How to succeed at online learning

As University of Saskatchewan courses and exams are being moved to remote and online delivery, students are adapting to this new method of delivery in the final weeks of the term.

To help students hit the ground running during this time, Student Learning Services at the University Library has developed some important study tips to help ease the transition.

Get up, get out of bed, and get dressed. One of the most appealing aspects of online learning is the option of staying in bed in comfy clothes without needing to go to campus. Even though this seems like a perk, getting up and dressed can help you take your studies more seriously and accomplish more. Besides, your bed is meant for sleeping!

Create a dedicated workspace. Look for a location, other than your bed, with a firm worksurface (desk/table) and with minimal distractions to study. Set your space up with all materials you’ll need for studying (such as paper, pencils, highlighters and a bottle of water) and create a routine of using this space for studying each day.

Turn your cellphone off (or store it in another room). Access social media only during study breaks. Post a “do not disturb” sign on your door! Let friends and family know the hours you’ll be studying. Being clear with your study times is beneficial for both you and your family! You will have undisturbed study time and they can feel comfortable that they are not disturbing you.

Check your USask email and course websites. Your course websites and email are primary sources for valuable information about your classes when learning online. Check these sources at least twice a day to keep current with important announcements and class information posted by your instructors.

When you run into a challenge, keep trying and ask for help. Please reach out and ask for help when needed. Attend your professor’s virtual office hours, send an email message, or contact your tutorial leader. Consider joining an online study group with your peers to share understanding and support each other in learning.

Set up a dedicated workspace with everything you need—and no distractions.

“U Can’t Talk to Ur Professor Like This.” Communicate effectively and appropriately with your professors. Use a formal communication style, write in full sentences, and avoid text-speak/slang terms. Greet your professor with “Dear Dr. Black” instead of “Hey.” Use the subject line of “Biology 120, Section 01: Assignment 2 Question” instead of “Help w A2.” Be respectful and polite in all communication. Remember: your instructors are people with feelings, just like you.

Be aware of the black hole. Have you found yourself searching for specific information on the internet, only to catch yourself, five hours later, having discovered all sorts of other interesting, but unrelated information? Keep track of your time while searching for information. Don’t get lured into the black hole of the internet!

Prepare for online and recorded lectures beforehand as you would for face-to-face lectures. Skim through the textbook readings, review your prior lecture notes, record and create questions before participating in or reviewing online lecture materials. Think about how new information relates to what you already know. Be prepared for learning as you’d prepare for a trip. You would never go on a trip without first looking at local maps, identifying restaurants and booking accommodations. Don’t go into learning without first preparing.

Create a detailed weekly schedule and stick to it. Online learning is most often less-structured than face-to-face learning, not having scheduled times for lectures, labs or tutorials. It’s easy to get carried away with this freedom of online study to the detriment of your studies. Make time each week to consider your weekly goals and create a detailed weekly study schedule. Online learning requires high degrees of self-management, self-discipline and good time management.

Find your motivation to succeed. There are many worthwhile reasons to work hard in your classes. It may be to prepare for your ideal future career, achieve a high level of personal pride in accomplishments or to seek a wider range of opportunities (or possibly a higher income) that may be available with higher education. Keeping your goals in mind may be the inspiration you need to push through the hard times.

Treat your studies as you would a full-time job. Expect to spend two to three hours study time for each hour spent in online lectures or reading course materials. Taking five classes this term translates into studying anywhere from 30 to 45 hours each week.

Take breaks every hour or so throughout the day. Schedule time each day to do something you enjoy. Consider going for a walk outside, connecting with nature, spending time with family and friends or watching a favourite show. Taking time away from your studies can increase your productivity and bring a new perspective into learning difficult material.

Have a cut-off time for your studies. Online study can give access to course materials, assignments and resources 24 hours/day, seven days/week.This access provides much flexibility in scheduling study time. However, this virtually limitless access also makes it possible to study 24 hours a day! Schedule a cut-off time for studying each day where you close your laptop, set your books aside, and give your mind a chance to rejuvenate. 

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