Tips for Online Students: How to Ask a Question

Getting Started

When you are new to online learning there can be a lot to learn, and fast! As an online student you will be taking on some additional responsibilities for your time and your academic work. One of your greatest resources is your instructor. Asking for help or communicating with an instructor can be very intimidating, especially for a new student.

Before You Email

Many times instructors will post important information in the course announcements, the syllabus, or perhaps send out a welcome email at the start of class. Chances are that many of your questions will already be answered there. Be sure to spend some time reviewing your class and the materials right away. You will feel much more at ease with your environment.

How to Ask a Question

Instructors love to help students. We are here to help you succeed! In order to help us help you, we need you to be as specific as possible. If you simply say “I need help” or “I don’t understand” it doesn’t give us much to work with. Begin your email by stating the assignment, unit, or reading that you are working with. Then follow up with the question. Tell your instructor what you don’t understand or what outcome you are looking for.

A Poor Email:

Professor Smith,

I am so confused and I don’t understand what I am supposed to do! Help me!

Student Jones

Unless Professor Smith is a mind reader, chances are he or she doesn’t know either! What are you working on? Where are you in the classroom? What is the obstacle holding you back? In this scenario, your instructor will have to ask you follow up questions for more information, which will only delay you getting the help you need.

A better way to approach the issue:

Professor Smith,

I am having trouble with the Unit 4 discussion. Are the instructions asking for two responses to classmates, or three?

Student Jones

This is very clear and concise. Professor Smith will know how exactly how to respond, meaning you will get a clear answer right away.

Following Up

Most faculty members are quite diligent in responding to student emails right away. However, there are a myriad of reasons you may not get the speedy response you hoped for. The very first thing to do is review your syllabus, the course announcements, and if applicable your instructor’s biography. Look for information on contacting the instructor. Did you use their preferred means of communication? (Note, increasingly the preferred means of communication will be a messaging tool in the classroom and not email.) Is there a stated expectation of how long you should wait before a response?

If there is no expectation outlined in the course materials, wait 48 hours and then you may follow up with your instructor for a response. What you want to avoid here is multiple emails a day, or sending emails hours later asking if your instructor received your message. This is inefficient for both students and instructors.

Instructors as Resources

Remember, your instructor is key to your success. You never have to feel timid or apologize for asking questions. It is our role to support you and help you navigate the course successfully. We want to help you! Asking questions is a great way to enrich your learning experience.

Helpful Tips and Advice for Students

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been at university for a while or if you’re just beginning your time as a student, advice will be coming at you from all sides on what you should be doing to succeed during your further education career. A lot of it will come from people who have been in your position before but fail to remember that everyone is different – so if you hear something that doesn’t ring true for you, it’s fine to trust your instinct and shrug it off. However, there are a few basic tips that most students would do well to take note of that will definitely see you through some tricky times.

Speaking to people and asking questions

The first thing is pretty much applicable to life in general as well as university: never, ever be afraid to ask questions. This doesn’t just mean during your lectures; you would hope that your tutors are happy to provide answers to your queries, so remember that this also applies to your life outside the lecture theatres or study room. If you have issues that are affecting you, anything from your emotional welfare to feeling that you’re swamped with too much work, there are always people there who can help you out.

Getting out there and talking to people you don’t know can be a difficult prospect for many, but at least university makes it easier for you to do so. With so many societies and clubs available, social functions aplenty and your brand new course mates (all of whom will be in the same boat as you) all you need to do is throw yourself into the mix. Locking yourself in your student accommodation and hiding away from the world means that everyone else is missing out on what you can bring to the group, so get out there. In fact, you can even use your accommodation as that first stepping stone – start chatting to people in your halls or shared house and see if they fancy a quick beer or a bite to eat.

An organised student is a healthy student

Organisation is the key to being a successful student, so make sure that you’re prepared to juggle different elements of your life. You may feel that you never have enough time to do everything you want, so prioritisation is vital; set time aside to cover your academic duties as well as your burgeoning social life – and don’t neglect old friends from home or your family either! Also be aware of your budget; money is always tight as a student, but it’s perfectly possible to live well on a small amount each week.

This also links to another important bit of advice: do everything you can to keep yourself healthy. The occasional takeaway is grand, sure, but don’t become reliant on McDonalds or the Chinese across the road. Do what you can to eat healthy food regularly and you’ll be well on the way to taking proper care of yourself. Keeping an eye on the little things will help so much in guaranteeing your physical and mental health, so do whatever you can every day.

Success as a student means different things to different people – for some it’s getting a 1st, for others it’s about flying the nest and learning to be independent. Just remember that you can always ask friends, family, lecturers, student support services, or even older students who have already learnt the hard way for advice.

College Students and Stress – Stress Management Tips for College Kids

Stress is one of those ever-present concepts among college students, a feeling of unease and discomfort that many students accept as a given and don’t even try to manage or eliminate. Most of the stress college students feel does nothing to improve the quality, quantity or timeliness of their work and as such is nothing more than a drain which makes their already difficult jobs all the more impossible. Read on and learn a good primer for getting started managing the stress in your life.

Is All Stress Bad?

The first thing you need to understand is the fact not all stress is bad for you. We tend to think of stress as a unidirectional thing, as a concept with no possible positive connotations or effects and this just isn’t the case. The truth is there are two different forms of stress out there. While you certainly want to avoid and minimize one of these types of stress it’s a good idea to maximize the other. The two types of stress are:

1. Distress. This is the kind of stress you want to avoid. This is the stress that comes from damaging mental and environmental states and which drains your time and energy and causes you to feel bad about yourself, your work and your life in general. This is the form of stress most college students are accustomed to and it can be caused by everything from negative friends and relationships, overloads of unnecessary work, malicious professors, unsupportive family members or constant work performed which is neither important nor meaningful (to name a few). This form of stress needs to be avoided, minimized and hopefully eliminated from your life at all costs.

2. Eustress. This is a form of stress that is talked about so rarely that few college students are even aware it exists. Eustress is the kind of stress which propels you to work hard on projects and assignments you consider to be important and worthwhile. Eustress doesn’t drain energy, it energizes you and makes you feel better about yourself and your life. Projects which cause eustress may be tiring because they require a lot of work but they never feel draining in the same way as stressful projects. Positive people (friends, family, faculty) and large, ambitious projects which are meaningful to you are common sources of Eustress.

What Stress Management is Really About

Now that you better understand exactly what stress is all about and the fact there are two different forms of stress out there the whole idea of stress management should take on a whole new light. The point of stress management is two fold

1. To eliminate Distress from your life.

2. To maximize Eustress in your life.

Why Most Stress Management Doesn’t Work

The reason most stress management systems or techniques is simple- they simply aim at eliminating distress without attempting to maximize eustress. Eliminating distress is good, it’s great, it’s necessary even. But if you remove distress from your life you’re just going to create a vacuum in your life which you will unconsciously fill with either the same distress you previously pushed aside or from some other negative source of pressure. By actively working to produce eustress, by clearly defining what you’re going to focus on after you get rid of the distress in your life you won’t have to worry about defaulting to negative feelings and drained energy when you find yourself with some free time.

Eliminating distress from your life by cutting out the problem at its source while simultaneously increasing eustress in your life by maximizing its sources isn’t something we’re taught in school so it might take a little practice. Thankfully all you need to do is sit down and write down what and who make you feel distress and then write down what and who makes you feel excited.

When you have your list it’s a simple matter of cutting the one list from your life while focusing on the other. It’s a little easier to say than to actually do, it may be simple but it’s not easy, but above all it is necessary work and the only effective form of stress management out there.