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Athabasca University

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Skills and Knowledge for Online Learning

New computer users can and do succeed in our online introductory Computer Science courses (COMP 200 and 210), but to do so they must have, or quickly acquire, certain knowledge and skills when beginning these courses.

Students will be required, very early in these courses to be able to:

  • establish and maintain a smoothly functioning and secure working platform on a personal computer, including adequate backup procedures and virus protection

  • work with an Internet Service Provider to establish and maintain a reliable Internet connection

  • access web sites using a web-browser such as Internet Explorer or Netscape

  • send and receive email, including attachments

  • use a word-processing program to write material for assignments

  • navigate and read hyper-text documents such as the text and study guide

  • learn new applications somewhat independently, using tutorials and help resources

  • use World Wide Web resources to expand and enrich learning activities

  • access and install downloadable software

  • interact and communicate with other students and tutors using conference boards , email and chat utilities

The development of these skills is to a great extent supported by the resources of the courses, including tutor support, tutorials, interaction with other students and of course locally installed and online Hyper-Text documents, but the student must approach this learning with a high degree of self-reliance and discipline.

As with any Distance Learning, the ability to follow written (in this case mostly electronic) materials and instructions is essential.

Attitudes and Personal Qualities

The successful online learner must be, as we have already seen, both independent and resourceful. A confident and self-assured attitude helps tremendously. You must believe you can accomplish the tasks, master the concepts and achieve the goals you have set for yourself.

A persistent, patient and systematic approach to problem solving is a key element of successful online learning, and in fact of computing generally. It is important to be able to think laterally and to learn by experimentation, trial and error and through activity and practice.

Student collaboration is enabled and encouraged in all our courses, and can contribute greatly to success in CCIS programs, so the student should not expect to work in isolation. This becomes more and more important as you progress through the junior courses and into the more advanced ones.

In any situation where electronic communication such as email is a primary form of interaction, certain personal qualities and approaches should be cultivated. Mannerly and orderly written communication, using clear, unequivocal language is very important.

Questions need to be very specific, and all the relevant details of a problem need to be provided when seeking assistance. Although we do not stand unnecessarily upon formality, it is important to remember that your tutor or course coordinator may deal with hundreds of students annually, and you must therefore be careful to fully identify yourself in email communications, including your student ID number, which represents for your tutor the best key to your records in our Student Information System.

In approaching online course materials, students should recognize that there are certain unique challenges which this type of material places upon developers. The materials are updated often in order to keep them as current as possible in this rapidly changing field. Because of the complexity of the materials, and the very short development cycles within which they are produced, our best efforts are sometimes not adequate to prevent occasional errors from slipping through, and students should therefore be prepared to encounter the odd minor 'glitch' in online courses. When this occurs, the student has an important role to play in bringing any irregularities to the attention of the course coordinator so the necessary adjustments can be made for the benefit of future students.

In summary, patience, respect and flexibility will go far towards ensuring an effective working relationship is established and maintained between you and your tutors and fellow students.

Updated October 15 2015 by FST Technical Staff

AU, CANADA'S OPEN UNIVERSITY, is an internationally recognized leader in online and distance learning.