It's the first week of a new school term and this month, besides my regular group of month three students, I have a large group of month one students who are really beginning to feel the pressures of what a year-long online masters program may entail. This is especially true after last night's first assignment deadline and several worried that they didn't post their work in time. So this morning, after writing a note to one concerned student I posted the following message to all of them:

… It's tough getting info on Tuesday on stuff due on Wednesday. It'll get better. The first week tends to be a real shock to the system because you don't get access to the class until Monday and then things are almost immediately due. This month really is part of the ongoing boot-camp of the program, to get you used to the pace and toughen you up to develop your strategy toward success.

Because we're just starting out, I'm not strict as far as the Wednesday posts specifically because it's so much so soon. But given the pace, one is expected to be into it by Sunday and then firing on all cylinders by the beginning of next week.

The workload is set to be around 30-hours a week. So it's important to figure out how you are going to do that and do everything else on your plate. We know that y'all have full-time jobs and most have a lot of responsibilities at home. So, whatever side-projects or hobbies one has been contemplating or dabbling in, unless it directly ties to your program (like someone doing some audio recording at home – for a Recording Arts major), you'll need to put it on hold until you are through the program. And this is the month to figure out either how to do this, or whether one really can.

I'm not saying that this is your case, but many come to online learning and think that it's going to be easier than face-to-face and the truth is that only thing that really is easier is that one doesn't have to go through the hassle of relocating to be physically near the school. But it's still an additional full-time gig, like it would be if you were doing this face-to-face. I like to think that we take advantage of the fact that we're online. So instead of letting work pile up and wait until the day before the class session or the day before it's due, we spread it out so that you are thinking about the assignments throughout the week and see how you might be able to integrate your studies with what you do on the job. It doesn't have to be anything official where you have to get approval all over the place. Just look at whatever you're studying at the time and see how it relates to the job and how your work or life experiences can either add to or differs from the things you're studying or working on.

Also, if you have a smartphone or have Internet access during the day, add your classmates' and my contact info to your IM/Skype/chat clients and whenever you see one of us online, whether you have a question or not, just say “Hi.” The enemy to academic success is isolation and unlike traditional ed, where you always work alone and then stare at the back of someone's head in a lecture hall once or twice a week for three-hours, we have access to one another virtually around the clock. When I worked on my masters and doctorate online with Pepperdine I developed friendships and relationships that are still active and dear to me, even though more than a decade has past since I was in the (virtual) trenches with my mates. And my online associations actually led to me moving clear across the country and getting the job here in Florida. So, reach out and let's do education the right way, together online.

Hang in there, I know you'll do great and I know we're going to have a great month. Be well, jbb

Joe Bustillos | Course Director | Emergent Tech In A Collaborative Culture – IDT


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