Student Orientation: Taking an Online Course

USING SAKAI—continued

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Your course consists of a series of lessons (usually between twelve and fourteen, but this varies by course) that you will complete in order. You will access each one through the left navigation bar in Sakai.


Lessons vary depending on the course, but in general a lesson will include the parts below:

  • Objectives
  • Required Reading
  • Notes
  • Written Work

The Objectives explain what the lesson covers. You should look at them before beginning the lesson to preview the lesson topic(s); then you should review them after completing the lesson to make sure you’ve grasped all of them. If you are confused by any of the objectives, you can go back to that portion of the lesson and clarify it.

The Required Reading section lists the reading or video viewing assignment you need to complete during the lesson. Since there are no lectures to augment your reading, it is imperative that you read and view carefully and make sure you understand the concepts. The notes (explained below) augment your reading, but they are not exhaustive. Since reading is so central to learning in an online course, you may find Princeton University’s Active Reading Strategies helpful. Dartmouth University’s Academic Skills Center also has several helpful strategies for getting the most out of your reading.

Notes reiterate the main ideas in your required reading. Many instructors suggest that you start by reading the Notes section so you have an idea of what the reading covers. Then you should complete the reading assignment, and then reread the notes to review what you read.

The Written Work varies significantly among courses, but, whatever its format, requires you to apply what you have learned via an assignment that you will turn in to your instructor. For example, the written work in a math or physics class might consist of working problems, while a history or drama course might require an analytical essay. For CCO courses, one component of the written work is posting in the discussion forum, which will be covered in more detail in the next section. Note: Since SPC courses do not typically have discussion forums, you can skip directly to the Assignments section if you are taking an SPC course.

  • Read for comprehension and retention: These skills are necessary for real learning to take place, and you will develop them through practice. Concentrate on your reading and take frequent breaks to organize the material in your mind. At the end of your study session, think over what you’ve read and try to remember the main points.
  • Use it or lose it: Even if you complete all the reading assignments, you won’t retain information very long unless you use it. The easiest way to do that is on the discussion forum and in your written assignments. Refer to course content in your own words (always cite where appropriate). By using new knowledge and putting it into your own words, you create a memory scaffold to hang it on.

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