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Perspective | Tips for students transitioning to online studies from Rowan-Cabarrus Community College

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College has offered courses online since 2000, and as other educational entities have transitioned to virtual classes in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the college is meeting the challenge of transitioning the remaining face-to-face courses to entirely online. For the over one-third of students who are currently taking online classes, this is business as usual; however, there is an adjustment for instructors new to teaching online and students new to online learning as they navigate their way to a “new normal.”

“We know that many students prefer in-person classroom instruction and may be struggling to master technology and stay organized and focused on their virtual classes,” said Dr. Jenny Billings, chair of Curriculum and Developmental English and Academic Skills at Rowan-Cabarrus.

“Online learning is different, but it does not have to be more difficult than classroom learning,” Billings said. “Students just need to be purposeful in the way they adapt, meet deadlines and interact with their instructors and peers. Just because you’re at home right now rather than in class does not mean you are alone. Instructors are here, ready and willing to help.”

Here are five tips from Rowan-Cabarrus faculty and staff to foster an easier transition to online learning:

Tip #1 – Do not be afraid to ask for help! Reach out to your instructor via email, and if email is not a good way to address the questions you have, then ask for a phone call, screen sharing or a virtual meeting (Microsoft Teams, Zoom, etc.). Connect with classmates via text, email, or online study groups.

Tip #2 – Check your college email and other internal platforms such as Blackboard daily, and make sure to read through each item or message fully. Configuring your email on your phone can help make sure you don’t miss communications. 

Tip #3 – Set up a routine, manage your time wisely, and work in a space free of distractions and interference. Create a schedule with listed deadlines and planned study times, and stay organized with online folders, calendars and notifications.  

Tip #4 – Take advantage of virtual tutoring services and instructor office hours. Rowan-Cabarrus offers free online tutoring to support students in their various coursework. Free online tools such as Grammarly also can be helpful.

Tip #5 – Take care of yourself! Eat well, get plenty of sleep, and take care of your mental and physical health. Take regular breaks to stretch, relax, and avoid computer eye strain. It can be a good idea to use a timer and set a designated schedule for your work time — work for an hour, take a short break, and repeat the process.

“In an online environment, communication is key,” said Zack Hubbard, program chair of Information Technology, Medical Office Administration and Office Administration. “Remember that faculty are here to help you and want to hear from you.”

In addition to online courses, Rowan-Cabarrus offers other student services virtually through the end of this semester for all its students. The college is continuously monitoring the COVID-19 situation and working with healthcare and educational partners locally and across the state to determine the most appropriate ways to serve students.

I am beyond proud of the way our faculty and staff have come together for our students during these unprecedented and challenging months. I hope our current students will take advantage of the requirement to stay home and be safe by learning online, finishing the semester, and keeping on their educational pathway.

Though our parking lots are empty, we are hard at work at home using our robust technology to serve thousands of students in hundreds of classes and providing virtual library and student services.

Carol Spalding

Dr. Carol Spalding has served as president of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College since 2008. She was selected 2019 President of the Year by the North Carolina Community College System and one of the top Ten Regional Leaders of the Decade by the Charlotte Business Journal. Her primary focus is economic and workforce development. An early advocate and national leader in distance learning, the College has been recognized as one of the top ten “Most Wired” large community colleges, in part because of its commitment to excellence in providing nine fully online degrees.