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Strategies for Success

You may need to establish some new habits as a remote learner. On this page, we’ve collected some helpful tips to help you on your way.

Communicating with your instructor

Your instructors want to hear from you and help you. Remember to be patient. They may also be new to the technologies they are now using.

  • Find out how each instructor prefers to communicate about everyday questions related to the course (for example email, Moodle discussion groups, Google Hangouts, virtual office hours on Zoom, etc.). Make a chart of this if you need a quick reference.
  • Use the communication tools provided by each instructor, such as Moodle and Zoom, to engage in course activities and stay updated.
  • Use in-meeting features like chat, raised hands, or reaction boxes to ask questions during a synchronous class meeting.
  • Continue asking your instructors the same kinds of questions you would ask in person, like questions about
    • course content
    • your assignments, progress, and grades
    • changes to the course format
    • virtual office hours and scheduling a time to meet
    • letters of recommendation
  • When trying to schedule a virtual meeting, provide your instructor with options. For example, email three different date/time options when you are available to meet virtually.
  • Keep all communications professional.
    • Be polite.
    • Keep the message short and focused on one specific question or request (3 paragraphs max)
    • For more tips on crafting effective email messages to instructors, check out this page and video from the NC State Graduate School Professional Development Team

Adjusting your study routines

Remote learners can stay focused and successful with the right environment for learning and a few organizational tips.

Stay Organized

  • Once you’ve heard from each instructor about changes to your course schedules, formats, and requirements, make a chart that documents the key changes and post it where you can reference it easily. This might include new deadlines, new exam dates, different projects or new assignment instructions.  Update the document immediately when you receive new information.

Example of Documenting Key Changes in Course Structures

Class 1Class 2Class 3
Due DatesDiscussion posts due 4/1Paper due 4/10
Major ChangesNo labsLive virtual lectures at regular class timesVirtual office hours Mondays 1 p.m.-3 p.m.Discussion forum in MoodleRecorded LecturesIndividual paper instead of group project
Key Links[link to Zoom Meetings][link to virtual office hours calendar][link to wolfware.ncsu.edu to access Moodle][link to wolfware.ncsu.edu for Moodle dropbox][link to Googledoc of new assignment instructions]
Best Way to contact InstructorZoom Virtual office hoursemailemail
  • Stick to each instructor’s schedule and due dates as much as you can.This is especially important if the class activities have become asynchronous activities such as video lectures and discussion forums.
  • Create a manageable daily and weekly study schedule for yourself and stick to it.
    • The most successful remote learners log in and make progress each day. Engage with each course or project every day, even if the task is small. Commit to working on a specific subject at a certain time of day.
    • Set reminders on your phone to keep yourself aware of your schedule.
    • Set SMART goals to help you complete specific assignments or projects.
    • Schedule one or two dedicated times each day to check email, texts, course message boards, and other school-related communication platforms. Your goal is to stay up to date but not to be constantly distracted by updates.
    • Find a way to continue incorporating community into your academic tasks.  Call a friend, or have a friend call you to confirm that you are working on something.
    • Include time for breaks and self-care.

Stay on Task and Avoid “Multitasking”

  • Focus on one task at a time.  Moving to a new space for each new task can help you do this.
  • Limit the number of open apps or tabs on-screen when focusing on one task such as a video lecture or online reading.
  • Hide or turn off your phone to avoid looking at notifications while you work; schedule other times to check email, texts and routine communications.
  • While working on each task, video lecture, or reading, write down questions as you think of them, so that you can review them later and communicate with your professor later.
  • Take brief breaks between tasks. For example, use the “pomodoro method” where you work for 25 or 50 minutes on one task and reward yourself with 5- or 10-minute breaks.

Adjust Your Environment and Study Habits

  • Create a new study environment that mimics the places where you typically study best.  If that’s a quiet space, make sure your study space is away from conversations, television, music, and other distractions. If you typically study in a public place like a library or coffee shop, try sitting in a chair or adding background noise with a white noise app.
  • Make sure your work environment is comfortable.
    • Adjust the height of your chair, keyboard, and screen to be comfortable
    • Forearms and thighs should be level and parallel to the floor.
    • Wrists should not be bent while typing.
    • Avoid eye strain by making room lights at least as bright as the computer screen
  • If you typically study with a classmate or group, create a virtual study session using Google Hangouts, Zoom, or group texting.
  • To stay connected, consider identifying one study partner for each class. Set up times to meet-up virtually to study, work on class projects, and/or give feedback on each others’ work.

Collaborating with classmates online

Working in groups for class assignments can sometimes be difficult, especially for the online learner. Follow these useful tips for participating in group work online to help guide you into a more successful virtual group dynamic!

  • When possible, choose group members with similar schedules to avoid challenges of different time zones and opposing work schedules.
  • Align group roles and responsibilities with individual strengths and interests.
  • Identify what project activities must be accomplished, in what order and by when. For example, you can use a project management tool like Asana to divide activities and set deadlines for each task/member.
  • Choose a group leader who is comfortable taking on that role.
  • Establish clear guidelines around when, where and how your group will communicate with each other.
  • Create a comfortable forum to communicate through, even if it’s not the online classroom setting.
  • Schedule extra conference calls closer to project deadlines to address any last-minute hiccups and tasks.
  • Always be honest, but respectful, in a group. If either the project or a fellow group member is heading down a path you don’t agree with, speak up.
  • Ask your instructor to consider a peer evaluation strategy. This encourages equal participation by ensuring individual accountability. Here’s a sample peer participation report.
  • Lastly, don’t be afraid to talk to your instructor. Provide regular group updates, which can then be used to track progress and mediate concerns.

Tips for group members in different time zones

Working in groups across time zone differences can present some challenges.  Here are simple tips to help you work through some of them.

  • Use calendar invitations, which take time zones into account, to schedule times when you’ll meet to work together.
  • Try to be flexible with meeting times – it could be necessary to schedule them late or early in the day for everyone to participate.
  • Once your group has decided on a meeting time, try to keep it consistent
  • Determine which remote tools your group will use to communicate and collaborate and stick to using those tools.
  • To organize information and create a project, such as a group report, work together through a tool like Google Docs, even if you’re not all working at the same time.

Preventing Academic Misconduct

Transitioning to online courses has presented challenges for students and faculty. This information on Student Conduct’s website serves as a resource for students during this difficult and unprecedented time of a pandemic. The goal of this information is to provide success strategies for students while completing academic work primarily in an online environment.