Online students attend and participate in classes by logging in to the course web site and participating in the discussions. In order to succeed online, it is essential that you:

  • log in to the course several times a week;
  • read and respond to course-related emails in a timely manner;
  • participate in the course discussions as outlined by your instructor;
  • complete all assigned work on time; and
  • ask for help if and when you need it.

Active participation is particularly important in the BBST® courses because we have set them up to last three weeks each. If you fall significantly behind, you miss the course.

Discussions will usually take place in a Forum, a Glossary, or a Wiki.

  • All courses have three standard forums:
    • In the Meet & Greet forum, you introduce yourself and welcome others to the course.
    • In the Help! forum, you ask questions when you are confused, asked others to review your work or your ideas, and provide help to others in the course. A person who asks for help but doesn’t give help won’t get much help from anyone else.
    • In the Hallway Hangout forum, people chat about things that are not necessarily directly related to the course. For example, this is where you would post a note that asks for help finding a new job, offers to host a study session, asks who is going to a specific conference, or suggests that classmates who are going to the conference get together for dinner.
  • We will create a new forum (or wiki) for each assignment.
  • As you learn new terms, we encourage you to post what you think is (or should be) the definition in the course glossary.
    • If you are copying the definition from another source, or basing the definition on someone else’s definition, PLEASE include a reference to that source (including a link, if it’s online).
    • You can add a definition even if someone else has added one. If someone else has already posted a definition that you consider correct, there is no need for you to add this definition a second time.
    • If you disagree with someone else’s definition, you can make comments to state and explain your disagreement.

It is in these discussions, the sharing and exchange of ideas, that much of the learning happens.  In the class, each student brings something that can benefit others.  Experts can learn from novices just as the novices can learn from the experts.  It is in this participation, these discussions, where ideas become solidified and the true learning happens.

Part of this involves critiquing and grading the assignments of other students.  We will present information during the courses on how to go about this so you both learn from the experience.  However, a taste of that is available in the section, How should students provide feedback in this course?

Students from many cultures with varied experience participate in these courses. The following are some suggestions for interacting with other students:

Be Polite

All classrooms have rules – both spoken and unspoken – for proper behavior and collegial interaction. The rules about online classrooms and work places are slightly less clear than in face-to-face classrooms. For online courses, as with most remote communication, we ask you observe basic, polite “netiquette.”

Other participants in the course expect collegial participation from you. Every now and again, misunderstandings happen. Following some basic netiquette guidelines can help you learn to avoid misunderstandings in the first place; deal with them when they happen; and learn to take a firm, but polite stand in discussions and disagreements.

Virginia Shea offers some Core Rules of Netiquette.  There is good advice in this web site for all of us.

Ask for Help

In the online classroom, your instructor can’t see the confused look on your face. If you are having trouble with something in class, please don’t be afraid to say something. Usually, your instructor will designate a location for you and your classmates to ask for help. Generally, it is best to use that forum instead of email. If a concept is difficult, or an assignment is unclear, the chances are good that another classmate is facing the same difficulty. By posting your question in the designated forum, everyone will benefit from the answer you receive. From time to time, privacy demands indicate an email to the instructor is a better communication channel for your question. Unless indicated otherwise, the public forum should be where you ask for and receive help in the class.

If you need help, please don’t wait until the last minute to ask for it. When you do ask, give plenty of detail about what is causing your confusion. To increase your chance of getting a timely and accurate response to your question, include all the information a potential helper will need to offer help. This might include the titles of specific documents that contain confusing information or links to web pages that don’t have the information you expected. In the case of an unclear assignment, state your understanding of the assignment and ask if you understood it correctly.

Asking for help with technical problems is even more challenging. A technical troubleshooter needs information like what computer operating system you are using, what software you are using, and the sequence of events that brought about the problem. Even then, it’s important to say “this is exactly what happened” or convey the content of any error messages.

One thing to remember is that your instructors all took the same course you are taking now.  They can empathize with finding things challenging.  If they do not know you are having problems then they can not help you.

Ask Questions

You will have questions for your fellow students, for others in the testing community, and for people who are developing the application that you test in this course. It is all too easy to ask questions that make readers feel impatient with you rather than wanting to help you.

Eric Raymond’s guide to How To Ask Questions The Smart Way is an excellent source of guidance.

Convey Emotion

Another useful technique to communicate online is the judicious use of emoticons. If something you plan to say might be misinterpreted, sometimes adding an emoticon to help convey your real meaning is helpful. However, two cautions about emoticons are in order.

  • One can never expect to say something rude and erase it with an emoticon. Rude is rude. Don’t do it.
  • Excessive use of emoticons can diminish the professionalism in your communication. It is always best to take the time to express yourself clearly. Every now and again, an emoticon between friends is a useful shortcut.