10 Tips for Taking a Community College Telecourse

by A Guest Author

If the United States is going to remain economically competitive in the decades to come, additional training and education will become vital. As the last vestiges of our manufacturing and industrial heritage fade from memory, Americans must hit the books to learn about science, technology, and practical skills to stay competitive in an economy that values service and innovation.

Taking a few years off of work to sit all day in a college lecture hall isn’t practical for many students. Just as the invention of DVR now allows busy television lovers to watch their favorite programs whenever they have time, distance courses allow students to receive a quality education in a non-traditional setting. Currently, there are 2.5 million people enrolled in distance education courses. Online courses may be the cool new kids on the block, but community colleges are still offering telecourses as part of their distant learning packages.

Telecourses are independent study courses that use videotapes as the primary method of instruction. They were originally designed to meet the needs of busy adult students, but community colleges offer these courses to students who prefer distance learning for a variety of reasons. In addition to watching professionally produced instructional videos, telecourse students complete textbook and study guide assignments. In many cases, face-to-face meetings are unnecessary because tests can be proctored at testing centers.

Telecourses are great because they allow students to work their education around their busy lives. These atypical college courses present their own set of challenges, however. Here are ten tips for succeeding at a community college telecourse:

1. Read the Syllabus Three Times

A good syllabus will answer just about every procedural question you’ll encounter during your college telecourse. How the class is graded, when assignments are due, the teacher’s preferred method of communication, the answers are probably already in the syllabus. The easiest way to fail at a telecourse, or any course for that matter, is to miss an important deadline or follow the wrong procedure to turn in an assignment. It can be annoying to read for the tenth time the same speech about academic dishonesty or generic course descriptions, but knowing the syllabus backwards and forwards will ensure that you won’t fail because of a silly oversight.

2. Make a Plan, and Put it on Your Calendar

If you are less of a self-starter and tend to procrastinate, telecourses may present a challenge. There is no teacher, no parent, and no guidance counselor there to remind you to do your weekly reading and lecture viewing. If the teacher doesn’t give you guidelines for when you should do each reading and watch each lecture, make your own plan. Once you have a plan, put it in your calendar and stick to it.

3. Do the Reading Before you Watch the Lecture

I was tempted to put “do the reading, period” as a tip, but I know you’d never attempt something so foolish. Here’s a more helpful tip: do the reading before you sit down to watch the lecture. Most professors assume you’ve already done the reading and will reference the material in the lecture. Do the reading first, and not only will you get more out of the lecture, but you’ll be way ahead of many of your procrastinating peers.

4. Watch the Lecture Immediately

As soon as the lecture is posted or made available, watch it. This will give you ample time to do the associated homework assignments and review the lecture for a second time if any parts were unclear. If you put off watching the lecture until the end of the week, it will be hard to do the reading before the next lecture becomes available.

5. Don’t Hesitate to Ask the Instructor Questions

Whether the professor is lecturing ten feet in front of you in a beautiful brick college campus building or just a moving picture on a VHS, his or her job is still to help you master the material and be available to answer any questions. The preferred method of communicating with distance learning professors is email these days, but double check the syllabus. Whatever method is available, never hesitate to reach out –it will show the professor that you are committed to learning the material and will ensure that your grade doesn’t suffer because of an unanswered question.

6. Back Up Your Material

Telecourses typically require all assignments to be submitted electronically. There is nothing more frustrating than your computer crashing a few hours before a big paper is due and you don’t have a backup. Sadly, professors don’t accept “Google ate my homework” as an excuse – it has failed for me every time I’ve tried. Save your grade, and your sanity, by always backing up your work.

7. Take Notes, But Not Too Many

Note taking is a challenge in any college environment, and it’s definitely not something most of us are used to while watching TV on the couch. For telecourses, the best thing to do is to listen carefully and write brief summaries of each section. If you try to write everything down, you’ll miss a lot of information.

8. Record the Program

If the lecture cannot be rewatched, make an audiotape or videotape copy of the lecture. Inevitably, there will be one section you’ll be unclear about and will want to review it. Having a copy of the lectures will always come in handy, and may make you a classmate’s hero.

9. Attempt Face to Face Interactions

We’ve already covered how important it is to email professors when you have questions or concerns. Many distant learning courses also offer chances to interact with your professor or classmates face to face. If your college offers discussion sections, group chats, or question-and-answer sessions, give them a shot. Learning is more effective and more rewarding the more you engage with the material, the teachers, and fellow students.

10. Keep in Mind Why You are Taking the Course

Staying motivated to complete every reading, assignment, and video lecture isn’t easy when there is no one marking absences or threatening to flunk you if you don’t show up. It’s important to remember why you signed up for the class in the first place. If the class is a requirement and you just need to pass it or fail it, study accordingly. If you are taking the course because the information will be valuable to your career, take it seriously and study in a way that the knowledge will always be with you.

Have you ever taken a telecourse? Did you appreciate the flexibility or did you find the lack of structure challenging?

About The Author

Dwayne Thomas is currently a staff writer for cabletv.com.  He is also a distance learner majoring in computer science at Weber State University

This post was written by A Guest Author

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