Learning Virtually

The worldwide transition to an online learning environment in light of the COVID-19 pandemic has, in many cases, added an additional layer of stress onto an already stressful situation, for students and for faculty. Read below for some on-campus resources at your disposal and a few essential strategies you can employ not only to succeed in the online learning environment, but to flourish.

If you are having academic-related issues with your online courses, please complete the form below, and someone from the Division of Academic Affairs will reach out to provide assistance:

Workshops and Training    Request Remote Academic Support

Student Online Instruction Sheet    Request Remote Technical Support


1. Manage Your Time

Create a routine of scheduled classes, study time, and break time to keep yourself on target, while maintaining personal well-being.

Make a weekly plan the day before a new week starts so you know what you are going to do as far as homework and research. Divide everything up during the week so you know what you need to complete each. Review materials in small portions so you’re not cramming everything into one day, stressing out, and trying to hurry and get everything done at the last minute.

And don’t forget to take frequent, short breaks. Looking at a screen for hours at a time can be exhausting; stepping away and taking a few minutes to yourself is a great way to rejuvenate your brain. Schedule breaks of five or ten minutes between study time. 

2. Claim a Study Space

Designate a comfortable area where you can work with limited distractions—and ensure those in your house respect that area while you’re working! Put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign and enforce it! Having a comfortable place to work is the key to setting yourself up for success.

3. Minimize Distractions and Limit Social Media

Close your chat windows, Internet tabs, and games while working on your online class work. Turn off notifications, too, to keep you from getting distracted by incoming messages. And try logging out of all your social media accounts during your study blocks. The computer screen is an online student’s classroom, and we know how difficult it is to resist the temptation to see how many Likes your latest post received!

Pro tip: Make use of your phone’s Do Not Disturb mode.

4. Use Online Resources

We may be physically apart, but faculty and staff are still here to support you! Check out this resource page for important information about available resources, and make sure you read our biweekly newsletter for important updates and resources. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, ask! You can also check out this Guide to Remote Student Services if you’re not sure which office to contact for help.

5. Plan Ahead and Set Realistic Expectations

In an online class, there may be technical difficulties to overcome. Take the risk of these difficulties into account, and give yourself time to acclimate to new software and hardware. Familiarize yourself with the virtual classroom tools each of your professors will be using. Have a presentation or an exam? Log in early and do a test run if you’ve never used the platform before. It really helps to have an idea of what the instructional space will look like before class starts.

Further, give your instructors a reasonable amount of time to answer your questions. In an online class, exchanging emails or arranging phone conversations takes time.  Expect that you may encounter hurdles when completing the work and leave yourself extra time to overcome them.

6. Optimize your internet and don’t panic when you get disconnected. 

We know not everyone has a perfect setup at home. If you have the option to hard wire into your router, that will give you the best connection. If you’re on WiFi, try to move as close to the router as possible. Your speed will determine the quality of the video and audio.

Don’t panic when something goes wrong—and it may. Disconnected from the Internet during an online chat? Just log back in and drop a note in the forum apologizing for the glitch. And although not ideal, you could also use your smartphone as a backup. Most virtual classroom software vendors offer mobile apps—just be aware of data usage issues and costs.

7. Be aware of what others can see and hear

If you’re using the camera or audio from your computer, check your surroundings. Don’t have inappropriate posters over your shoulder. Tell family members or roommates that you’ll be in a live video class and they should be mindful of how they’re dressed and to stay out of the camera shot.

Being on mic is great for saying “hello” and contributing to the discussion. But background noise can be very distracting to other students. When you’re just listening, mute your audio—but don’t forget to unmute the microphone when you want to join the discussion. 

8. Take Notes

Just like in a traditional classroom setting, taking notes may make it easier to remember the important pieces of information you need to retain. Stay engaged, write down what’s important, and review your notes when the class is over to make sure you’ve understood everything.

9. Participate—and Ask Questions!

Ultimately, you can only get out of online learning what you put into it. Your professor is a guide, mentor, and teacher, but learning is a two-way process. Participating in discussion boards and forums will help you feel more connected to the course and will help you retain the material better. 

It’s important if you’re struggling with a topic to be proactive and seek out help. Don’t be afraid to speak up when you don’t understand or when you aren’t quite following. Ask questions as soon as you have them. Your professors are here to guide you, and they want to help you succeed.

10. Connect with Others

Online portals, discussion boards, and social media can help you connect with peers, stay in touch, and help each other with proof-reading, tips, and resource exchanges. Talking to other students helps to open your mind and keep you motivated.

Communication is the number one thing that will make online learning a positive experience. Email your professor, post in the forums, text your classmates—use every communication skill you have to make sure you are getting what you need from the course. 

11. Stay Healthy!

This is an unprecedented time for all of us, and the transition to remote learning and social distancing is taxing. Remember to eat well, stay hydrated, get plenty of sleep, and get some exercise every day—otherwise the quarantine snacks may get the best of you :). Know that there will be good days and bad days, and don’t force yourself to overdo it. 

12. Remember Why We’re Doing This

Approach your courses with an open mind. Be patient with others and be okay with a steep learning curve as you get accustomed to remote instruction. Remember that by embracing this online learning opportunity, you’re doing your part to “flatten the curve,” and we can all feel good about that. Hopefully we’ll all be back on campus together again soon—thanks to the sacrifices we’re making now.