By Kirsten Lee, Distance Learning Liaison

While nearly 1,500 Fordham students attend classes exclusively on our online campus, that number has grown suddenly to include the entire Fordham teaching and learning community. Though we may never see you at our three campus libraries, the Fordham University Libraries are working hard to bring library resources and services to all Fordham students, wherever they may be based. Pursuing a degree online has some unique challenges, so here are 5 tips for our distance Rams taking classes in the online programs:

1) Familiarize yourself with ARES

ARES is the electronic course reserve system run by the Fordham University Libraries. Many of the readings required in your courses might be available on this system, particularly if you are pursuing a MSW online. Professors will share readings and resources they want to make available to their students with the library, and our reserves team will make sure that these are easily accessible. Before the beginning of the term, we recommend creating an ARES account and searching for the courses you are taking. Your professor will provide you with the password needed to unlock the readings for that specific course. For navigating the ARES system as an online MSW student, watch this video, and follow along with your own ARES account. It is always a good idea to familiarize yourself with new technology before the first synchronous session of your course.

2) Learn how to find the resources you need at Fordham (and beyond)

As a distance student, you need to be ready to research at a time that fits your schedule. This might be a week before the beginning of a new course, or late at night after your synchronous class has ended. Much of your research for class assignments and papers will begin in library databases. Are you looking for historical studies on classroom management techniques? Consider starting with an educational database like ERIC. Are you working on a SWOT analysis for a specific company? Explore the resources in Mergent Online and follow along with this video. Are you writing a literature review on studies about the use of cognitive behavioral therapy for depression in elderly adults? Start with our social services specific databases and learn more from this video. Make sure to gather the citations of the resources you consult along the way, and use library tools to help you master your citation style and reference list.

Maybe your research topic goes beyond the collections at the Fordham University Library. Don’t get discouraged– our InterLibrary Loan department will request scans of articles and book chapters from other libraries and send them to you. The world of scholarly research, datasets, and studies is at your fingertips!

3) Ask for help

Whether you are returning to courses after a decade-long hiatus, transitioning from the classroom to the online campus, or juggling school with a full time job, we get it– graduate study is tough. The Fordham University Library is here to help you along the way. Use our 24/7 Ask-a-Librarian chat service for questions about library resources, services, or research. We are also available via text, email, and phone. Contact us whenever and however you prefer; we are here to help and look forward to hearing from you!

4) Build relationships

Pursuing a degree online can feel isolating at times. While synchronous class sessions offer students the ability to come together digitally, experiences like gathering a study group in the library or connecting in a student lounge are unavailable to students at the online campus. Make the most of your experience by building relationships with faculty, program directors, and librarians. These individuals can serve as mentors during your time in the program and can help bridge the gap between asynchronous course material and the scholarly work of your program. Your student success advisors and fellow online students are also great resources to connect with between synchronous class sessions. Move beyond the discussion board and advocate for yourself with those who are looking out for your success.

5) Make the most of Fordham University services

As a student at the online campus you have access to many university services that are based on-site. Did you know that you can schedule one-on-one tutoring for your research papers with the Writing Center? Or work on building your resume and preparing for job interviews with Career Services? Make sure to check out all the resources available to online students and get involved.

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