Distance Education is a way of delivering instruction that allows the student and instructor to be separated by physical distance using technology to bridge the physical gap. This delivery system allows the College to provide you with many more course selections than if all classes were offered in the traditional setting. Distance Education offerings often provide flexibility and convenience that you may find will fill your educational needs. However, before you enroll in any distance education course, you need to understand what kind of delivery is involved and what will be expected of you as a student.
Below is some information designed to get you started in learning about Distance Education. Be sure to check out the self-evaluation in this section and don’t hesitate to ask for help!!
Definitions and Descriptions:
Web-based courses are available to students who have a computer with an Internet connection. You will receive instructional material via the Internet and communicate with your instructor and other students through e-mail and electronic bulletin boards. Most course activities will take place through the Blackboard system, which is Eastern’s web-based platform for online classes.
If you are interested in taking a web course, you should be aware that certain skills are necessary to succeed in this mode of learning. You should possess fundamental computer and academic competencies, including:
- Good reading and writing skills
- Keyboarding skills
- Word processing skills
- Internet navigation skills
- E-mail sending and receiving skills
- Distance-learning software skills (Blackboard).
Students will have access to video-based Blackboard training as part of their orientation.
Hybrid courses use a combination of formats to deliver instruction to students. Hybrid classes may be a mix of web-based instruction (Internet), face-to-face instruction, video distance learning and/or web conferencing. The Class Schedule will note if a class is a hybrid class and the percentage of instruction face-to-face and percentage of instruction through distance technology. Face-to-face meeting times will also be listed in the Class Schedule. Your advisor or the instructor can answer questions concerning a specific hybrid class.
The video distance courses provide “real-time” instruction. Using technology, you can see and hear your instructor at all times, even though you are located in different geographic locations. You can ask questions and your instructor can provide immediate feedback. Most of these courses require fundamental skills such as e-mailing and posting on discussion boards. If registering for one of these courses, students must complete a Blackboard orientation session.
Online or distance learning classes often give students a sense of anonymity or make one feel less inhibited. The following guidelines are general rules for internet etiquette or “Netiquette.”
- Remember there is a person or people on the other end. Do not write anything you would not say to someone in person. Abusive or offensive posts will not be tolerated.
- Assignments in online classes are just as important as assignments in face-to-face classes. It is important to use proper spelling, grammar and punctuation. Do not use text slang or lingo.
- For online discussions, stay on topic. If you want to communicate with another student about personal issues or an issue not related to the topic, email or chat with that individual separately.
- Think before you write. Class discussions may be controversial. If a topic or post has provoked strong feelings, write your post and save it. Wait for an hour, then read it again before you post it.
- Word process assignments and discussion posts. Write assignments and discussion posts in Microsoft Word or a similar word-processing software. Use the spell-check and grammar-check functions to proofread your assignment.
- You will find that most web based courses are not self-paced courses, you are expected to meet class/assignments due dates. Your instructor determines the design of the course (for example, whether you have to be logged on at a certain time for a live chat).
- You must have daily access to the college website through your own computer, a computer lab terminal, or other outside terminals (libraries, your workplace, etc.).
- You must have the required software for each course you are taking (some software must be downloaded from the Internet) Microsoft Office 365 applications (such as Word, Excel, Access, Publisher) are provided to Eastern students at no additional cost.
- You are responsible for checking the course on Blackboard and checking your college email several times each week for updates.
- You are required to complete a Blackboard orientation session for entry into an online class.
- In many instances, the instructors may make copyrighted materials available to students online under fair use provisions. It is important for students to remember that materials are provided for educational purposes only, and that it is against the law for students to photocopy and distribute copyrighted materials. More information about the college’s Copyright, Intellectual Property and Fair Use policies is provided in the first section of this Student Handbook.
- Distance education, especially web-based courses, require students to have a high degree of motivation and self discipline due to the lack of daily contact with the instructor.
Students must have access to computer hardware and software, as well as access to high-speed Internet, to take distance learning classes. It is not advised to use an Android or iOS tablet or smart phone, or a Google Chromebook, as your primary computing device because Blackboard is not optimized for these devices.
- PC with Windows 7, 8, 8.1, or 10 (10 is preferred)
- Mac with MacOS Sierra, High Sierra, or Mojave
- 4+ GB RAM
- Hard Drive Storage
- An updated Web Browser (Firefox, Google Chrome, Edge, Safari). Please note, Internet Explorer is no longer supported. Some browser settings, such as accepting cookies and permitting pop-ups, may be required for specific functions to operate correctly. To check your browser compatibility and browser settings, visit the Blackboard Browser Checker.
- Microsoft Office 365 (provided free to all Eastern students. Instructions on downloading the software will be provided as part of the online orientation).
- Acrobat Reader (free download from Adobe. Uncheck the MacAfee add-ons before you download).
- Some courses may require other specialized software. Details will be provided in the course syllabus.
- Portable thumb drive. Computers on Eastern’s campus reset to a “clean” state after each user logs out, so documents and files cannot be saved on campus computers. As a result, students using campus computers should use a thumb drive for saving files. Thumb drives also offer a convenient way to back up files and assignments saved on your personal computer.
- Web camera. May be required in some courses. See your course syllabus for details.
- Students must have regular access to reliable, high-speed Internet. Cell phone “hot spot”-based connections are typically unsuitable for an online course.
Stuck? Help Is Available.
Videos are available to guide students through the process of accessing Email, Office 365, and Blackboard. Visit the Technology Support page to learn more.
Eastern’s Blackboard Help Desk assists students who are having technical difficulties with Blackboard, the website-based platform for courses.
- Kristen Colebank -- Kristen.Colebank@easternwv.edu (preferred) or call 304-434-8000 ext. 9266
- Seyed Mirkhani -- Seyed.Mirkhani@easternwv.edu (preferred) or call 304-434-8000 ext. 9259
Include the following information in your email: complete description of the problem (include screenshots if possible), your name, course and section number, and instructor's name). If leaving a voice mail, please included the aforementioned information when leaving your detailed message.
WVNET, Eastern’s Blackboard provider, also offers a 24/7/365 help desk for students to supplement Eastern’s staff. Students can use the WVNET Help Desk tab (located near the top right corner of the screen) in Blackboard, or they can call the WVNET help desk at 304-293-5192 x 248 for Blackboard assistance.
Students should also be aware Blackboard will be offline for a few hours (from 12 midnight to 4 a.m.) every Monday morning for maintenance. It will not be available during those hours.
Also, for students having difficulty accessing their college email (firstname.lastname@example.org) , contact the Eastern help desk staff listed above.
Should I consider enrolling in a distance learning course?
Distance learning courses require a high degree of commitment on your part. You need to be a self-motivated and independent learner. If you tend to wait until the last minute to finish assignments and readings, this type of learning is not recommended. Also, if the subject is one that you may have difficulty learning or you dislike, it is not recommended that you take that class via the web.
What software and hardware do I need for web-based courses?
Students must have a computer with high-speed internet connectivity (software requirements and dependent on the course format. See more in the Technology section above.)
How do I gain access to the web-based class?
Students can gain access to their class only after they have been officially registered for that course and the semester has started. Students should complete a Blackboard orientation session that will teach students how to access online courses and student email. Information about the Blackboard orientation will be emailed to students before the semester starts.
Can I gain access to these classes on campus?
Yes, students may use college computers to complete the assigned work for a distance learning class. Computers also will be available at the college's Technology Center in Petersburg.
Where do I go for testing?
Your tests may be given online or you may be required to take tests at Eastern's main campus. Instructors may also allow individual arrangements to be made with approved off-site proctors (possible circumstances might include proctoring by local library staff members, local college/teaching staff, etc.) Testing procedures for each course will be specified in the course syllabus at the start of the semester. Most courses that will require on-site proctoring at Eastern’s main campus will note that requirement in the Course Schedule.
How does the instructor receive my work?
For online classes, your work will be submitted electronically, usually through Blackboard. Other options might include e-mail, electronic drop boxes, or message boards. VDL course materials might also be collected by an on-site classroom facilitator. Your instructor will provide details for submission in your course syllabus.
Characteristics of Students who Succeed in Distance Learning:
- Highly motivated to achieve
- Independent learner
- Active learner
- Adaptable to changes and new ways of doing things
Distance Learning Quick Facts:
A distance learner must be self-reliant. Self-reliance means:
- the ability to take responsibility for learning
- knowing how to set goals and standards
- knowing how to conduct library research
- having initiative and having the ability to manage time
- having the ability and willingness to evaluate yourself and others critically
Taking responsibility for your learning means that you make a conscious commitment to the learning task. Among other things, this includes:
- making the time necessary to study and following through with our schedule
- making your weaknesses and taking action to strengthen them
- asking for help or clarification when you need it
- learning to say no to things that interfere with your goal
- staying motivated
- finding ways to meet needs that you cannot meet by yourself
- fostering an idea of yourself as an active learner, not a passive receiver, of knowledge
Self-Evaluation--Questions to Ask Yourself Before Enrolling in a Distance Education Course:
Are you self-motivated?
Do you complete what you start?
Are you able to work independently with little direction?
Do you have self-discipline?
Do you believe that learning is ultimately your responsibility?
Do you have good reading and writing skills?
Can you read books and easily comprehend what is being said?
Are you comfortable using the Internet?
Are you able to learn new computer skills and software that may be needed for a course?
Are you able to easily express yourself in writing?
Will you ask for help if needed or if a problem arises?
If you answered "yes" to all or most of the questions, you are probably ready for a distance education course.