We provide personalized online teaching and learning with the same passion and commitment to excellence that has marked our 100-year history in quality Christian education on the Concordia campus.
Concordia University’s distance learning courses, accessed through our Online Learning Center, are rich in learner-to-learner and instructor-to-learner interactivity through multimodal, multi-pathway learning activities that are directly applicable to your classroom or workplace. We balance our online learning courses, offering learners maximized flexibility in terms of coursework completion while maintaining the rigor and relevance that characterize a quality (and often condensed) academic experience.
Table of contents:
- Is E-learning right for you? Learn where and how you can access your classes
- What are the computer requirements?
- What are cohorts? How does this unique experience help you learn?
- What is Blackboard?
- Concordia’s Online Learning Toolbox: Tips for distance education students
Is E-learning right for you?
E-Learning is the perfect solution to manage your busy life and your desire to develop your career. Our Online Learning Center connects you to your professors and peers through message boards and threads, allowing you to work on challenging topics and go more in-depth than would be possible in a traditional classroom.
- Your favorite coffee shop
- A five-star resort in Hawaii or anywhere in the world
- A shady blanket in the park
- Any place with internet access
- Conversations with professors and peers
- Discussion boards
- Live and on-demand streaming audio and video lessons
- HearMe voice conversations
Will my computer work for online learning?
We realize that not everyone’s a computer whiz, but E-Learning doesn’t require you to be. In fact, E-Learning often makes the learning process easier! You have the freedom to work from your own home at the time of day or night that best suits you. Sit down at your computer and you’re already in the classroom, ready to learn.
Hardware and peripherals:
- Personal Computer (PC) or Mac
- Desktop or laptop is required for most assignments, though some work can be accessed through tablets or other mobile devices
- Internet connection (Cable/DSL preferred)
- Speakers or headphones
- A web camera capable of video web conferencing
Software and applications:
One of the following Blackboard certified browsers:
- Mozilla Firefox 3.5 or later
- Google Chrome 7.0 or later
- Apple Safari 5.0 or later
- One PDF reader application
- Adobe® Reader 9.0
- Preview (Mac)
- Microsoft Office or comparable software package
For a complete list of computer and software requirements, visit the Knowledge Base http://kb.cu-portland.edu/Computing+Standards.
Funded by the Student Technology Fee, Concordia University students are eligible to participate in Microsoft’s EES: Enrollment for Education Solutions License Program. Find out more information located here.
Why the cohort structure provides a better learning outcome
At Concordia, we strongly believe in keeping a unified student group in order to maximize the learning experience and to facilitate and encourage more in-depth conversations.
To provide you with a consistent high-quality educational experience, students stay with the same learning group, also known as a “cohort,” for much of the online program. You will get to know the members of your cohort while exploring discussion topics in each of your courses at Concordia University.
Communication and conversation are integral to the learning process. We use message boards and message threads to enhance the online learning process.
About Blackboard Course Management System
Blackboard is the primary course delivery platform for Concordia University Online’s degree programs. You will have a single login location through which you will access all of your course materials, as well as the place where you can communicate with your instructor and your peers. Visit our Blackboard training page for a ‘first time user’ guide: http://bbc.cu-portland.edu/.
Online Learning Toolbox
Concordia University provides a number of helpful tools to prepare your journey into online learning and aid in your online experience in earning your degree. It is important that you prepare for online learning in a similar way you would prepare for your first day in a traditional, on-ground course. Previously, you have prepared by buying textbooks and taking your car for a check-up to make sure it is a reliable mode of transportation to school. A similar checklist must be done for an online degree program.
The following guidelines will help prepare you physically and mentally for online learning and a successful journey toward your degree.
Getting started as an E-learner
“What sculpture is to a block of marble…education is to the soul.” – Joseph Addison
As an E-learner, you’ll be able to work towards your degree online, in an environment that affords you an unparalleled combination of independence and self-improvement.
To be a successful E-learner, you must be a self-learner (ie: the ability to recognize what you need to know and learn, and where you are having issues), and you must be self-disciplined. To communicate with your instructor and with peers, you’ll use email and message boards. To get assignments, you’ll use email, Blackboard and other communication technology. Just because you are online, that doesn’t mean you’ll be working in a vacuum. You are encouraged to ask questions to your classmates and your instructor.
You may feel a little unsure at first, especially if this is your first experience learning online. But don’t worry – your online program has been developed to support and guide you through the process. Each project you complete, every course you finish, and each grade you earn will help boost your confidence as you see your knowledge base grow. And, of course, there will courses you enjoy more than others; however, if you are excited about learning, motivated by your end goals, and focused on results, you will be successful.
For the first few days, check out all that your online program entails. Take some time to navigate through all the facets of your online courses. You may find many questions you have are already answered – that’s one less hill to climb. For more information and support, why not participate in some of the discussion boards that are made available to you? You can start building your community from day one.
How can you best utilize your computer and prepare the technology at your disposal? Use these tips to help technology facilitate your progress.
Basics: While most online education programs offer 24/7 technology support, it’s recommended that you utilize these services only when you have real connectivity issues with their systems. To prepare your computer for your online coursework, keep these computer maintenance basics in mind:
Internet connection: When possible, get a broadband or cable connection. Broadband gives you far greater search speeds; slower options, while potentially less expensive, can be awfully frustrating when you lose contact or have a frozen screen during webinars, chats and other live sessions. In addition to establishing a hard line within your home or office, consider investing either into a wireless system for your home, or a wireless card that can travel with you and your device.
Tune up: If your computer hasn’t had a recent tune-up, then it’s likely time. If you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself – removing unnecessary files, general maintenance — consider taking your computer to, or calling, your local tech guys. In many cases, your local retail stores will offer this option at a very affordable rate, and can get your computer running at its optimal state in no time.
Computer software: Be sure to upload or update basic computer software programming. For example, Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel – basic programs you’ll need for school – all have the latest versions and you’ll want to be on the same “page” as your peers.
Computer safety: When you’re online fairly regularly, your computer is open up to greater risks in terms of security threats. To avoid these issues, download a security threat program, like Microsoft Security Essentials. Security programs will thwart threats, notify you when maintenance is required, and will protect your computer against potential viruses and other common issues. Many of them are free or have just a nominal cost; consider them insurance against losing your whole system to a malicious virus.
Just by following these basic computer tips, you can get your device in tip-top condition, allowing you a smooth and easy transition into working on your degree program.
Set up your space for learning
You’re already a busy adult, and now that you’re a student in an online degree program, your time is even more precious. Setting up a home office for studying and completing coursework isn’t just convenient, it’s essential. Here are some tips to help you get the best out of your study time, whenever you make it:
Find a study space: Ideally, you would have an entire room which you could dedicate as your study space. But if this isn’t feasible (and it often isn’t), a dual- purpose space works too. Think about your spare bedroom, your attic or your basement – how might you use one of those spaces? You can also claim an area of a room to accommodate your study space. Ideally, your space will have a door you can close, or at least a room separator, so that everyone in the home knows that you are not to be disturbed.
Consider everything you’ll need: Make sure your study space has room for all of the items you’ll need. This may include…
- A desk, with a chair appropriate to your height
- A computer or laptop with secure Internet connection
- Shelving for books, binders and other learning materials
- A good reading lamp
- A bulletin board or dry erase board
Schedule times to study: When you’re in an online program, you have to make a greater effort to keep yourself on track in the absence of a physical classroom, instructor and classmates. Schedule times each day that you will study and complete assignments; make a routine of your schoolwork. Write down your study times in a day planner or on a calendar, or program them into your PDA or smart phone. Also, make note of scheduled lectures and discussion groups. Take your study time and class time just a seriously as you would any important appointments.
Keep your workspace neat: An organized work space can save you a lot of headaches. Keep school supplies organized and within arm’s reach. When you’re finished with something, put it back in the same place every time. Keep all important papers organized in a notebook or filing cabinet, or in a basket on your desk. Keep your workspace free of papers or other stray items. The key really is “everything in its place.”
Minimize distractions: If you live with others, let them know what time you study, and be clear that you’re not to be disturbed during that time. If necessary, considering hiring a babysitter a few hours a week or make other arrangements so that you can work in peace. Noise-cancelling or “white noise” headphones will allow you to study, or you can find headphones that will allow you listen to music while canceling out any background noise.
With a little effort and some good planning, you can have an ideal home office for studying. Set yourself up for success in your online program!
Parents: How to keep the kids busy while you study
For adults trying to further their career, attending an online degree program can be a good way to enhance their professional credentials. But fitting in all the work that a degree requires during the little “free time” a student might eke out each day can be truly challenging, especially for students who work and also have children. The balancing act – being a good parent, providing quality education for students each day, and attending an online school – is tough, but achievable.
Earning a degree one minute at a time
Parents who have one or more small children at home will likely experience some difficulty trying to find time to concentrate. It can be a challenge in general, much less when working on an online degree program! While not optimal to complete assignments in what amount to stolen minutes, there may be times when there is no other option. To stretch your minutes into quarter hours or even half hours without relying each time on television, parents will need to be creative, and even over-communicate. We’ve asked some successful parent/students for ideas to help other parents attempting online graduate school. Here are some of the things that worked for them:
- Parents should explain to their kids what’s going on. Simply by explaining that mommy or daddy is going to graduate school, using the computer, and he or she has a lot of homework, parents may gain some cooperation. Kids understand the concept of school, although they may not fully understand online education.
- Families with children in elementary school can make homework time a group exercise. Everyone with homework, including the adult student, can gather around the table to work while enjoying a healthy snack. Although there may be frequent pauses for help and discussion, by making this a regular event, parents can foster a cooperative environment and teach their kids some independence so that everyone gets their work done.
- Networking with other parents can provide an evening free to study. Many people have second jobs, are trying to attend school while working, or have other commitments. By finding someone to trade evenings with, busy parents can provide kids with social outings while getting a few evenings free once a week or so for studies.
A goal for the entire family
Parents who have children in middle or high school can enlist a little more help from their kids while working toward a degree. At this age, most children will be able to better understand the demands of homework and the time schooling demands. Parents can explain that earning the degree will benefit the entire family in terms of career and salary choices down the road.
Getting older kids to buy-in as much as possible will mean a much needed attitude shift in the family. Still, compromise will often still be a major watchword in the household for parents attending an online graduate school program. Children in middle school and high school may be able to help out with cooking dinner – or at least food prep – on some nights so mom or dad can get in an hour of study time. Parents might make that part of their expected chores, or pay them some nominal fee for their time – how you approach it depends on your family rules and dynamics.
If you are attending a program online, expect to have your tests administered online, too. It’s imperative that you can fully concentrate during such times. High school-aged teens can take younger children to a movie during this time, or on an errand, or even just to play outside. In exchange, parents might offer to pay for a movie for the teen and one or two friends at a later date, or, if the babysitting is outside the normal schedule, pay the going rate.
You can also look for a variety of extracurricular activities open to kids of all ages in your community. Sports, music, art, social clubs, and volunteer organizations all offer great opportunities for kids. And, while it’s easier to run errands, do grocery shopping, etc. without your children in tow, it’s even harder to study or take a test with your child tugging on your sleeve. If you only have limited child-free time, use it where you need it most.
What are the true keys to success for students with kids at home? Persistence and creativity. College, with or without other obligations, is challenging enough. Raising kids and working? Even more challenging. Mixing school with a job and family can seem impossible at times, but take each day one minute at a time; prioritize your day ahead of time; acknowledge that this situation may be stressful to you and your children; and keep your sense of humor. Before you know it, you’ll be a graduate and on your way.
Time management for online college students
Finding time to study as an adult somehow seems much more challenging than it did during college years. Why? Many adults seeking their degree online are working full time, married, have children or are involved in a variety of activities, all of which are competing for their time. In order to complete your online program with success, take control of your time using the tips outlined below.
Organize your study space
Nothing can be more frustrating than finally making time to study, only to not have the materials needed within your designated study space.Choose a work space that is not only away from any distractions within your home (spouse, children, pets), but that is fully equipped with the materials you will need to study effectively. Some of the materials to consider keeping within arm’s reach include notepads, pens and pencils, laptop/desktop, wireless connection or LAN access, highlighters and extra printer ink (you always seem to run out at the most inopportune times). Once you have chosen and organized your study space, you need to find time to actually study.
Carve out study time
Finding time to study can be challenging. For students who have families, you may find the best time to study is after you have put everyone to bed. Hopefully, this will give you 1-3 hours per evening to study if needed.
One of the benefits of online programs is that you can study at virtually any time that works for your schedule. The biggest thing to keep in mind is to schedule time in your weekly plan for studying to ensure it gets completed.
In today’s mobile environment, this step can be the most challenging. If your study time is limited, it is critical that you limit your distractions during your study time. When working at your computer, disable any instant messaging programs (Yahoo!, MSN and even Facebook) so that you aren’t tempted to answer pop-ups. Turn your cell phone to silent, and better yet, put it out of reach to reduce the temptation to check for missed calls or text messages. If you have a house phone, you may want to unplug it in the room you have chosen to study in so that another member of your household can answer it.
At the beginning of the day, try to prioritize all the tasks that must be completed during the day. Complete the most critical items first, working beyond that point if you have leftover time.
Degree programs that are delivered online are designed to help working professionals complete their education around their work and personal schedules. Keeping the tips above in mind will enable your study time to be the most productive.
Writing effective discussion posts
Whether you are new to the online learning community or a seasoned veteran, being able to compose a thoughtful and engaging online discussion post is critical. The online discussion forum is a place for you to express your opinions, reflect on your practice, and join in on the conversations with your classmates. It’s a great place to share your knowledge and to get help if you need it. Making your discussion posts clear, understandable and engaging are all within your reach. Here are a few helpful hints to help you get started:
Carefully read directions: What are you being asked to write about or to comment on? Your instructor may ask you to share a personal reflection; a thought-generating question or interesting situation; your summary of an article; or an analysis of your teaching practice. Each of these will require a different type of response from you. Knowing exactly what it is you are being asked to do is paramount in order for you to give the proper response.
Be prepared: Has all the required coursework been completed prior to your posting – including reading, research, assignments, and practical applications?
Give credit where credit’s due: Although a discussion forum may seem like a casual atmosphere, you still need to cite references in your posting. Make sure you give others credit for their work when quoting it or referencing it to avoid inadvertently letting your writing appear as plagiarism. Don’t worry about the formatting for a reference — just make sure you provide title, author, and date.
Give your posts meaning: Simply responding with “I agree” doesn’t really add anything to the discussion. Why do you agree? What about the response made the most sense to you, or first sparked that interest and need to chime in? Can you connect your experiences and reference something that you’ve experienced? However you reply should improve and further the discussion.
Stay focused: A long-winded, unfocused response will most likely turn off other readers and potential responders. Make certain that you are comprehensive and focused on the messaging. Consider exactly what point you are trying to convey and what research or background knowledge is relevant to that point. A high-quality post will seamlessly and cohesively make the connection between theory and classroom application.
Leverage your background: Your own experiences are important and relevant when you want to express your opinion. State your message in your own voice. If you have a personal story that is relevant, share it! The readers may very well learn more about you from your own relevant real-life experience than from the rest of the post.
Meet your deadline: Not only is meeting each deadline important, if you post early, you’ll have a greater chance to participate in the discussion. Your online instructors want to not only see your knowledge and writing ability, but whether you can and do contribute to the conversation. Posting early and throughout the discussion window will help show your participation.
While you are working toward your degree, there will be a lot asked of you. Your knowledge and experience in education, and your commitment and dedication to your program, will all help to ensure your success. Writing thoughtful discussion posts is only one part of your academic program, but it’s a great way for you to shine!
Plagiarism is a hot button issue in many areas, and there are few topics in the field of education that provoke quite as much outrage. Education is about fresh ideas and independent, authentic points of view from both the perspective of the educator and the student. For online students working toward a degree, this may not be news; but it also might not be utterly obvious: working via the Internet makes it far easier to plagiarize work, whether intended or not.
Avoiding plagiarism for the online learner requires organization, discipline and some common sense. Just because someone has posted their work online doesn’t mean it’s up for grabs. Every word, image, and frame of video posted on the Internet belongs to someone. Using images and/or text and passing it off as your own is not only unethical, in some cases it is also illegal. Every student must be aware of what they are using, reusing, and attributing (or not). Accidents are possible if preventative measures are not put in place.
One organizational method you can use is folders. Create the folders you will be using and keep them on your virtual desktop for easy access. One folder can be labeled “Notes” and used for text that has been copied and pasted from the Internet. Some students open a word document and paste in text for various sources, and include the urls to be able to find the source material again, if needed to quote from. Text taken from the Internet, if quoted or used verbatim, must be sourced in the same way sources are cited from books and periodicals. Another folder can be labeled “Ideas” for concepts that strike you as you are researching. Keep a third folder, maybe marked “My Work,” for your own unique writing.
To avoid the dangers of plagiarism, students also often establish personalized online learning standards for themselves. For example, decide ahead of time, before even embarking on a paper, that text will never be lifted directly from the Internet unless it is to be quoted, sourced, or footnoted. All text is to be put in your own words in your folders, before any writing is even started. The first step is to decide where you draw your own lines, and then hold yourself to them.
Learn what it means, and what it takes, to be a successful online student. Explore what Concordia University has to offer.