Online courses can be a great way to access higher education and earn college credits without needing to be physically present at a specific time and place. Students can access their education at any time, from anywhere, and at their convenience.
A learning management system known as Canvas will be used to access all learning materials, assignments, quizzes, discussions, projects and more posted by instructors. The instructor will set up deadlines for all of these activities; it is up to students when to complete the work, as long as they are competed and submitted by the due date/time.
Watch an introductory video about Distance Education at West Valley College.
Are You Ready for Online Classes?
Online classes are not for everyone, and your success depends a great deal on how well-prepared you are for the virtual class environment.
Minimum technical requirements for active participation in online classes include:
- Access to a PC or Mac computer 5 years old or less, with a minimum of 1 GB RAM and 2 GHz processor
- Reliable internet access with minimum modem speed of 512 KB
- Some courses may require additional plug-ins (free) to access streaming media
Research shows that these six characteristics are critical to a student’s success in an online class:
- Self-motivation: Are you able to take charge of your learning, complete course requirements, and strive for academic and personal success on your own?
- Independent learning: Are you comfortable and able to learn on your own? Do you know your learning style?
- Computer literacy: Do you have basic computer skills, are comfortable using the Internet, and know or are willing to learn how to use Canvas?
- Time management: Are you able to effectively organize, plan, and balance the various demands (educational, professional, and personal) in your life?
- Written communication skills: Are you proficient in reading and writing of essays and/or research papers?
- Personal commitment: Do you have a strong desire and commitment to succeed in the class?
Registering for Online Classes
Now that you have decided an online class is right for you, what’s next?
First, make sure you have been admitted as a student. If you haven’t applied for admission to West Valley College, you can do so through the Admission and Records Office.
Second, after you have been accepted as a student, it’s time to choose an online class.
Third, contact the instructor to request a copy of the syllabus and/or when the class will be available on Canvas. Note that some instructors open their classes to students before the class start date.
Success in Online Courses
Your success in online courses is important to us.
Students who do well in online classes know that preparation is a key factor to success. This preparation begins before the class starts and continues throughout the course.
Before an online class begins, a student should:
- Understand that online classes are rigorous and demand an investment of time, attention and energy.
- Learn how to use Canvas, the learning management system.
- Contact the instructor about the course work load and course policies.
While taking an online class, a student should:
- Be engaged and fully involved in class assignments, discussion forums and other class activities and/or projects.
- Dedicate at least six hours each week for a 3.0 unit class (additional two hours each week for each additional 1.0 unit). Note that this is for a regular 16-week semester. Shorter courses will require additional weekly hours accordingly.
- Be aware of upcoming due dates for assignments, quizzes, projects and other activities. Use a personal calendar or the Canvas calendar tool regularly.
- Contact the instructor immediately if there are questions; don’t wait until the last week of class to ask for an explanation or help with the course content or assignments.
- Balance life demands, leaving time to reflect on the course content and assignments.
- Be familiar with Student Services and know what to do if the class seems too challenging.
Resources and Services to Ensure Success
Student Tips for Online Success
Prepare Ahead for Your Online Classes
- Understand and confirm technology requirements: Make sure you have the appropriate technology for completing an online course set up prior to the start of the course – Check technical requirements. Find out which computer(s) and web browser(s) will work for the course and Canvas.
- Familiarize yourself with the course requirements: Spend time looking over the course syllabus and other important course materials. Make sure you understand the course objectives, the scope of the material you will cover, and when assignments and exams are due.
- Be familiar with computer basics: You should know how to write an email, upload software, and use the Internet. Many instructors will also require that you use Microsoft Word.
- Become familiar with Canvas: Canvas is our online learning management system. Think of it as your classroom. Click on the “Canvas” link at the top of the WVC home page. See reference and tips on the Canvas Student Guide.
- Order Your Textbooks: Check the bookstore or contact the instructor and purchase your books prior to the beginning of the online course.
- Connect with Your Instructor Early: Contact information can be found at the faculty directory.
Succeeding in Your Online Class
- Understanding Instructor Response: Verify how frequently your instructor responds to email or discussion forum questions
and don’t wait until the last minute to clarify any questions you may have.
If you would like to have a meeting with your instructor and he/she does not have live-synchronous sessions scheduled on the syllabus, don’t hesitate in asking him/her for a live, office-hour window. Set aside time to communicate with your instructor on assignments/topics covered in class.
- Log In Daily: Log in to the class as soon as it begins, read the course syllabus and note important dates. Try to log in on a daily basis and read all instructor email and announcements; oftentimes, instructors will provide important information on assignments, tests, etc.
- Manage Your Time Wisely: You cannot afford to get behind in an online class. Know the deadlines and meet them!
Create a schedule in accordance with class deadlines and plan to set aside adequate
time to complete assignments. Complete all reading and homework assignments on time.
Expect to spend nine hours per week for a 3-unit course (and an additional three hours each week for each additional unit).
- Be Self–Motivated: Online courses require a great deal of self-discipline and motivation to be successful. Make sure you are ready and committed!
- Don't Wait Until the Last Minute: Don’t procrastinate and wait until the last minute to submit assignments. Try to submit your assignments (or take quizzes and tests) early enough so that if you experience any technical difficulties your assignment will not be late. Working on your assignment earlier also gives you the opportunity to contact your instructor if you have any questions about the assignment.
- Participate: Most online instructors require that students participate in discussion forums. Think
carefully about the posts that you write and create thoughtful comments that will
enhance the class discussions.
Understand deadlines and grading criteria for posting to forums.
- Be Polite and Respectful: When responding to posts or expressing opinions online, use the same etiquette you would in a face-to-face classroom. Respond thoughtfully and try to make a substantial contribution to the discussion.
- Speak Up If You Are Having Problems: Remember that your instructor cannot see you, so you must be absolutely explicit and clear with your comments and requests. Communicate with fellow students as they are probably having the same challenges and questions.
- Achieve Family / Work / School Balance: Anticipate work and/or family scheduling that may interfere with your course work and create solutions that work for everyone. Work ahead if you anticipate being out of town, on vacation, working, etc.
- Take Responsibility: Even though you don't see instructors and classmates, taking classes via the Web is still going to school. You need to take online courses as seriously as you would any traditional courses. If you're struggling, you need to let your instructor know right away so he/she can get you the help you need.
Remember… the key to online success is self-motivation, discipline and commitment.
West Valley College offers a broad range of Student Services to ensure your success on online courses.