Back to English 116

Reading Online Assignments Effectively
and Efficiently

Barbara J. Speidel,
Learning Assistance Services Coordinator

Barb and dog Ramo

How to Approach Online Course Activities

  • Remember that your assigned online activities represent a one-unit (one-hour weekly) traditional face-to-face (f2f) class where a minimum of two additional hours of reading, thinking, and responding time are expected each week. Be sure to budget your time to incorporate this responsibility.
  • Spend time becoming familiar with the course site. Explore, click on links, read the introduction. In short, get to know the technology and how the course is set up. Remember, online courses have a different feel to them, and the faster you become familiar and comfortable with this form of learning, the easier it will be for you to get on with learning the material that is presented.
  • Print the syllabus, the course introduction, and each unit with its respective assignments. Get a 3-ring notebook and dividers, and file your materials just as you would for a traditional f2f course. This can save you time because you will have the material available for easy reference, especially at times when you cannot be actually "in class." You may also want to print certain discussion board posts that relate directly to your tutoring experiences, so you can refer to them later.
  • Make every effort to keep up with the class assignments. These include your discussion board posts, responding to questions from your classmates and instructor, and your weekly journals.
  • Interact with your classmates as much as possible. This will not only give you a feeling of connection, it will also be a major source of your learning. You will be surprised at how quickly friendships can develop through discussion board conversations and how much you will look forward to talking with one another. Remember also that if you don't say anything, no one knows you are there, so speak up and enjoy what happens.

Technology Tips

  • If you spend a lot of time at your computer, be sure to take frequent short breaks because the material is much more vision intensive than reading paper print materials. To relieve eyestrain, look away from the screen, close your eyes, or focus on something else across the room.
  • Expand or maximize the window so it fills the entire screen. This will make reading easier. Also, make the print larger so you are not hunched over the computer or straining to see what's on the screen. If you need help adjusting font size, contact your instructor.

How to Read Text and Web-Linked Assignments

Before you read, here are some steps to follow:

  • Begin with a positive attitude and plan to be successful. Learning derives from an open mind. There are unexpected surprises as you discover the advantages of online learning if you are willing to put in the effort. The rewards are certainly worth it!
  • Read through the syllabus, the course introduction, and the assignment directions several times. If you have questions, e-mail your instructor immediately! Don't let confusion set in at the beginning of the course, or you will feel lost from the start. There is no such thing as a dumb question! Your teacher wants you to succeed and will be glad to help you!
  • Check any guidelines you have been given, such as "Read this in preparation for this week's discussion board post," or "Read to see how this compares with how you handle this situation in a tutoring session."
  • Read the discussion board post prompts and double-entry journal assignment before you read the weekly chapter or linked material. What are you supposed to answer after you finish reading? How are you to write your response? What should you look for as you read?
  • Look over the text chapter organization. Read the headings, subheadings, bold print, the introductory and concluding paragraphs. How will the organization of the text help you find the material you need?

While you read your assigned materials, follow these steps:

  • Keep the assignment questions and tasks in mind.
  • Read with a pencil or pen in hand. Use the wide margins in your book to mark sections that relate to your responses and make comments and notes in the margin that seem to apply to the questions. Mark and respond to passages that you might use in your double-entry journal.
  • Study-read from heading to heading. When you finish a section, stop and summarize what you know. If you can't say it or write it, then the information may not be understood, or it has not been stored in memory. Go back and reread the section and try this again.
  • To take notes from Internet materials, open up a word processing document and cut and paste into it what you think may be relevant to your course assignments. If you need help with how to do this, ask your teacher or a classmate.
  • Restate ideas in your own words. Think about what the author has said and how it relates to your tutoring experiences. Try to remember specific incidences that relate directly to the topics being discussed.
  • Ask yourself questions. Do you agree with the author? with what someone has stated in a discussion board post? with a comment made by your instructor? Why or why not? What evidence supports your position?
  • Compare what you are reading either in the text or on the discussion board with what you know. How does new information fit with information you have learned or your experience? Does it reinforce, contradict, or add new information?
  • If you don't understand what you are reading, find a way to get back on track. Are unfamiliar words confusing you? Have you prepared for the chapter content by reading the introduction and conclusion first? Have you reread the parts of the paragraph or section that you find confusing with the goal of understanding your questions? Does the next sentence, paragraph, or section help you understand the part you found confusing? Have you posted a question on the discussion board to see if this section confuses anyone else or if someone can help you understand it? Your classmates, as well as your instructor, are available 24/7, so why not take advantage of their support?

After you complete your reading, you want to find ways to use and store the information in memory:

  • Respond to the discussion board posts. Read carefully and follow the question directions. Be thoughtful, clear, and complete in your answers.
  • Remember that your posts are read by everyone in the course, so the image you present of yourself through what you say and how you say it are visible to all. As a tutor, be sure you are modeling "good student" behaviors.
  • To keep a record of your posts, write them first in a word processing program, use the spell check, and proofread. Then copy and paste your responses to the discussion board. This way you have a record of your answers in case there is a problem with the technology, as well as having the chance to be sure your writing appears professional.
  • Reread thoughts you've organized, questions you've answered, and discussion board posts from your classmates. Don't be surprised if you discover gaps in your knowledge. When you do, go back through the steps explained in this discussion until you know that the material is part of your knowledge and tutoring techniques.
  • Select the information that seems most relevant to your tutoring situation and subject. Try to form a clear picture of how you will apply the strategies to your own sessions with students.

If you want more information, check out these two web sites:
Study Resources:
Ten Minute Guide to Internet Writing: