This guide is intended to help support students on their academic journey.
Online or distance learning are just as intellectually challenging as on-campus courses. If you are taking online classes, you may find that your instructors or classmates seem distant, or that more written communication skills are required or that your ability to motivate yourself to work independently is challenged. It can be easy for procrastination to creep in and motivation to fall. You may not feel the same pressure to structure your life around your course work, so what follows are some guidelines to help you keep on track.
Plan Your Time
Choose your preferred tool for keeping track of assignments, readings and rescheduled tests. It does not matter whether this is your Selkirk agenda, your phone or a wall calendar. Whatever it is, pick something that you will actually use (rather than sit in the bottom of your backpack). A wall calendar has the added benefit that your family or roommates can see when you are likely to be unavailable. Working from home is still working! Check out the Useful Tools and Tips for Time Management.
Get out your original syllabi or course outlines. Watch for communication from your faculty on changes to due dates, assignments and tests and update your calendar.
Block out time for class sessions to review the material your instructor makes available. In some cases, this will mean more reading assignments and in some cases this will mean more time required to review lecture slides. Try to block out five or six one hour blocks per week for each course. If there is a course that you already know you procrastinate about, try for 10-12 half hour blocks of time per week.
Be realistic about how much you are able to accomplish in one day. Think about building in extra buffer time for big assignments, and setting a self-imposed rough draft deadline a few days before the actual deadline. Use the updated syllabi or course outlines to draft a weekly schedule. What one thing can you get done today that will make this week more manageable? Divide and conquer!
It will be up to you to define the structure of your day. Once you know how much time you will need to devote to your coursework, think about the best time of day for you to do that. If you find that you are having trouble sticking to a schedule, consider keeping a time diary of just how much time you are spending on various activities each day. If the results show that you are spending too much time on Netflix, then this will help you identify your ‘black holes of time’ and re-align your daily activities with your priorities. Check out these motivation strategies.
Discuss schedules, boundaries and expectations with family or roommates
Your family and friends will follow your lead – let them know that you need to prioritize your coursework but that you also consider their needs and schedules. Working out a ‘new normal’ with your roommates or family requires some open conversations about adjustments.
Allow yourself time for relaxing and being with family and friends, even if it is only digital connections. Knowing that you have made time for socialization will make it easier to get down to the hard task of reading or reviewing slides.
Think about the type of tasks you will be doing. Will you need to engage in online class discussions with a speaker and microphone? Is this set for particular times of the week? Your family or roommates will be better able to support your learning if everyone is aware of each other’s needs. You might want to consider working during the same hours to reduce the temptation to socialize rather than study. Plan ahead to share technological resources or favourite working spaces.
Prepare Your Study Space
Keep your learning materials handy to make it easier to complete assignments. If possible, keep paper, pens, chargers, laptop and other materials together to make work convenient. If you have a dedicated space to set up your work station do so, and if not, try keeping it together in a ‘desk in a bag’ with a spare backpack or box.
Advice at this time discourages public gatherings and encourages social distancing. Do you have reliable internet access? Are you comfortable with Moodle? The nature of technology is to expect the unexpected. There may be glitches so ensure that you keep copies of your work (preferably time and date stamped) even after it has been submitted.
If you need quiet space to engage in online classes and there is background noise, make a ‘class in session’ sign for your door. Remember to mute the microphone as needed. If you have trouble shifting your focus away from your apartment, student housing or roommates, try quiet breathing exercises or mindful meditation as you sit down. Take a few minutes before each study or class session to think about what you will be covering. Try to review the learning objectives or learn how to make study questions to keep your learning on track and manageable.
If your class moves online, it may have discussion boards. Think of these as virtual class discussions; a chance to share your ideas with peers and show your instructor your critical thinking skills and that you are prepared for class. Even if the instructor doesn’t comment on your contributions, they are reading and reviewing the conversation. Ask questions, share ideas and engage!
We encourage you to reach out and ask for help. Know how to contact your instructors if you need clarification and know how they wish you to submit coursework. Do not expect an immediate response if you email your instructor at midnight!
For additional supports, check out the Library and Student Access and Support.
Ryerson’s Guide to Succeeding in Online Courses
12 Study Tips for Online Learners
Adjusting to an Online Learning Environment video