What I Wish My Professors Knew About Life as An Online Learner

How Online Learners and Professors Can Communicate
Mental HealthOnline LearningStudent Success
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Shaloun Mims is a student at The  University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee  and a Cengage Student Ambassador


One of the most fascinating things about professors is that they were once students. And it’s likely that every single educator has at one point thought, “I just wish my professor knew this!” Whether about the basis of the curriculum, how things are graded, or even the student-professor dynamic inside the classroom, there’s always room to grow for both students and professors.

As a student who’s taken both in-person and online classes throughout their college career, there are many things I wish my professors knew. I just wish my professors knew that college is a lot different from when they were in school.


Online Learners Have Multiple Responsibilities

The college experience is forever changing. Fortunately, with technological advancements, it’ll continue to change. Students nowadays don’t just attend college. Most of us have entire lives outside of pursuing our education, sometimes including a full-time job, a family to raise and a pre-existing career. With this being the case, the flexibility of professors is essential for the success of an online course. I just wish my professors knew that while we take our education very seriously, we have to juggle more than just our course load to stay afloat in this economy. This means that communication will be the most important aspect of the relationship between an online learner and their professor.


Online Learners Value Communication

If professors and students communicated beyond a “pass or fail” basis during an online course, students could provide feedback that could help the professor with future online students. In-person classes allow professors to gauge their students’ understanding of course materials and how well their class flows throughout the semester. Without an online student sending a direct email, professors only know if they’re passing or failing. Professors will never really know if one of their assignments doesn’t quite align with the curriculum, or how the discussion post should’ve been worth more points because of the value it adds to students learning the material. The style of teaching necessary for an online learner is much different than that of an in-person course.

Setting Expectations Between Professors and Online Learners

I just wish my professor knew that as the lines of the college experience become grayer for professors, so is the line for students. Being a full-time college student looks different now, as does being a professor. It’s vital to start setting the expectation for future college students who may only see an online learning format. My experiences of college before becoming an online learner led to my success in virtual learning. The chance that some student might not get that experience before beginning their online learning journey is frightening. It’s fair to say that it’s up to professors to set the expectation of a successful online class. What does that look like for students? What does that look like for professors? The question of flexibility versus guidance shouldn’t have to fall solely on online learners.


To see online learning tips from students for students, keep reading in this blog post.


Want to ensure your online course hits all the marks when it comes to effective course design and makes room for student feedback, peer feedback and more?