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.
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.