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New Student Orientation

Before the Course Begins

Starting the Course

During the Course

 

Before the Course Begins
While online learning offers a convenient way to earn college credits, it can also pose its own unique challenges. It is not uncommon for a student to struggle in the online learning environment and it is easy to fall behind. There is also the potential for isolation and less group support. Finally, a distance education course requires more technical expertise and there is the potential for technical problems and delays.

Consider the following to be sure that you are ready to start taking your classes online:
Student Preparation Strategies
  • Visit the course information area and check for specific requirements for your course. Also make sure to see if there is a required course orientation.
  • Obtain the necessary materials for your course (i.e. textbooks or software).
  • Should you have any questions pertaining to the Virtual College, contact the Virtual College Help Desk at 305.237.3800.
  • If you have any questions about the course, feel free to ask the instructor. To find the instructor for your course, access the course information page.
  • Login to the course on the first day of the term.
  • Set up a weekly time schedule that allows you sufficient time to complete the assigned course work. Don’t procrastinate in completing your work!
  • Familiarize yourself with office hours. Both faculty and the Virtual College Help Desk are available to answer your questions.

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Minimum System Requirements
Use our browser check to ensure that your system meets the minimum requirements to use our Learning Management System.

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Starting the Course
First Steps

Get off to a great start by following these steps:

  • Read the syllabus and other introductory materials thoroughly. If you have a question, ask your instructor for clarification or ask in a learning community discussion area to see if another student may be able to help you.
  • Many classes have an "icebreaker" assignment. If requested, post a message in a discussion forum area briefly introducing yourself and adding any required details about yourself.
  • Obtain the necessary materials for your course (i.e. textbooks, access code or software). 
  • Check-in at least three times a week.  Don’t procrastinate! Plan to turn your work in early.
  • Use the course's email for private issues and the discussion areas for content questions and comments unless directed otherwise by your instructor.

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Textbooks and Materials
Textbooks may be purchased at the MDC Bookstore Online for delivery or pick-up at a local MDC Campus Bookstore, or simply by visiting one of the six MDC Campus Bookstores. For additional information on ordering textbooks, please view our Textbook Information Page.

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Access Codes
Some courses at the Virtual College, such as Biology, Oceanography, and Accounting require students to use an access code.  Students will have a 15-day trial period to enter the course without the access code.  After the 15-day trial period, students must use the access code to enter the course. Students purchasing textbooks through the College bookstore will buy the access code as part of the textbook bundle.

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During the Course
It is important that throughout the semester you do everything needed to ensure the successful and smooth completion of your course. Below you will find some suggestions that will help you be a successful online learner at the Virtual College.
Study Habits
  • Be an active learner and take responsibility for your own learning.
  • Commit at least 5 to 7 hours per week for a three-credit class.  Some courses may require more time.
  • Have good time-management skills --plan and follow a schedule for readings and assignments.  Find or create an environment conducive to studying and learning
  • Develop solid research skills, including how to effectively use the Internet.  Never copy someone else's work.  Learn to paraphrase and quote appropriately.
  • Log in regularly to your classes, usually a minimum of three times per week. Many students find it is best to set specific days and times to log into their online classes.
  • Take notes as you read and study.  Type questions about what you are learning and answer your own questions as a review.
  • Make sure to complete course participation requirements. This usually involves being active in discussion board postings and in chat sessions.
  • Be responsible for successfully submitting your assignments by the due dates.  If you experience technical difficulties, you should contact your instructor immediately before the assignment is due to see if there may be an alternative delivery method.
  • Pay attention to the content of your writing.  Think about what you are saying. Correct your spelling and grammar before posting or sending your communications
  • Backup all your assignments. Keep a copy of your assignments on your hard drive and on a storage disk.
  • Always write well. Your writing represents you!

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Communication Habits
  • Communicate with your instructor whenever you need advice, answers to questions, or when problems arise.  The instructor and the students in an online class create a learning community where everyone may learn from each other. If your question is content related, post it in the discussion area.
  • Share ideas, be considerate in your responses to others, and be prepared to have your ideas challenged occasionally.
  • Be respectful when communicating with classmates and instructor. Be pleasant and polite.  Remember that an online class consists of people from all over the world, from many cultures, and from a wide range of ages and backgrounds.  When you post a message you are speaking in public.  Treat people as if they are standing next to you.
  • When someone makes a mistake, whether it is a spelling error, a question that seems obvious, or an unnecessarily long answer, be kind about it.  Allow the instructor to correct or respond.  Even if you feel strongly about it, think twice before reacting.
  • If you do decide to inform someone of a mistake, point it out politely and preferably by private email rather than in public. Give people the benefit of the doubt.  Never be arrogant or self-righteous about it.
  • Don't use offensive, abusive, or threatening  language.  Lively debates are encouraged, but avoid confrontation.
  • Develop the ability to work cooperatively, even when your communication is restricted to email or online chat.

Note:  All students are expected to conduct themselves in an ethical manner. All occurrences of academic dishonesty (plagiarism), cheating on a test, or misconduct (rudeness, swearing) will be reported and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.

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Testing and Proctors

Having tests proctored adds accountability to the courses.  Some faculty require proctored exams to verify that the course work that has been completed by individual students match the knowledge and skills demonstrated in proctored tests.  Please check the Testing page for additional information and the Proctor Approval Form.

For proctored testing, students who live in the South Florida area may schedule to take their proctored tests at one of the MDC campuses.

Students who live outside the South Florida area must locate an approved proctor to administer their tests. The proctor must be approved by MDC Virtual College. The student is responsible for locating and paying the proctor.  The proctor can be faculty members of accredited colleges or universities (recommended), high school counselors and principals, human resources and educational training staff members, Sylvan and Kaplan Learning Center staff members, and military educational officers.  Your classmate, co-worker, relative or friend is NOT a qualified proctor and may NOT proctor exams.

Examinations must be administered in an educational or professional environment such as a classroom or the proctor's office.  Any test proctored in a private residence will be deemed invalid.  MDC Virtual College will have final approval on proctor selection.  Once located, you must submit the Proctor Approval Form. Contact the Virtual College Help Desk if you need assistance with finding a proctor.

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Dropping a Course
After registering, students may change their schedules during the drop/add period for courses. The dates for this period are listed on the Academic Calendar.  An online course cannot be changed to an on-campus course after the drop/add period.

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Instructor Withdrawals

Virtual College classes are interactive classes that require student participation. The instructor of a class may withdraw a student who is not active in the class. The instructor checks on students who have become inactive before the instructor withdraw date by asking for a response via email and/or a phone call. If the student does not respond in the amount of time allotted the instructor will withdraw the student.  Once a student is withdrawn course access will be denied.  The following are reasons for being withdrawn from a class:

  • Failure to enter the course.
  • Failure to maintain required participation and complete assignments once in the course.

    Note:  If a student's inactivity is due to illness or other legitimate reason, notify the instructor immediately to prevent being withdrawn.

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