Guide to online learning at Polk State

Posted on by Polk Newsroom

While Polk State already offered many online classes, the coronavirus pandemic caused the College to shift all classes to a remote learning environment for the foreseeable future.

Some of Polk State’s courses include a combination of synchronous and asynchronous activities – depending on the format that the instructor believes will be most effective for learning. When signing up for courses in Passport, students should check the course notes to ensure that they understand the course format and how online instruction will take place.

The format of online instruction varies from course to course. This is a guide to how it works at Polk State.

While online instruction means that students and instructors aren’t physically in the same space, it doesn’t mean that similar experiences can’t be created virtually.

Online instruction can be synchronous – happening in real-time – where students and instructors interact in a virtual space, at a specific time, through a specific medium. The most frequently used mediums for this at Polk State are the Conferences tool in Canvas and Zoom videoconferencing. Synchronous instruction most closely resembles the face-to-face classroom experience, with set days and times for classes and opportunities for real-time discussion with classmates. Classes are often recorded so that students can view them again if necessary and course materials and assignments are posted to Canvas for students to access throughout the term.

Online instruction can also be asynchronous – occurring on the student’s schedule. These courses can include self-guided lessons, pre-recorded video content, and online discussion boards to facilitate student conversation. These courses are often better suited for students who have busy work and family schedules that may not allow time for class attendance during set school hours. As with synchronous instruction, all lessons, materials, and assignments are posted to Canvas and other online platforms.

Similarly, in an online instruction environment, instructors communicate with students in multiple ways to facilitate student success. Instructors may use emails, Remind text messages, Announcements in Canvas, phone calls, and [synchronous] virtual office hours, to maintain strong communications with students.

Understandably, many students may have concerns about online instruction. Here’s what Polk State College faculty have to say about the benefits of online instruction, and tips for how students can be most successful in this environment.

What are the benefits of online instruction?

Rafaela Ellis, Professor of English, Honors Program: With asynchronous courses, in particular, students can do their work on their own time, access all course materials at their convenience, and learn how to use various technologies, which will help them in the future.

HD Childree, Professor of English, Liberal Arts: Remote instruction allows teachers and students to create a schedule that works for their unique needs, such as occur with having children, caring for elderly parents, or working a job with a strict time schedule.

Sgt. Christen Shea, Program Director, Criminal Justice:  Our bachelor’s degree program has always been online. The flexibility of online learning is great for students who must work a full-time job, have a rotating schedule — as many law-enforcement officers have –, have children, or other responsibilities that prevent them from attending face-to-face.

Beverly Woolery, Professor of Education, Academics: Convenience. Ability to complete coursework from home while drinking coffee, in pajamas, late at night, early in the morning, etc. Students can live far from the college. Students with children at home can still take Polk State courses online while homeschooling their children. No transportation is needed.

How can students be most successful in an online environment?

Dr. Raymond Oberg, Professor of Criminal Justice Technology, Criminal Justice: Use of course emails is instrumental for students in keeping them informed as to questions related to the events happening and in their online learning.

Rafaela Ellis: Students should communicate regularly with their instructors. Canvas has a conference feature I use to hold virtual office hours. I can see and hear the students, as well as share materials visually.

Beverly Woolery: Yes, I think communication is very important in online classes.  It helps to build relationships and repeated communication between the instructor and students leads to overall success.

HD Childree: Students should remember to use all the College’s resources. College librarians are available through the Ask a Librarian feature in Canvas to assist students as they complete their research papers. Also, advisors are available to help students figure out study and work schedules, navigate financial aid, communicate with professors, and deal with life and what it throws at our students. Often our students don’t realize that Polk State can help them not just academically and financially but also with communication and life management.

As these professors have noted, until face-to-face classes resume, online learning offers a variety of ways to help students soar to success.