Shenandoah University’s Master of Public Health program (MPH) was designed as an online experience from day one. Shenandoah’s director of graduate public health programs Michelle Gamber, DrPH, M.A., and Master of Public Health students point out what you should be aware of, and continue to remember, to make your online learning – as previously unexpected as it is – be the best it can possibly be:
Make sure you have the right technology to be successful. See Shenandoah’s website for minimum technology guidelines. (If you have questions regarding Shenandoah University’s computer recommendations, please contact the Institutional Computing Help Desk at firstname.lastname@example.org, Dr. Gamber said.
Online learning requires both self-direction and a time commitment. Having that mindset in place now helps you stay on track, Dr. Gamber adds.
Establish a routine/schedule
Students who establish “regular” weekly schedules are often the more successful and engage more often, Gamber said. Find what works for you and your lifestyle, based on the course requirements, and stick with it.
Also, within your schedule, make time to “take breaks and do something you enjoy,” added Physician Assistant (PA) Studies/MPH student Tynessa Hazelwood. “This is so helpful because once you have a schedule down for yourself, you will look forward to the breaks (that motivates me to want to work hard during my scheduled study time).”
Engage with classmates and material frequently
The more you engage, and engage in an active manner, the more you will get out of your courses, Gamber said. You can meet the minimum requirements each week, but push yourself to get the most out of each course! Don’t be afraid to do your own research and engage in material outside of what is being expected of you.
The structure of courses vary
Your courses may vary in structure and assignments. A key to being successful with this is to have an online presence, participate frequently and keep on track with the work, Gamber said.
Have realistic time expectations
Online courses require just as much (if not more) of a time commitment as face-to-face courses, Gamber said. Make sure you are carving out enough time to spend online interacting with the material (i.e. course meetings, discussion boards, group assignments) as well as offline working with course content in other ways (i.e. reading, researching, etc.)
PA/MPH student Kristin Polakoff offered some tips for keeping assignments organized:
- Look at your assignments for the upcoming week on Sunday night (before the school week begins). This will help you get an idea of how to space out your week.
- Looking through your assignments early will also allow you to ask questions about assignments if something is unclear. This allows your instructor to have plenty of time before the due date to answer your questions and clarify any confusion you may have.
- Work on assignments in the order they are due. For example, if you have a discussion assignment due Wednesday at midnight and an article summary due Sunday at midnight, knock out that Wednesday assignment ASAP then move on to the Sunday one. That way, you aren’t pressed for time on Wednesday at 11:30 p.m. because you’ve been working on the Sunday assignment all week.
- Try to submit assignments early. Easier said than done, I know, but this way, if you run into technical difficulties with the submission, you have time to resolve the issue and avoid missing a deadline.
- Ask questions and take initiative – Ask questions when you are unclear! Instructors may not always be teaching you in real time, but they are always available to help you, Gamber said. Ultimately, you are responsible for your learning – please take the initiative to contact the instructor if you need assistance.
Do not hesitate to reach out for help if you are struggling with something and make sure to ask sooner rather than later! (Classmates, advisors and professors are our support group.) Also, now that we have prime Zoom accounts, you can schedule meetings with classmates to go over information together. There is also an app called Jamboard that is like a Google doc but designed to be a white board so you can share it with people and everyone can draw or write things on it and then save it for future reference.”
Tynessa Hazelwood | Physician Assistant (PA) Studies & MPH student
Have a positive attitude and breathe
Many of you are new to this online format and may not necessarily want to learn this way, Gamber said. However, we are all in this together and approaching these times with a positive attitude will make learning more enjoyable to us all!
Be patient. With yourself. With faculty. With all members of the Shenandoah community. This is uncharted territory. Everyone is working hard to ensure the transition to online learning goes as smoothly as possible, but there undoubtedly will be glitches along the way.”
Noor Al-Rashid ’19, PA-C | PA graduate and current MPH student
And, “keep updated on the news but resist the urge to get sucked into the vortex of the ever-evolving news cycle,” Al-Rashid said. “Use your time constructively.”