Online Learning Cheat Sheet


 The ups and downs of the global economy have sent more learners back to school to retool or add credentials to their résumé. Additionally, we all have experienced the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. Online learning allows learners to address their professional development needs at a time and in a manner that may be more flexible with their lifestyles. To succeed online, you need a few basic technology skills and pointers on how to stay safe; you also need to evaluate online programs carefully, communicate clearly, and develop good study habits.

Prepare to Learn Online

You should have a few basic technology skills down pat before you enroll in any form of online learning, whether it’s a single online course for fun or a fully online bachelor’s degree program. Make sure you know how to

  • Attach a microphone and headset to your computer (or use what’s built in)
  • Create folders and subfolders on your computer’s hard drive or a flash drive to help facilitate organization of coursework
  • Open your preferred Internet browser and navigate to various websites
  • Open multiple browser windows, either in separate floating windows or in multiple tabs in a single window
  • Send and receive emails with attachments
  • Save and open attachments, including audio and video files
  • Download and install applications and application plugins

Stay Safe While Learning Online

Stories abound about the dangers of the Internet, but a few simple measures can go a long way toward ensuring that your online experience is safe and worry-free. Follow these guidelines:

  • Make payments for classes, books, and the like only at a secure site with https:// as the prefix.

    Create a single word processing or spreadsheet file where you keep all your login information. Save that file securely with a password. You then have to remember only one password rather than many.

  • Never tell your password(s) to anyone.
  • Don’t disclose your life story to classmates. Maintain some privacy.

    If you need to provide contact information to your instructor or peers when working on a group project, provide only information necessary to complete the project, such as your school email address and your mobile phone.

Questions to Ask as You Evaluate Online Programs

Many schools offer online courses, but not all schools are created the same. To help you decide where to apply, ask yourself these questions as you investigate online programs and their staffs:

    Is this school or program accredited (proven to meet academic standards by an agency approved by the U.S. Department of Education)?

  • Are the courses self-paced or instructor-led?
  • How many class hours (total time in hours) a week will each course take?
  • What is the student/faculty ratio?
  • What is the student retention rate?
  • Who are the faculty and what kind of training have they received?
  • When do classes begin?
  • What if I need to stop out (temporarily withdraw)?
  • Is financial aid available?

    What are the minimal technology requirements (hardware and software) for taking an online course at your institution?

    What are the minimal technology competencies a learner must have to take an online course at your institution?

    Will I be expected to be online at a specific time to conference with my instructor or classmates?

Communicate Clearly in Online Courses

Communication is vital in all forms of education, and online education is no exception. The following tips can help you communicate effectively online:

  • Get to the point. Succinct writing is valued.
  • Always reference other authors — use proper citation methods! Your instructor will tell you which specific method to use.
  • Don’t type in all caps. It’s like shouting.
  • Be aware that anything written can be misconstrued. Try to write as if your grandmother would read it — use polite and professional language without innuendos or sarcasm.
  • If you’re working on a group project, copy the instructor if you’re using email so that they know your group’s progress.
  • Don’t be afraid to use the phone. It’s okay to call the instructor if you have a question.
  • Don’t overpost in discussion forums. If your instructor asks for 2 posts, 4 is fine, but 14 is too many!
  • If possible, communicate special circumstances as soon as possible (family emergencies, vacations, and so forth), not after the fact.

A Few Habits of Successful Online Learners

Some of the most successful learners are those who learn self-discipline with respect to their study habits. The lack of pressure that comes with meeting face-to-face is absent in the online environment. Therefore, it’s important to heed the following suggestions for establishing good study habits for online learning:

  • Set a schedule for studying and log in frequently (daily, if possible).
  • Print the syllabus, instructor contact information, and course calendar on day one.
  • Read all rubrics (documents outlining assessment criteria for assignments) and guidelines carefully, and self-check before starting assignments and again before submitting them.
  • Find out how to use the library services for your institution. Seek credible resources for your work, and don’t just rely on Google or Wikipedia.
  • Double-check citations and references for accuracy. Avoid plagiarism!
  • Compose assignments in a word processor and save everything before transferring it to the online environment.
  • Actively participate and interact with your classmates and instructor. Don’t be a wallflower.

Source: By Susan Manning, Kevin E. Johnson

Labor Day and Covid-19

Hopefully, summer won’t end the way it began. Memorial Day celebrations helped set off a wave of coronavirus infections across much of the South and West. Gatherings around the Fourth of July seemed to keep those hot spots aflame.

And now Labor Day arrives as those regions are cooling off from COVID-19. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned Wednesday that Americans should be cautious to avoid another surge in infection rates. But travelers are also weary of staying home — and tourist destinations are starved for cash.

“Just getting away for an hour up the street and staying at a hotel is like a vacation, for real,” says Kimberly Michaels, who works for NASA in Huntsville, Alabama, and traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, with her boyfriend to celebrate his birthday last weekend.

Lifting Restrictions for Summer’s End

In time for the tail end of summer, many local governments are lifting restrictions to resuscitate tourism activity and rescue small businesses.

Nashville, for instance, gave the green light to pedal taverns this week, allowing the human-powered bars-on-wheels to take to the streets again. “They’re not Nashville’s favorite group, frankly. But fairness requires this protocol change to take place,” Mayor John Cooper said, noting the city’s dramatic reduction in new cases. This week, the city also raised the attendance cap on weddings, funerals and other ceremonies.

Elsewhere, Virginia Beach tried to get some leniency for its struggling restaurants over the holiday weekend. But Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam rejected pleas from the mayor, at the encouragement of Fauci. The country’s top health official has encouraged governors to keep restrictions in place to avoid another holiday-related surge.

“Sometimes, as we start to lift restrictions, the impression that people get is ‘Oh, that must mean it’s safe,’” says epidemiologist Melissa McPheeters of Vanderbilt University. “We want to make sure we don’t give that impression, because this disease has not gone anywhere.”

Some communities have gone the other direction and reimposed restrictions, especially for the three-day weekend. Santa Barbara, California, has banned sunbathing to avoid another surge in cases.

Schooling Screws Up COVID Circles

On a Sunday afternoon, out-of-towners walk the tourist district in Nashville, where many attractions have reopened — with restrictions. All dance floors are closed and restaurants and bars must close by 10:30 p.m.(Blake Farmer/WLPN)

There’s also a new X-factor with summer’s last holiday weekend. In many states, schools have resumed in-person classes. So families and friends meeting up are now more likely to expose each other to the virus, even if they tried to keep a tight circle over the summer.

“If those bubbles now have kids that went back to school and are interacting with others or they’ve gone back to sports and the bubble has since expanded, that ability to be safely together in a gathering is probably less likely,” says epidemiologist Bertha Hidalgo of the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

And yet, getting together safely — preferably outdoors — is still worth a try, Hidalgo says. She says people’s mental health needs a boost to get through the next few months.

“If you can do the safe things now before winter hits and that cold weather hits, then you’ll be more resilient to get through any bad times that may come,” she says.

In drivable destinations like Nashville that have welcomed visitors throughout the pandemic, tourism has not bounced back entirely. But on some weekend nights, the neon-soaked tourist district can draw a crowd.

Still, as time goes by, some travelers are willing to take more risks to get back to activities that feel normal.

 

Kaiser Health

COVID-19 Puts Medication #Abortion in the Spotlight

COVID-19 Puts Medication Abortion in the Spotlight

Only patients in a limited number of states have access to “no-test” medication abortions. During the COVID-19 crisis, 12 states issued policies that attempted to limit abortion access during the outbreak, such as deeming abortion “non-essential.” Most of these state policies have been blocked by court order or lifted as states start to re-open. In Arkansas, patients must have at least one negative COVID-19 Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) test in the 48 hours prior to the procedure.

These new restrictions are in addition to existing barriers to abortion services. In 18 states, telemedicine abortion has been effectively prohibited; 5 states explicitly ban telemedicine for medication abortion, while 13 states require the prescribing clinician be physically present with the patient. The “no-test” model is also not an option in the 14 states requiring patients receive an ultrasound before an abortion, and in the 13 states with in-person counseling requirements. This leaves 23 states in which the “no-test” model could be used to provide medication abortion.

Medication abortion via telemedicine is a method that can be used to safely provide women with access to abortion care while social distancing, preserving personal protective equipment, and limiting risk of exposure to coronavirus.

A new telemedicine protocol –“no-test” medication abortions– has been developed in response to COVID-19. This approach, based on studies conducted outside the US demonstrating its safety, enables many patients to safely obtain abortions without needing in-person tests or exams. This approach, along with other telemedicine protocols, however, would not be available in many states because of state laws and policies that prohibit its use.  

Currently, in 23 states, providers could adopt this method to offer medication abortion because there are not laws or policies that prohibit its use. However, in other states, laws explicitly ban telemedicine abortions or make them impractical by requiring the prescribing clinician to be physically present with the patient, ultrasounds before abortions, or in-person counseling.