Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University

Keys to Success

Distance learning is a rewarding and sometimes challenging experience that can require a different level of commitment and perhaps some new types of skills than you might use in a face-to-face course. In order to accomplish your educational goals, you will need to be well organized and motivated.

Getting Started - Some Basic Things to Know and Do

Contact your Open Learning Faculty Member in the first week to introduce yourself. Your registration information will include information on how best to reach your Open Learning Faculty Member, including their office hours, telephone number and email address. Open Learning Faculty Members are available to help you with any aspect of the course. Don't hesitate to contact them; they will be happy to hear from you.

Review the requirements for your course found in the Course Manual or on the course website and set up a study schedule. You'll find some links to practical study tips below. Also, review the schedule for assignments. Assignments given in the Course Manual or posted on the course website must be completed and submitted as outlined. Late assignments or submissions too close to an exam date can jeopardize your ability to complete the course successfully.

If your course is online, you will have received login and password information with your enrolment information. Your courses are accessible through the myTRU portal or TRU's Blackboard webpage. If you need password or login help, you can find it on the entry page to Blackboard.

Make sure your Library Account is active. As an online learner, you have access to services that are specific to TRU's distance, regional and open learning (DROL) students. All the information you need is on the DROL webpage. You can access materials on or off campus as well as connect to the library from home. DROL library services provide a wealth of information to help in researching, accessing information and completing studies, as well as friendly, personal help from TRU librarians.

If you have questions or concerns, contact Student Services :

student@tru.ca
1.800.663.9711 (toll-free in Canada)
250.852.7000 (Kamloops and International)

What Next?

Now that you're ready to start your coursework, there are a few things you probably need to learn how to do in order to boost your comfort level with distance learning and increase your success. The outline below includes some things to think about.

What Do I Need to Do? How Can I Do It? Where Can I Find Some Help?
Meet the expected time commitment per course. Commit approximately 10 to 15 hours per week for study and online work per course. Don't overextend yourself by enrolling in too many courses at once.

Full-time students might take up to three full-time courses, while if you are working or have family commitments, one or two courses might be enough.
Check your Course Manual for guidelines to the required coursework and see the Time Management section of the orientation.
Use a problem-solving approach when encountering technical or other difficulties. Use your resources effectively when you first encounter a problem. Let your Open Learning Faculty Member know if you can't solve it right away. Read through the Technical Basics: Software section of this orientation to make sure you have the basics covered before you start.

TRU's Blackboard entry page enables you to quickly check your browser and provides links to further help.

Tech support can help you if your problem is related to such things as error messages, file format problems and more. You can contact the IT Service Desk by email or by phone.

If you are contacting the IT Service Desk you will need your student ID number; a detailed description of the problem will help as well.
Demonstrate a basic level of technical proficiency. Upload file attachments using the Blackboard tools.

Post a message to a discussion.

Understand what a threaded discussion is and post correctly to a thread (topic).

Know how to work with documents in various formats.
Blackboard Help will give you all the details you need on using specific tools within the learning system, including discussions and messages.

Use the Help function of your word processing program or other software to learn about and practise the basics.
Demonstrate effective time management strategies. Participate in discussions according to the course schedule.

Complete assignments in a timely fashion.

Contact your Open Learning Faculty Member immediately in the event of unexpected problems.

Make use of university resources to help you overcome challenges.
The Online Discussions section will provide you with some thoughtful ideas about participating online.

Check out the section on Time Management.

Remember that you can always use your Open Learning Faculty Member as a resource if you feel you need some help.
Use effective research skills for online and library database searches. Make use of the DROL Library services to learn research skills and locate full-text journal articles online, as well as learn to cite your sources appropriately.

Include your research in discussion postings as appropriate, acknowledging your sources with citations.
Refer to the TRU Library website. There are a number of links on learning how to research effectively, as well as a quick guide to evaluating websites using the acronym ACT (Authority, Content, Timeliness).

Also see the section on Reading and Researching Online.
Communicate effectively online. Be sure to follow "netiquette" principles.

Respect and encourage the sharing of ideas that may be different from your own.

Follow the guidelines for discussions outlined by your course Open Learning Faculty Member.
The orientation section on online communication in discussion forums includes information on netiquette.

You can also find many discussions on netiquette by searching online.
Collaborate effectively with a group online. Familiarize yourself with the components of effective group work: group process, establishing trust, communicating effectively and managing conflict.

Be familiar with tools used for online communication in Blackboard, as well as wikis and blogs.
Working in groups online is discussed in the orientation section Group Work.

An introduction to communication tools is included in the Online Tools section.
Demonstrate how to write an effective reflection on an activity or event. Be familiar with different types of written reflections. Review the online communications and discussions sections of the tutorial. Read the document "Becoming a Reflective Learner"