Keep calm and learn: You can do this! Online learning is not impossible, but it requires you to be an active participant. Tips for online learning will help you prepare for and engage in your new online learning environment. Things may feel unsettled right now, but we’re all in this together and we’ll get through it together. As always, if you have questions, ask the Office of Student Success and Retention, your instructor, or your academic advisor.
Prepare for online classes.
- Set up a comfy classroom workspace for yourself. It might be your regular study space
or a chair in a quiet room—whatever works for you. Plan to have your required textbooks,
syllabi, notes you’ve already taken, and handouts you’ve received for each course
nearby and easy to access in your online learning space.
- If at all possible, do not work in bed. It's tempting, but separating your relaxing space and your working space will help you relax when you need to.
- Create a schedule. Just as you had a weekly schedule for your on-campus classes, use a schedule for your online classes and make this part of your daily routine. Find out what each class is doing, some of your classes might meet virtually at the regular time. Don’t forget to schedule extra time to complete homework, sleep, socialize, eat, exercise, and rest.
- Check your equipment and technology. Make sure that your laptop and devices are updated
to meet the demands of the online class and Canvas. Contact the Information Services Help Desk at 801.832.2023 if you need computer support.
- If you can, be hard-wired. If you’re still looking for reliable WiFi, Xfinity WiFi has made all hotspots free.
- Be patient. We’re all new in this environment and we’ve only had a week to get this up and running. Nervous? So is your professor. They came to Westminster because they like interacting with students and now they’re scrambling to make online learning engaging and interesting. We’re going to be learning together for a while.
Wake up in the morning and...
- Shower, get dressed, brush your teeth, and put on your shoes. That physical reminder will help get you in the mindset to learn.
- Check Canvas. If up-to-date instructions for each course are not posted and accessible on Canvas, email the instructor to ask about when to expect them.
- Kindly remind everyone you live with that you are still in college. You are not free to spend the day doing family laundry, taking care of siblings and/or pets, running errands, etc. College is still your primary responsibility. The only change now is that you are doing it from home.
Participate in your classes.
- Be aware: Print a copy of your assignment schedule, highlight assignment due dates and times, and tape it to your refrigerator door or another place you look at often. This might be a good time to dust off your planner to stay organized.
- Read, listen, and watch: Read everything your instructors post and read it more than once. If your professor posts video and audio materials, watch and listen, then watch and listen again. The great thing about online learning is that it’s easy to review course materials as many times as you need to.
- Ask questions: Your questions help your professor clarify assignment directions for you and for everyone else in the class. If you’re using the discussion tool in Canvas, jump in early. Take charge of your learning.
- Take notes to help you stay engaged when it’s easy to be distracted.
- Check your Westminster email every day and throughout the day. Things are changing fast and we’re trying hard to communicate with you.
- Plan to log in to Canvas every day, scheduling time into your daily calendar to match the time you would spend in a classroom, times two. It’s better to schedule more time for online classwork than to not schedule enough.
Communicate clearly and often with your professors and classmates.
- Use formal academic/professional style English in all communications. Use acronyms and emoticons only sparingly.
- Be specific and direct in all online writing, even chats or discussion posts, so that your classmates and professors will understand your message. Replace vague words like “it,” “they,” and “thing,” with more specific words or phrases.
- Be careful with humor and sarcasm, they can both be easily misunderstood.
- When you have a problem with technology, don’t panic or waste time trying to figure problems out yourself. Contact the Information Services Help Desk at 801.832.2023 if you need computer support, they may be familiar with your problem have you back online in minutes. Problems are going to come up, but you’ll work through them.
- Take breaks and leave your workspace. When you have breaks between classes, you walk outside or get a cup of coffee—take the same approach at home by walking outside, doing 20 jumping jacks, texting a friend, or having a snack.
- Make sure you talk to classmates and to your instructor if there is something you don’t understand. Online instruction is NOT impossible, but does require you to be an active participant.
- Take a deep breath and remind yourself you are smart and capable. This is new and you will find a routine.
Reduce distractions during class/study time.
- Turn off any devices you’re not using to connect to class.
- Try the Forest App, the StayFocusd Google Chrome extension, or similar apps and browser extensions for help staying focused.
- Try the Pomodoro time-management method.
If your classes are meeting virtually, follow tips to help keep you on track.
- If you get an email from faculty about using a specific piece of software, get online early and do a test run way before your first online class. Most software has a way you can test audio and video on your own. Testing software helps you have some idea of your instructional space will look like before class starts, like an orientation day where you can walk around your campus and see where your classrooms will be.
- Be aware of your surroundings, noticing what others will be able to see and hear, like what is behind you on the camera. And, make sure others in your house know that the class can see or hear you.
- Learn where the mute button is and use it. Your default should be to remain muted until you’re ready to speak.
- Take notes, even though the class is online. This will keep you engaged in the class and will give you something to study from later.
Westminster’s Professional and Continuing Education department has information on best practices for organization/time management, technology, communication, and learning that you may find useful for online learning.
- Expect to spend the same amount of time on online coursework as a face-to-face course.
- While you will have more flexibility in scheduling your work, this requires self-discipline and accountability. Rather than your professors holding you accountable, you will need to hold yourself accountable.
- It is strongly recommended that you create and maintain a weekly schedule/routine that factors in things outside of school, including work and life commitments. It may also be helpful to establish a regular location where you complete your work.
- Successful online students are very organized, so make sure you review the entire course early in the semester so you can plan well in advance.
- Maintain a consistent self-care regimen throughout the course or program, including incorporating exercise, downtime, etc., into your routine.
- Take advantage of early submission opportunities, especially for larger assignments. And, ask your instructor if there is an option for you to receive early feedback.
- Some online programs may have residencies or seminar days that must be attended in person. Plan for these well in advance to ensure your attendance.
- Know who to go to for help/resources before you need them. Do not wait until the last minute. Contact the Information Services Help Desk at 801.832.2023 if you need computer support.
- Depending on your comfort level with technology or the course you are taking, you may want to seek out technology help early. For example, if your instructor allows for video-conferencing or you plan on using the Writing Center’s virtual consultations, make sure you have the appropriate technology to utilize that resource.
- All of your work needs to be original. You cannot cut and paste anything from the internet and call it your own. All work from other sources must be appropriately cited.
- Check your email and Canvas regularly.
- Ask for help early. Faculty expect that you will have questions, so don’t be afraid to ask them.
- Faculty and students do not necessarily work the same hours. In other words, faculty may not be at work when you are completing your coursework, so expect that you may need extra time to get feedback from your instructor and factor that in when completing assignments before their due dates.
- Make sure to keep your family, employer, friends, etc. in the loop on your schedule.
- College is a significant commitment, so make sure you have adequate time to devote to school.
- Life circumstances happen to all of us. Be sure to communicate with your instructor and/or advisor immediately if life circumstances prevent you from completing any coursework. Accommodations can be difficult to arrange last-minute, so instructors have more flexibility the earlier they know about complications.
- Take advantage of all opportunities to connect with other students in the course. This can be a valuable learning opportunity.
- Be careful with humor and sarcasm, they can both be easily misunderstood.
- Review what you’ve written before submitting it to check your writing for errors.
- Respect the privacy of your classmates and what they share in class.
- Be respectful of classmates and your instructors.
- Keep in mind that you are taking a college class. Something that would be inappropriate in a traditional classroom is also inappropriate in an online classroom.
- Read all instructions your instructor posts on Canvas. Ask your instructor what reading you need to do before each assignment and review all discussion postings before posting your own to prevent redundancy.
- Just because you had success in one online course, does not guarantee the same result in others.
- Be consistent with your engagement with the course and be prepared when completing your assignments.
- Do not try to complete assignments (especially large assignments) in one night. Break assignments up into smaller chunks. Most assignments require you to research or read materials that you need to incorporate into your assignments, so plan ahead and allocate time and resources for those activities.