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FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions about online study

What does it take to be a successful student in an online class?

The most important thing about being an online student is to be internally motivated. Any postgraduate study is different from your previous experiences with education. You won't have as much contact with your tutors as you have had in the past, and you need to be able to 'get on with it' without constant reminders of assignments that are due.


I'm afraid that I will feel isolated.

This is a common fear of new distance learners. To make sure that you don't suffer from feelings of isolation you need to make sure that you establish contact with your fellow students. Learner - Learner interaction is important in any educational setting and you need to open your mind to the opportunities of being able to form the same (and in most cases better) relationships you are used to having with your fellow students. If you sit at home and don't participate in the BBS and chat room then you will feel isolated. If you make your voice heard both 'in class' and 'out of class' then your fellow students will get to know you as a person and not just a name on a class list. In a traditional face to face class that meets once a week you only get to know a few students (probably the ones who sit next to you). In an online class you will get to know all of the students.


Why is participation such a large percentage of the assessment?

A class presented in cyberspace is different from one taught in a traditional face to face environment. In cyberspace no one will know you are reading the BBS if you don't comment and participate in the discussion. The success or failure of the class is dependent on student participation. Digital Culture is a module that requires active discussion and debate to succeed. You don't need to spend a long time composing properly punctuated and spelled replies. Keep in mind that the BBS and Chat rooms are conversational forums. It is more important that you are heard than you compose a reply with no typing/spelling errors.


Someone else on the BBS has already said what I wanted to say. Should I just not post?

You should always have your voice heard. Replies that are just 'me too' aren't appropriate, but I'm sure that you can add something to any discussion.


I'm afraid that my telephone bill will be huge!

There are many Internet Service Providers (ISP) who offer unlimited access for a fixed monthly fee. You should investigate using one of these.


I travel a lot for my job. How will I keep up?

Distance study is perfect for the business traveler. You can access the BBS and Chat room from anywhere in the world as long as you have a connection. If you don't travel with a laptop there are Internet Cafes in most cities. These generally offer access for a certain amount of time for a set fee (generally very reasonable). Your instructor also has to travel a lot during the semester and many times you won't even be aware of the fact that she's not sitting in her office or at home.

I've already booked a holiday. Will being away for two weeks cause me a problem?

Again, distance study is perfect if you're going on a holiday. If you don't want to take your laptop with you, you should venture into an Internet Cafe and log on and participate. What you should NOT do, is to not participate during the time you're on holiday.


I have children and a family. It is difficult for me to find the time to access the BBS in the evening and I don't have time at work either.

This is a personal decision that you need to make prior to attempting postgraduate work. Pursuing a Master's Degree takes your commitment, as well as support from your family and employer.


What if I get ill during the semester?

Because Digital Culture is, for the most part, taught Asynchronously (on a BBS) an illness that would normally keep you from attending a face to face class or going to work shouldn't have any impact on your participation. Keep in mind that you can log on from home and no one online is going to get your cold/flu etc. and no one will see that you look horrible and are wearing fuzzy slippers! Long term debilitating illnesses are another matter. The most important thing to keep in mind is to keep the instructor informed.


I am planning to access the course materials from my office computer because my home computer is very old. Will this present a problem?

The Synchronous Chat sessions are usually held in the evening so you need to be able to join those sessions from home. If your home computer is too old, you might want to use an Internet Cafe then. The inability to use your home computer will affect your participation during the semester. This becomes a decision you need to make about your personal access to technology. Economic Access to Technology is an issue we will discuss during the semester.


I see that there are weekly guests in the discussion. Will they be assessing my work?

The weekly guests volunteer their time and don't participate at all in the assessment. They have been asked to join the discussion to give a new voice/perspective to the forum. Some of them, perhaps, will not be able to participate as much as they would like due to last minute work/personal commitments.


I'm unsure what is meant by one of the briefs. What should I do?

Any time you are unsure about the meaning of a brief you need to contact the instructor. The worst thing is to soldier on and get it wrong. It's also not advisable to ask your fellow students as they may have gotten it wrong!


My partner for the joint project won't answer emails. Can I make a phone call to see what the problem is?

Even though the brief states that phone contact is not allowed, you should, by all means, pick up the telephone and find out why s/he isn't answering your emails. Don't use the telephone to work on the project, but don't sit at home waiting and then find out (for example) that your partner has decided to withdraw from the course. You need to make a note of this contact and address it in the Personal Essay. You also need to inform the instructor if your partner has been 'captured by space aliens.'


Can I get feedback about my work prior to submitting it?

The instructor is more than willing to view a sample page of the web site assignment and give comments. What she won't do, is to 'pre-assess' the work. This is down to time constraints. The same 'rules' apply to the Paper. She is more than willing to look at a sample paragraph to make sure that you are using proper referencing and writing style. She doesn't, however, have the time to read the entire paper prior to your submission.


What is the minimum passing grade?

All work at the postgraduate level at Staffordshire University has a minimum passing grade of 50%.


Who is doing the assessments?

All your work will be double marked. In some cases (such as the web site assignment) the two assessors might view the work together and make joint comments and feedback. In other cases (such as the Personal Essay) the work is read by the assessors individually and then a final mark is assigned.


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