Top 10 Tips for Online Learning
1) Establish a routine early in the semester to make sure you are staying on top of your work.
It is important to consistently set daily and weekly goals to make sure you are completing assignments on time and adequately preparing for bigger things like exams or projects. Not sure how to get started? The action plan at the end of the guide will get you all ready to go!
2) Optimize your workspace so you can focus.
While it isn't always realistic to set aside a separate place in your home to do school work (though it is great if you can), think about little things you can do to improve your set-up. Some low/no cost ideas include finding a white noise YouTube video or app to play through headphones to block out sound, setting up good back support (gaming chairs, dining room chairs with throw pillows for your lower back, etc.), and using a backpack or box to gather frequently used supplies near you (pens, pencils, phone/laptop chargers, etc.).
3) Take breaks throughout the day (and if you can get a breath of fresh air during one, all the better)!
There is a very low chance you are being productive if you sit down to start watching lectures/doing homework at 8AM and don't get up again until dinner time. While you can always play around with time intervals to see what works best for you, a good place to start can be the Pomodoro method. This method has you work for 25 minutes followed by 5 minute breaks - give it a try if you are feeling your focus slip during the day!
4) Create online collaborative spaces with your classmates.
Many RPI students will tell you how important it is to have people in your class to work with and help each other understand course content. Find a few people in your class and set up a Discord Channel, Webex Teams group, Slack channel, Facebook group, etc. so you have people that can reference each other for help throughout the semester. While it should go without saying, please follow all academic integrity guidelines as outlined in your syllabi when it comes to collaborative work!
5) Identify campus resources and use them!
While many services will be offered remotely this fall for safety reasons, they will still be easily accessible if you know where to look. Do you know how to access ALAC tutoring, make an appointment with your Hub advisor, and find your professor's contact information? If you answered no to any of these questions, check the bottom of this guide in the "Action Plan" section to start. If you still have questions, reach out to your Hub advisor!
6) Identify things that commonly distract you and come up with strategies to manage them.
If you find yourself getting distracted by your phone, put it physically across the room from you while you work on something. If you get off-track with certain websites on your computer, you can use browser extensions like Stay Focusd to temporarily block your access. If your cat likes to lay on your keyboard and delete half of your paper, save frequently or lock them out of the room while you're working.
7) Be proactive in asking for help!
This is always a good skill to cultivate, but it is especially important for online classes where no one may realize you need help if you don't speak up. Are you having tech issues? Put in a support ticket with ITSCC. Do you need help understanding a concept? Put office hours on your schedule this week and check the ALAC tutoring schedule. Do you need to change your class schedule? Make an appointment with your Hub advisor.
8) Take advantage of any added flexibility to experiment with your individual learning style, especially if your class is asynchronous (doesn't require you to log in at a specific time).
Test out what time of day you are most productive, see what kind of physical space you prefer (can you get into your groove better when comfy on a couch, or do you need the structure of a desk?), and reflect on what parts of your online classes are most helpful for your learning (listening to lectures, reading text, etc.). These skills and realizations can carry over into typical semesters!
9) Back up your deadlines by at least one day, if not more.
It can be challenging to accurately gauge how long certain assignments will take you, and the last thing you want is to be in a time crunch and have a technical issue stop you from submitting something on time. If you finish things early, great, it's off your plate and you have the chance to review your work again if needed. If the unexpected comes up, you have already built in time to deal with any issues!
10) As simple as it sounds, remember to take notes and stay actively engaged with your class.
If there is a promise of a recording you can watch later, it is tempting to skip taking your own notes by thinking you can always reference the video. However, note-taking helps you process and retain information, and it is certainly more efficient to return to while studying as opposed to scrubbing through a video.