Ask questions – if you want success in an online class

It happens before the beginning of every session. I will receive an email from an eager student who wants to know how to complete their first assignment. As always, I direct the student to the assignment requirements and the rubric. And I am always reminded, this is the student who will be my rock-star for the class. This is the student that asks questions…weekly and sometimes daily.

I see students from a variety of academic backgrounds, the students have a broad range of interests, goals and skills. However, the one thing that stands out to me time and time again is that my most successful students have one very important thing in common: they aren’t afraid to ask questions. 

So here’s the question: why is it so important to ask questions in an online class?

Gain clarity – most students struggle in online courses because they don’t understand the expectations or the requirements of any given assignment. As a student, if you don’t understand what’s expected of you…you can’t succeed. This is why it is important to ask questions to gain clarity.

Enhance understanding of the material – many online courses require the students to read a significant amount of material in a short amount of time. Asking the instructor some thoughtful questions is a great way to develop a more thorough understanding of the material.

Take ownership of the learning experience – online instructors try to meet the unique needs of all of their students. However they can’t provide students with the support that they require. As a student if you need an example or need more resources ask for those things. As a student you’ll be pleasantly surprised how willing instructors are to assist.

Show your instructors that you care – students are hesitant to ask questions because they’re afraid to admit they don’t understand the material. They don’t want the instructors to think they’re stupid. Asking a question can make yourself appear vulnerable, that’s understandable. However, instructors see your willingness to be vulnerable as a sign of your commitment to the course. Ask your questions to show you care about the course.

Ineffective vs. effective – not all questions are created equal. We’ve all heard that there’s no such thing as a stupid question, but there are questions that are ineffective, these questions will lead to less engaged responses. When you do decide to pose a question, make sure it’s one that will get you results!

For example, avoid sending your instructor a late-night email that looks like this: “HELP! I don’t understand the assignment. What am I supposed to do?” That kind of email requires a lot of follow-up questions by the instructor. Instead, identify specific points of concern and ask about those. If you do, you’re likely to get a more engaged response.

Don’t ever be afraid to be that student, that does ask questions. Be the student who asks questions, sends emails, contributes daily….and enjoys a successful academic career!