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Online study - so what's involved?

Hints for studying online

Site: NMIT Moodle
Course: NMIT Moodle
Book: Online study - so what's involved?
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Date: Thursday, 12 December 2019, 9:13 AM

Why learn online?

When you study online at NMIT, you enter your course through the NMIT Online website. After logging in, you can access your course materials such as readings, learning activities and assessments. Online communication tools like discussion forums and chat, let you interact with your teacher and classmates. You will be supported in how to do this and receive relevant training for specific software. Many students find that online learning offers them the flexibility to study when, where and how they want.

A concise print version of this book can be downloaded here.

  • Courses taught through the Internet or 'online' provide opportunities for student-centred learning. Online, learners are empowered to learn by themselves and to teach each other. Online, you have the opportunity to share, collaborate and critique each other's work.

  • You have an opportunity to write more online. Because you have time to think before you write, and reflect on your and others' writing, your writing will improve.

  • It's geared to lifelong learning - you will be learning for the rest of your life, and much of it will be online.

  • You have access to rich content, including multimedia images that explain ideas better than text books and words. The Internet also provides you with rich and interesting resources.

  • You can learn where and when you want—24/7. Help and support is available to you through online connections

  • Through quizzes and interactive tests you can get immediate feedback, and you can see how you are doing.

  • You will get to know your peers and colleagues through online discussions, and often get to know more about their ideas than if you were in a face to face classroom.

  • Sharing, collaborating and discussing online helps you develop skills that you will need the rest of your life.

This page has been adapted from: Kassop, M. Ten ways online education matches, or surpasses, face to face learning. Retrieved on May 6, 2003 from http://ts.mivu.org

These pages have been adapted from material kindly provided by the Wintec Moodle team.

So what does an online course look like?

When you study online at NMIT,you enter your course through the NMIT Online website. After logging in, you can access your course materials such as readings, learning activities and assessments. Online communication tools like discussion forums and chat, let you interact with your teacher and classmates. You will be supported in how to do this and receive relevant training for specific software. Many students find that online learning offers them the flexibility to study when, where and how they want.

Each online course will incorporate different combinations of learning materials and activities to suit the topic and a variety of learning and student characteristics. Most courses combine reading materials (some online and some in print), references to web sites and discussion boards or chat rooms. Many include quizzes, videos and may also have practical workshops or workplace assessment sessions.

You can view some sample online courses to get a better sense of what's involved.

What is an e-learner?

An e-learner is someone who uses computers in any way to acquire knowledge and skills. An e-learner may:

  • use a communications site to access discussion boards

  • use a website to access library sites and catalogues

  • use email to contact tutors

  • use chat for class discussions

  • complete the whole of their course of study online - access information, post assignments and talk with classmates and tutors online.

What makes a good e-learner?

  • Practice and self confidence. Online learning can be quite frightening at first.

  • Getting to know your other class members, either by attending any face to face sessions or by communicating with them online.

  • Contacting your tutor when you feel the need or as negotiated with your tutor.

  • Using technology to share, collaborate, discuss and practice.

  • Breaking your work into meaningful chunks and rewarding yourself when you have finished.

Do you think you would make a good e-Learner? Try this online quiz from Drexel University. It will rate your suitability for online learning and suggest areas you will need to may need to focus on to ensure your success. Alternatively, complete this form “Is online learning for me?” for a quick self-check.

You should be aware of your own learning style regardless of whether you are studying online or in classroom-based courses. Try this online quiz from VARK to find out more about your personal learning style.

You should also make sure you have the right equipment - see our computer specifications for NMIT Online courses.

E-learner Hints

  • Use your experiences and share them. Think how much you know already!

  • Concentrate on the ideas and don't worry about 'typos' (typing mistakes) when you write. Your tutor will inform you of the academic requirements for your writing.

  • Practise your typing.

  • Go online, do what you need to do and get off. You can spend many hours online 'just having a look'. Remember the sunshine, people....

  • Allocate sufficient time to study online.

  • Make sure you allocate enough time to study online.

  • Use the search tool to find information.

  • Ask if there are any problems, say how you are feeling, let the tutor know what you think.

  • Get to chat sessions on time, post things on the discussion board when you are meant to, get your assignments in on time. Use the calendar.

  • Share your work and ideas.

  • Be aware that others my be feeling uncertain too.

  • Think about what you are going to say and check that what you have written will be easily understood.

  • Be academic - reference, refer to, quote....

  • Make sure your work is your own. Plagiarism is unethical and unprofessional.

  • Be aware of your own learning style regardless of whether you are studying online or in classroom-based courses. Try this online quiz from VARK to find out more about your personal learning style.

Sharing and collaborating

Online learning, while offering a way to deliver assignments and content to you asynchronously, also offers you the opportunity to share and collaborate effectively. Two notions underpin the development of online courses:

  • meaningful learning
  • scaffolding.

Jonassen, Peck and Wilson (1999) describe meaningful learning as:

  • Active
  • Constructive
  • Intentional
  • Authentic
  • Cooperative.

How does this work in my course?

Your tutor will provide opportunities for meaningful learning, through chat rooms, e-mail links and discussion boards and internet searches. These opportunities offer guidance through carefully constructed activities that lead you from the known to the less well known. This is called 'scaffolding'.

In order to use these activities effectively, consider the skills you may develop:

  • language/content skills
  • negotiation
  • problem solving
  • reaching consensus
  • synthesizing/summarising
  • observation/analysis, identifying
  • giving feedback.

We encourage you to use every opportunity to share and collaborate, so that you begin to construct a body of skills, information and knowledge that you develop, hone and share with your classmates.

How do I do this?

Use: the discussion board - paste updated word processesed documents, allocate someone to synthesise your work, share URLs, share and comment on readings, new information, opinions. Your tutor can set up private discussion groups.

email - send each other your updated word processesed documents, allocate someone to synthesise your work. Use the email to set up chat sessions.

  • Your tutor can set up an email group for you.

chat rooms - note the rooms that are private. Use these to discuss your work, plans and to allocate tasks.

student presentations - this allows you to access shared folders, and to upload files.

  • Your tutor will set you up in a group. (Note: not all courses use this feature.)

the Internet - use the Internet to search for information, making sure you carefully evaluate sites and avoid plagiarising.

Reference: Jonassen, D.H., Peck, K.L., & Wilson, B.G. (1999). Learning with Technology: A Constructivist Perspective. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Writing online

Write concisely

  • If you adapt a paper copy document - cut it by 50%. People scan and use link words on the web.

  • Use paragraphs and keep your sentences short.


Use a readable design

  • Choose an easy to read font - sans serif is usually easier to read than serif .

  • Choose colours that are easy to read - headings should be darkish.

  • Don't use too many colours, keep to black or dark blue for main text.

  • Use short lines and remember paragraphs!

  • Use lower case rather than UPPER CASE WHICH IS HARD TO READ ONLINE.

  • Avoid using Initial Capitals. They Look Very Old Fashioned.

  • Only underline hyperlinks.


Write to be scanned

  • Align left - it helps the eye to scan.

  • Make your headings useful - ask questions, lead in...

  • Use the inverted pyramid structure

    • Big idea at the top

    • Least important at the bottom

Reference: McAlpine, R (1999). Web Word Wizardry. Wellington: Corporate Communications.

Using emoticons

Emoticons can be used to convey the non-verbal tone, expression or intent of a comment. The text editor has a smile image on the toolbar that allows you to insert an emoticon into your forum posts or other places where the text editor appears. In chat sessions you can use the keyboard characters to convey the same emoticons - see table below.

Note: when using keyboard characters there should not be any spaces between characters.

smile smile : -)
big grin big grin : -D
wink wink ; -)
mixed mixed : -/
thoughtful thoughtful V -.
tongueout tongueout : -P
cool cool B -)
approve approve ^ -)
wide eyes wide eyes 8 -)
surprise surprise 8 -o
sad sad : -(
shy shy 8 -.
blush blush : -I
kiss kiss : -X
clown clown : o)
black eye black eye P -|
angry angry 8 -[
dead dead xx -P
sleepy sleepy | -.
evil evil } -]

Computing and study support links

PCStudents planning to study our online courses will require access to:

  • A computer capable of running the following software, accessing the internet and playing audio and video files (i.e. has a sound card with speakers or headphones).
  • An Internet connection – while the courses can be accessed via a 56 kbps modem we strongly recommend a broadband connection to take full advantage of video and audio resources provided.
  • An email programme (e.g. Outlook or Thunderbird) or online email account (e.g. Gmail or Hotmail)
  • An Internet Browser equivalent to recent Google Chrome, recent Mozilla Firefox, Safari 6, Internet Explorer 9 (IE 10 required for drag and drop of files from outside the browser).
  • Media player software for playing common audio and video files either as a standalone software (e.g. Windows media player, iTunes, QuickTime, VLC media player) or plug-ins to your internet browser (e,g, Flash).
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader for displaying PDF files.
  • A word processing programme - either Microsoft Word 2010 (or above), Open Office (free), Office365 Web Apps (free), Google Docs (free) or some other equivalent.
  • Some courses may include online audio/video meetings that require a webcam and/or microphone.

Students should also be comfortable with using the computer including, basic file management, email and word processing skills. Access to and familiarity with using a digital camera and uploading pictures would also be an advantage.


The following resources may be useful to guide you through general computing and online study issues.

NMIT Computer support materials

iNeedHelp (http://www.nmit.ac.nz/support/iNeedHelp/) provides resources on a range of computing and internet skills, including

Library, research and study support

NMIT Learning support service (http://www.nmit.ac.nz/support/learning/)

  • Study tip sheets

NMIT Library (http://library.nmit.ac.nz/)

  • Online research resources
  • SearchPath - a tutorial on Library services and research skills
  • Services for distance students