It’s a simple concept - students who are more “involved” in a class are more likely to successfully complete the course. In a traditional face-to-face classroom, opportunities for engagement are obvious - ask and answer questions in class, participate in group discussions, or it may be as simple as consistently showing up to class. In an online class, however, students sometimes find it difficult to feel like an active participant in the course. At eCore, we have worked tirelessly to figure out how we can help students become engaged in their online courses across both distance (online learning) and across time (asynchronous online learning). We are continually working to strengthen and connect the eCore student services across student engagement.

As a student, you may wonder what you can do to stay engaged as an online learner and increase the likelihood of passing the course with the grade you want. Here are some tips that will help you not only in eCore and eMajor online courses, but in online courses in general.

1. Login to class!
This may sound like a no-brainer but when you don’t have to actually “go” to class at a specific time, it’s easy to put it off. You should log into class on DAY ONE and make a commitment to login and work every day or almost every day. Think about logging in as “showing up” for your online class. To stay engaged, you need to “show up” to class fairly often.
2. Familiarize yourself with the course
Log in to the course on DAY ONE and take a tour to familiarize yourself with the layout and structure. There are a few things you may even be able to review before the first day of class. You should look for:
    • Syllabus & Instructor’s Contact Info: Be sure to review the course syllabus; it is your contract with the professor. Here, you will find your grade point accumulation table, your instructor’s name, and external contact information. For eCore and eMajor classes, you will find it in the top left of the course syllabus.
    • Course Calendar: Important dates and deadlines critically influence your performance in college. Review the course calendar and make note of important due dates. Also note important dates like the drop/add window, texting windows, and midpoint withdrawal deadlines. Most institutions provide an academic calendar to help you keep all those vital dates and deadlines straight. eCore and eMajor follow the common statewide Calendar, which can be found here.
    • Textbook Requirements: If a textbook is required, you should plan to obtain the book prior to the first day of class. Having the book ahead of time means you will have more time to review the material and therefore participate in discussions. Some online courses may not have a textbook requirement. eCore, for example, offers free open educational resources in over half of their courses. In this case, the materials are linked inside the course and are often available for review prior to the first day of class inside the eConnection tutorial course. For eCore courses that do require a textbook purchase, some are available in eBook formats. Purchasing an eBook will allow you to receive the materials quicker. However, if a student does need to purchase a physical textbook, one can be purchased in any manner - new, used, electronic, or even rental.
    • Testing Requirements: Most online classes have some sort of testing requirement. It is important to determine the requirements at the beginning of the course so you can be adequately prepared. In eCore courses, at least one proctored exam is required (but not more than two) in each course. Typically, the midterm and/or final exam for the course are proctored. Proctored exams are taken in the presence of an approved test proctor and are usually held at a testing center. Visit the eCore website for more information about proctored exam requirements.
3. Manage your time wisely
The number one reason students withdraw from an eCore class is time management. Before you enroll in an online course, it is important to consider if you have enough time to devote to your studies for the duration of the class. Be sure to estimate correctly for accelerated terms like eCore’s 8-week sessions. In accelerated sessions, the same amount of material is covered in half the time, so it requires double the amount of study effort.

The first few days of a course are typically designated as a drop window. For eCore, this is a five day period where you can drop the course without receiving a “W”. You can save yourself a lot of worry by thoroughly exploring the class during that five day period and determining whether or not  you can keep up with the course assignments. If the time commitment is too challenging for you, consider dropping the class before the drop window closes.
4. Communicate
Once you determine you have the time to commit to the class, you have the book, and you have your syllabus - it’s time to participate! Closely monitor all forms of communication in the class - calendar, news items, discussion posts from the professor, and your email inside the Learning Management System. For eCore/eMajor courses, this is your GoVIEW email.

    • Discussion Board: The discussion board is the conversation flow of the class. Read and respond consistently and on time. You can use this forum to make a connection with your professor and your classmates. Try to be the first or second poster in your class on a topic!
    • Email: Check both your campus email and your GoVIEW email (for eCore/eMajor students) daily. eCore can only officially notify students at campus email addresses. Be sure to watch for eCore announcements throughout the semester. eCore emails are sent weekly to remind you of important deadlines, provide student success tips, and keep you informed of general information.
    • Diversity of Online Learning: Embrace the diversity of your class. In eCore classes, you will have students from up to 25 different USG institutions; your professor is also from an institution within the University System of Georgia but not necessarily from your institution. Students of all ages are in eCore classes. There is a lot to be learned from communicating with your fellow classmates!
5. Take advantage of your resources
If you fall behind on your discussion postings or your assignments - it’s easy to feel like you are all on your own in an online class. But remember, YOU ARE NOT! You have plenty of resources available to help you be successful in the course, you just have to take advantage of them. Explore what types of tutoring and library services are available to you BEFORE you need them. Then, if you get in a bind and need some help, you will know where to go. In eCore classes, you have access to your home institution’s resources in addition to eCore specific resources such as:

    • A student success team member who is assigned to your class. They’re there to help you locate the resources that are available to you, and to offer encouragement along the way.
    • Embedded librarians in all eCore classes except Spanish, Math, and Science classes. (What does an embedded librarian do, you ask? Meet one of them here!)
    • Embedded tutors in all eCore math and science classes.
    • Access to Smarthinking Online Tutoring and online writing labs in all classes.
    • GALILEO Library Services, which provides access to multiple information resources including secured access to licensed products, is available i all classes.
Engagement is a big part of online learning, and it directly impacts the student. When we do it right (faculty, student and staff), the student has increased opportunities for a great learning experience and a successful outcome. We want our students to succeed. At eCore, we are continuously improving our efforts to engage students in the class early on, but there is still more to be done. That’s why we want to hear from our students! Be sure to complete the course evaluation that is sent at the end of your class. It’s how we make changes to improve the success of students in our classes. Tell us - what would make you feel more engaged in your online class?

Julili Fowler, eCampus Associate Director of Student Engagement and Analytics
Katie Shoemake: eCampus Educational Program Specialist
Nikki Henderson: eCampus Educational Program Specialist
For adults who have made the decision to return to college after many years in the workforce, the possibility of earning college credit for work and life experiences may sound very appealing. In some instances, it is an excellent way to save money on tuition and shorten the time it takes to complete your degree.
In the higher education industry, we call this Prior Learning Assessments or PLA. There are five basic methods that one may use to earn credit for prior learning. Here, we take a brief look at each one and give some pointers on which one (if any) may be right for you. Be sure to check out the webinar at the end of this entry for an explanation by two of our PLA experts and faculty members: Dr. Sarah Kuck and Wendy Kennedy, both from Darton State College.

Assessment Methods:
  1. CLEP - College Level Examination ProgramCLEP offers 33 exams in various academic fields. Students sit for this exam and can earn college credit in that field with an acceptable score. Some things to consider if thinking of taking a CLEP exam: schools do not always accept all CLEP exams. You should first check your institution's academic catalog to review which exams are accepted and the score required for credit.There are also several CLEP prep courses that you can take to “brush up” on your skills before taking a CLEP exam. For example, eCore offers a free Macroeconomics CLEP prep course that prepares you for the exam in that subject area. Visit the College Board website for more information on CLEP prep exams.
  1. AP Credit - Advanced PlacementAP Credit is typically earned by high school students. Many high schools offer AP level courses with an AP exam at the end. Upon earning a successful score on the AP exam, students can receive college credit for that course. Again, parameters for earning AP credit vary by institution, so be sure to check with the college in which you intend to enroll on their AP guidelines. More information on AP credit in Georgia can be found here.
3.    Military Credit
Evaluation of military training and experience for college credit is based on SMART transcripts. SMART transcripts are provided by the military and are a recommendation from that branch of the armed services on how colleges and universities can award credit for various training and experience you may have earned during service. SMART transcripts typically go through a very strenuous evaluation process that is based on ACE. Most limitations to earning credit from military experience come from the Course Equivalency Model, which means that the institution is only able to award credit for courses offered at that school. For more information on this - check out the webinar below.
4.    Challenge Exams
These are institutionally based, and are commonly referred to as “Credit by Exam.” Any student who feels he or she is proficient in an academic subject can apply for credit by examination. Keep in mind that fees for challenge exam credit vary by institution, as do the guidelines for qualifying to take these exams. For example - some schools may stipulate that a student cannot sit for a challenge exam for a course that they have already taken, or for which they have already earned a grade.
5.     Portfolio
The last option for PLA, portfolio submission, is the most labor intensive and the one that is most commonly inquired about by potential and current students. It’s just what it sounds like - interested students compile a portfolio in order to petition for course credit. A proper portfolio should connect student learning to course learning outcomes, and needs to include both theory and artifacts that support the student’s assertions. The portfolio is then assessed by content experts from the chosen academic area, and a decision to award or not award credit is made. Compiling an adequate portfolio for credit is a large undertaking, and our experts advise that this should not be your first choice. Instead, consider the possibility of taking a CLEP or challenge exam if you truly feel like you are competent in a given area.

Are you a good candidate for Prior Learning Assessments? Do a self-evaluation to decide if this is the right route for you. Here is a good checklist to start with:

  • Determine institutional parameters at your current (or future) institution. What exams do they accept? What scores are required?
  • Evaluate your existing skills and knowledge. What knowledge do you already have that you may have learned in your current or past positions?
  • Determine fit. What courses does the institution offer that may align with your existing knowledge.
  • Lastly - discuss the process with the PLA coordinator or Registrar’s office at your institution.

Check out the webinar below for further information about the methods for PLA covered in this blog.

William Penn once said, "Time is what we want most, but what we use worst." 

Browse through any "How to Succeed at College" article or book and the one skill that is undoubtedly listed as critical would be time management. What is time management and how can you put it to work for you? Time management is the ability to plan and control how you spend the hours of your day. Simply put, it's how you prioritize the tasks needed to meet goals. In this case, how do you take online courses, work, and have a life?

One indispensable tool for managing your time is an organizer. Sure, it's easy to rely on the handy smart-phone and the endless options of calendar and task-related apps, but the good old fashioned paper organizer can be a life-saver for busy non-traditional college students when trying to visually schedule out and prioritize their day.

There are two types of organizers. Used in tandem, they give what might look like an impossibly full week perspective. And once you write all of your tasks/goals down on paper, (whether big or small), you can let the information you've been trying to organize in your head go and enjoy less stress. You'll refer to the organizer often so keep it in a handy p

Time-Oriented Organizer vs. Task Oriented Organizer

A Task Oriented Organizer would be a to-do list. Your list might look something like this:
  • Get up
  • get dressed
  • eat breakfast
  • brush teeth
A Time Oriented Organizer looks like this:
  • 6 a.m.--get up
  • 6:15 a.m.--shower
  • 6:30 --get dressed
Start by listing all the things you do in a week; include everything: school, homework, shopping, eating, sleeping, personal time, family time, etc. The planner is for everything, not just college. Once you have all of your responsibilities/tasks listed, you can better organize them and the time it takes to do them. Next to each activity, write down how much time you think it will take you to complete it. It's better to allow yourself more time than too little to perform a task. Give each task a priority rating--1,  2, 3, or A, B, C, for critical, important, optional. Different people will assign tasks a different priority; for example, exercise is critical to some while it is only optional for others. Go here for more on that topic!

The internet is full of templates for time management. Microsoft Office, for example, has templates within the software and available for download here. Alternatively, office supply stores have a plethora of scheduling tools. Once you've decided on the actual planner, it's time to plug in each and every task in their proper slots.

Plug in your A tasks first, then your B tasks, and if there is room on your schedule, your C tasks. Once you've got a working schedule, you'll be able to see where you need adjustments as you work through the week. It's not written in stone, but don't get in the habit of delaying or changing your plan too much, otherwise, you'll be back at the same place--feeling like you have too much to do and not enough time to do it.

Final thoughts: don't load up your schedule to overflowing and be realistic about the time it will take to get each item done. Marathon study sessions are rarely productive so when you see a big block of time, don't jam all your studying and course work into that one time slot. Think creatively about when you can review notes, check email, respond to texts and so on, but avoid too much multitasking.