive e-mail messages, skill in attaching files and objects (pictures and graphics) is essential to success in an Internet course.

Able to create, save, and manage files
These are basic computer skills that will be useful in nearly every Internet course.

Proficient in Word Processing
Basic proficiency in word processing is fundamental to success in an Internet course. Students must be able to create, edit, save, and retrieve documents; plus cutting and pasting to and from e-mail.

If you do not possess the skills mentioned above, you will have some technology to learn in addition to the curriculum of the courses you take and should make extra time in your schedule accordingly

Recommendations for a computer that will best serve your academic needs can be found on the Pirate Techs student computer support center website, Click "Student Computer Requirements and Recommendations".

Is Online Learning Right for Me?

Online learning is a great choice for many people, particularly those with full-time employment and family obligations.  If you are interested in earning an East Carolina University degree or certificate, but commuting to campus is not an option or if traditional college classes do not fit into your busy schedule, then online learning might be right for you!

Succeeding as an Online Student

A successful online student taking Internet courses learns to...

  • Be comfortable using technology, computers and navigating the Internet.
  • Manage time well.
  • Be self-disciplined and avoid procrastinating.
  • Invest 9-12 hours each week on each course.
  • Be very organized.
  • Enjoy working independently.
  • Follow written instructions carefully.
  • Actively participate, share ideas and ask questions in online discussions.
  • Be flexible and open-minded about the online experience.

Online courses offer a large degree of convenience and flexibility, but it’s important to note that these courses require the same level of commitment and effort as attending a class on campus.

If you have questions or concerns, feel free to contact us,

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