How to succeed in online learning

Making the transition to a virtual semester a smooth one

Tips and tricks for studying from home.

Whether you’re a seasoned online learner or you’ve never taken a virtual class before, this semester is bound to be difficult for everyone in its own way. 

While it’s important to appreciate the opportunity to continue our education during the pandemic, it’s understandably frustrating for students to have to adapt on the fly to a new method of learning.

If you’re feeling lost, I’ve compiled a few tips and tricks for being successful this semester. This term will be tough, but with the right tools and habits we’ll all get through it.

To-do lists are your best friend 

I never start a course without going through the syllabus and identifying every single due date and putting it on a to-do list.

Typically, I have a separate list of tasks for each course, as well as a general to-do list for all of my deadlines for the semester. 

A way to make sure you are making the most of your to-do lists is using a system I call ‘the stoplight method.’ Due dates that are nearing are highlighted in red, those that are creeping up are highlighted in yellow, and assignments toward the end of term are in green. As they approach, I shift the colours so I’m always aware of what needs to get done first. 

Communicate with your peers 

Find those course group chats and get in them.

Because we’re learning from our bedrooms, we can’t turn to ask the person next to us what an unfamiliar term means or if they understood the last 10 minutes of the lecture. Therefore, it’s important to take initiative and either start a course group chat on a social media platform like Facebook Messenger or find one that’s already been started.

If you’re looking to assemble a study group but don’t know where to start, you can search through the onQ class list for people you may know and reach out to them privately. Teaching teams will often have open forums on your onQ course page, which is another great resource to pose a question you may have about the course content and hear back from your classmates.

Virtually shake your professor’s hand

For each course I take, I make a point to introduce myself to my professor at the end of the first lecture. Studying remotely from my bedroom means that’s not possible this fall—but just because classes are online doesn’t mean you can’t get to know your teaching teams.

This semester, send your professors an email introducing yourself and touch on why you’re interested in taking their course. Doing this helps build a connection with your professors that you may feel is missing with online learning. It also allows you to kick off the term with a line of communication between yourself and your teaching teams.

Similarly, don’t be afraid to reach out to your professors and TA’s for assistance with questions and assignments—they’re there to help you, even if you can’t meet with them in-person. Reaching out for clarification can also be beneficial to you because it shows your instructors that you’re engaged with the course content and keeping up with readings and assignments.

Be kind to yourself

Schedule, prioritize, and use your resources, but at the end of the day the most important thing you can do is take care of yourself.

School can be exhilarating and draining all at the same time; ensure that you’re allowing yourself to do things to get your mind off work and let off steam. Being away from friends and practicing social distancing isn’t the most fun way to be spending your post-secondary career, and it can feel challenging to let loose when your house has become your classroom.

Your mental wellbeing comes before everything else—it’s vital to carve out time for yourself to relax and connect with people. Go for a drive or a walk, watch your favourite episode of Friends, make a playlist, or get a milkshake. You’ve earned it.

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