How to Succeed in an Online Course

You are the manager of your own learning. Since your courses are learner-focused by design, you direct your own learning within the learning processes designed into the course. You are responsible for meeting deadlines and submitting assignments on time. If you have questions, your professor is available to help you. You bear the responsibility to keep your professor informed if you have problems.

Secure Dependable Internet Access

Your courses require and will assume that you have a dependable Internet access. If you have computer problems, or plan to travel during your course, it is your responsibility to locate local Internet access in order to complete course assignments and participate in your course’s learning community. A student who loses Internet access for an extended period of time during the course should consider dropping the course. It is dependable Internet access that makes “Any Time, Any Place Learning” possible.

Organize Your Study Times

It really helps you to succeed in an online course if you organize your study times. Scheduling smaller chunks of learning often and consistently throughout each week/unit is the most effective and productive approach to learning. Start work immediately on major assignments due later in the course. Schedule study times into your calendar, if possible, every day. Think of your study times like doctor appointments you cannot miss. Schedule an extra time or two as well in case you have to “cancel” one of these appointments because you had no other choice but to do so. These strategies will help you take advantage of the convenience and flexibility of online learning.

Keep in Contact with Your Professor

Your professor is also a valuable resource as you work through your course materials. He or she serves as a “learning coach and ministry mentor,” and is there to support you with perspective and clarification on course content and learning activities and assessments. Take advantage of your professor and contact him or her if there is a way they can help you move forward in your learning process.

Use Study Times Wisely

All units of a course are usually available at the start of the course. During Unit 1, it will help your success in the course if you take time to explore the Study Guide and become familiar with all course expectations. Unit 1 is also a good time to adjust your personal calendar so you can maximize the investment you are making in your course. Additional study strategies to consider include the following.

  • Start work immediately on major assignments
  • Schedule how you will explore the unit courseware—it is easier to access courseware across several smaller chunks of time rather than trying to process everything all at once
  • Read carefully, especially the study guide, course instructions, and assignment and assessment details
  • Stay engaged in the classroom—the units and the term move quickly, and the learning design assumes you will be involved in your course almost daily
  • Pay careful attention to assignment and assessment deadlines and note them in your personal calendar
  • While you can work ahead on assignments, remember that discussion forum participation only counts when the forum is in the current unit of study

Utilize the Rockbridge Seminary Virtual Library

At Rockbridge Seminary, learning resources and research support are conveniently accessible to you whenever and wherever you study. As a Rockbridge student, you have 24/7/365 access to the Rockbridge Seminary Virtual Library (RVL). Resources in this virtual library include downloadable eBooks, the Gale Virtual Reference Library, searchable subscription databases of full-text journal articles, book reviews, and collections of essays. Databases include the ATLA Religion Database, EBSCO Religion and Philosophy Collection, InfoTrac Religion and Philosophy Collection, and the Galaxie Theological Journals.

You can also connect through the library to pre-selected websites providing original documents, studies, and learning community resources in the fields of Bible, theology, church history, church ministry, evangelism, missions, and religious studies. A theological librarian is also available to assist you with your research.

Library access is through the Schoology Learning Management System (LMS). As a result, only students, graduates, and faculty have access to the RVL.

Remember Rockbridge is on Chicago Time

Since Rockbridge Seminary has students from all over the world, it is necessary for us to set one-time zone as the institution’s “official time zone.” Rockbridge has chosen U.S.A. Central Time as its official time zone since the seminary home office is in it.

Getting Started in the Online Classroom

A growing number of learners are finding that online learning opens up educational opportunities that normally would not be available to them. To that end Rockbridge Seminary courses are fully online.

Register for a Course

About a month before a new term begins, registration opens. Registration information is posted in a special registration classroom. In that classroom, you will find a link to the Study Guides for the courses being offered. In those Study Guides you will find the required textbooks. To register, follow the instructions in the registration classroom when it opens.

Payment by credit card is required during the registration process. If you wish to take more than one course—up to two courses maximum—you just complete the registration process for each course separately.

Textbooks may be purchased through the provider of your choice. On the first day of the new term, your course will become available to you. You continue to have access to your course for at least one full term after the course officially ends.

First Term Course Registration

First term students may only enroll in the Touchstone course.

Setup or Update Your Classroom Profile and Photo

In order to facilitate the online learning community, Rockbridge requires you to load a photo of yourself to your online classroom profile. Please do not use an avatar instead of a photo.

In addition to the photo, you are also expected to add only one (1) descriptive paragraph to your profile that tells the faculty and your course mates what you would like them to know about you. Be sure to include your ministry role and church information. You only need to add your photo and profile info one time—the info will show up automatically when you enroll in future courses.

You may update your profile information at any time. At graduation time, your profile paragraph is used in several different documents distributed about our graduates. Don’t worry though, you will be encouraged to make upgrades to your profile paragraph in your last course.

Please feel free to add to your profile info that completes the other fields provided, such as your personal website or blog address, or even your church’s webpage. Please consider adding a telephone number in case your professor needs to contact you by phone.

It is important that you do not change the primary email address to be something other than the Rockbridge Gmail address provided to you by the Seminary. Rockbridge is required to provide you with this email address and use it for all academic contact with you as required by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Access Your Classroom Frequently

You are expected to log on to your course about 5 days a week. The time of day that you access your course is entirely up to you and your personal and professional schedule.

If you know before the course begins that you will not have Internet access for five days or more during the course, e.g., because of travel or any other reason, we recommend that you not take the course and register for it in the future. Because of the interactive nature of online learning at Rockbridge, it is not possible to “do assignments ahead of time.” Lack of participation in your course, especially discussion forums, may result in a failing grade and be grounds for an automatic dismissal.

Communicate with Your Professor and Colleagues Frequently

Through the online classroom you can communicate with your professor and the other students, ask questions, participate in surveys, take exams, view topic-related multimedia, read articles, access materials in the Rockbridge Seminary Library, and upload assignments. Each course is designed with reference materials, discussion groups, and web-based resources, all embedded in the units of study.

Academic Terms, and Course Units and Times

Courses are taught in eight-week terms, or sixteen-weeks in the case of DMIN program seminars. These terms include a course introduction unit, core learning units, and a learning evaluation unit.

Six academic terms are offered each year. Course units begin on Tuesday at 12:01 a.m. Central Time and end on the following Monday at 11:59 p.m. Central Time. Since most Rockbridge students have heavy responsibilities on Saturday and/or Sunday, these time frames provide you with a Monday study day to complete unit learning activities, assignments, and assessments.

You are expected to participate in all units of a course, and when each unit is the current unit of study.

Discussion Forum Posts

Some students like forum postings emailed directly to their inbox. You have the option in each online course to subscribe to a discussion and have forum posts emailed to you according to the settings you selected for your profile and the forum itself. The “Check Updates…Course News” and “Ask the Professor” forums are set to automatically send to you an email of what has been posted in them. You cannot unsubscribe from these forums.

You are expected to participate in forum discussions in a unit when it is the current unit of study. Pre-unit and post-unit forum posts do not count in the calculation of the forum grade.

Discussion Forum Etiquette

Rockbridge Seminary believes that diversity of thought can exist in the Kingdom of God among those who seriously seek His truth. Part of your seminary education is learning how to communicate your beliefs thoughtfully and with civility to others, and how to consider thoughtfully and with civility the beliefs of others, even when there is passionate disagreement. In this exchange of ideas, you are expected to show respect to fellow students by keeping confidences, by refraining from making snap or harsh judgments, and by giving fellow students permission to point out any actions you take which they perceive to be inconsistent with this online discussion etiquette.

Forum Posts Confidentiality

Class discussions should be considered confidential. Thus, should never transmit any classroom discussion post(s) without specific written permission of the person quoted and the instructor.

Professor Interaction

When you email your professor, please identify yourself by name, and by the course in which you are enrolled. Professors have many students and may not recognize you from just your email address.

In the online classroom, there is a discussion forum option called, “Ask the Professor.” You are encouraged to post your course questions in this forum rather than by direct email with the instructor. Other students most likely have the same question but just have not posted it yet. In this way, everyone hears the same answer, and there is a record of what the professor is asking you and your course mates to do. Even so, you are always free to email your professor directly if you need privacy.

Your Rockbridge professor will be your learning mentor during your course, reflecting the Rockbridge “learner-focused” design as opposed to a traditional campus classroom “teacher-focused” design. Rockbridge believes the “learner-focused” design is more suited to the 21st century adult learner.

By design, your professor is primarily in a supportive role. You will see announcements and comments from the professor in the “Check Updates…Course News” forum. Your professor will also monitor forum discussions and facilitate the development of the learning community. If you find that you want suggestions on how to go deeper with a unit’s concepts, please let your professor know.

Your professor will evaluate your assignments, make comments as appropriate, and assign grades based on the appropriate rubrics designated for the learning activity. Students have access to these rubrics in the study guide before completing an assignment.

Course Mentor Selection

In most courses you will need to select a mentor with whom you will discuss your course learning each week. Your mentor can change with each course, or you can use the same mentor for every course. Your mentor needs to be someone with whom you can meet or make contact weekly during the course face-to-face (preferred), or via phone or video conferencing.

A mentor should have a seminary degree or, if not, the appropriate educational, professional, and ministerial experience to help you meet your course learning goals. In addition, the mentor:

  • should be in, or retired or semi-retired from, full-time ministry, bi-vocational ministry, or non-vocational ministry leadership
  • have professional and leadership skills that relate closely to the course
  • can be in your church or nearby congregation, or be in a non-local or distant location
  • can be a Rockbridge Seminary graduate
  • cannot be an active or inactive Rockbridge Seminary student
  • cannot be a family member

Opportunity for Course Feedback

Every term, Rockbridge improves its courses based on feedback from students. At the end of the course, you will have the opportunity to evaluate your learning through a course survey. Please take advantage of this opportunity to help us improve the course. We do listen and adjust courses based on student and professor feedback.

Emergency Preparedness and Online Learning

If you ever experience service disruptions with your own Internet access, or if the Schoology Learning Management System (LMS) is ever offline, consider using your previously downloaded copy of the course study guide with the following strategies while the disruptions are being resolved.

If Your Area Loses Access to the Internet

Sometimes severe weather events cause temporary disruption to the Internet. Here are some tips for continuing your studies if that should happen:

  • Check if an alternate location can provide Internet access
  • Continue assigned readings from the study guide
  • Work on completing assignments found in the study guide as much as possible
  • Call Rockbridge if possible (866) 931-4300 so we can notify your professor

If the Schoology LMS is Offline for More than 24 Hours

Schoology is unlikely to ever be offline for an extended period of time, as it utilizes multiple backup systems to prevent service disruptions. Here are some tips for continuing your studies if it ever did happen:

  • Try accessing Schoology at times other than prime time traditional school hours
  • Rockbridge will notify students of the extended disruption of service
  • Students should continue assigned readings from the study guide
  • Students should continue to work on completing assignments as much as possible

If disruption of service will continue, Rockbridge will provide students courseware via email or Dropbox link.