Online Learning Strategies

Tips and tricks to help you learn well.

Learning online can give you more freedom than learning in a classroom.  By building good habits and strategies, you can make sure that you are using your time well, and getting the most out of your education.

Below, you will find some tips from the Centre for Extended Learning's "Getting Ready to Learn Online" module, which we have adapted for English Language Learners.  These simple but important strategies can help you to succeed in your Renison ELI course.

Organize Your Time

By studying online, you give yourself more freedom to use your time as you would like.  Using that time well requires will-power and good habits.  Here are some steps you can follow to organize your time well for your online courses:

1.  Look at your course outlines.

The first day of class, you should read the course outline for every course.  Find the schedule of tasks (assignments, group projects, meetings, quizzes, and tests), as well as the date each task is due.

2.  Make a schedule.

Human beings are creatures of habit.  That means that we are more likely to succeed when we know what to expect each day.  Use a physical scheduling tool, such as a day planner, or an online tool, like Outlook Calendar or Google Calendar, to schedule time to participate in classes, do coursework, and engage in personal tasks (like meals, exercise, and family time).  Try to do these things at the same time each day so your mind and body adapt to your routine.

3.  Set goals for yourself.

It is important to set goals for each of your courses.  These goals should be SMARTSpecific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound.  Compared to a vague goal, it is easy to see if a SMART goal is complete.  This makes it is easier to make a plan for achieving your goals.  To learn more about SMART goals, please go to our Time Management Skills Workshop, which is usually held early in the term.

4.  Track your tasks and review your progress.

Creating a task list, also known as a "To Do List", is a good strategy to track the things you need to do each day.  Look at your calendar and identify the important responsibilities that you must do that week.  Create a "To Do" list of all the tasks you need to finish, and check-off each task as you complete them.  Put more difficult tasks at the top of your list; this will make it harder for you to ignore them. Smaller and easier tasks should be at the bottom of your list; they will require less time, and you are less likely to need a reminder to finish them.

5.  Log-in to LEARN every day to check for updates.

You should log-in to your LEARN account every day to check for important nnouncements from your instructors and ELI staff.  Check each course page and your LEARN calendar to review your deadlines.  If you do not understand an announcement or message from an instructor, reply to them right away to get more information.

Communicate often and ask for help

Good communication is very important for online learning.  As your instructors and classmates will not be able to meet you in-person, the only way you can share information is to send messages through email, social media, or video chats  In some ways this makes sharing information easier, but it is important that you check your messages regularly and attend all your classes.

In LEARN you will see a Message Centre for email and instant messages.  Check the Message Centre every day when you log-in to LEARN.  As well, you must check your personal email account regularly (ideally twice per day).  Email communication is an important part of professional culture in North America, and the ELI instructors and staff use email regularly to share information with students.

Finally, if you have a question or concern, but you are not sure who to ask for help, please contact your Student Advisor, A.J. Dixon, and he will be happy to assist you.  You can contact A.J. through the Student Experience Channel in LEARN, by email, or through a virtual meeting on Zoom.

Practice online learning etiquette

Etiquette is a word that means good behaviour in a certain situation.  In this case, we use the phrase online learning etiqutte for guidelines we can follow so everyone has a good online learning experience.

Please review the following guidelines.  If you are unsure about their meaning, please contact a Peer Leader or staff member.  We will be happy to help explain them to you!

  1. Use respectful language and tone at all times.  In an online learning environment, words are more important than ever!  In text or email conversations, we cannot see the writer's facial expressions or body language to help us guess their tone or meaning.  Interpreting body language can also be difficult in video chat conversations.  As such, choose your words carefully, and if you don't have something nice to say, don't say it all!
  2. Never share inappropriate content.  Renison ELI requires respectful conduct from all students and staff at all times.  We must never share inapprorpiate material, such as sexual or violent images/video, with anyone.  Students who do so may face disciplinary action.  If you feel someone is sharing inappropriate content with you or others, contact Renison staff immediately and we will help you address the issue.
  3. Respect others' beliefs and opinions, even when you disagree.  We all have different beliefs, values, and traditions. Being able to express our opinions in a respectful way is a very important part of education in Canada.  Remember to give others the time and space to express their thoughts and feelings.  If you disagree with someone, remind yourself that they have a right to their opinion, just like you do.  If constructive disagreement is part of an assignment, make sure your arguments use respectful language.  When in doubt, remember the Golden Rule: treat others the way you would like to be treated.
  4. Dress appropriately for video meetings, and remember your mute button.  While there is no specific dress code for online courses, we encourage you to dress as if you were attending class on campus.  Students who are not dressed appropriately may be excluded from video meetings, and may face other forms of disiciplinary action. When you are not speaking, consider putting your microphone on "mute".  You may not think we can hear your dog barking or your roommate doing the dishes, but we can!
  5. Respect others' privacy.  It is very easy to share contact information, documents, and other digital items through the internet.  Remember, however, that everyone has a right to their privacy.  Always ask permission before sharing contact information or documents that belong to someone else.
  6. Be forgiving.  Online learning is different, and it is a new experience for many of us.  Misunderstandings may happen, but if we all practice kindness and forgiveness, it will be much easier for us all to enjoy our learning experience.  Remember that the instructors and staff of Renison ELI are here to support you during your online learning journey.

For more great resources and strategies to learn online, visit these helpful Renison and University of Waterloo web resources: