Learning online in university

Making the transition to learning online can pose new and different challenges from what you're used to with learning on campus. Explore the resources below to navigate studying and learning in an online environment. Book an appointment with a Peer Success Coach for personalized help developing your approach to learning online. 

 

Understand academic integrity for online learning

Academic integrity is making the right decisions in your academic work – even if it’s hard. It includes being honest, fair, responsible, trustworthy and trusting, respectful and courageous. Integrity isn't only crucial in the context of academics. It’s an important consideration no matter what situation you're in.

It’s your responsibility to know what constitutes academic integrity, to avoid committing academic offences and to take responsibility for your actions. However, your instructors are here to support you in your online learning. If you’re unsure about assignment or course expectations (e.g. citations, guidelines for collaboration, etc.), please contact your instructor or TA for clarification. It’s important to ask for help and clarification if you’re unclear about your instructor’s expectations for specific assignments, as expectations can vary from instructor to instructor and from assignment to assignment.

You’re not alone - we’re here to help! There are many campus services offering virtual support and resources for students learning in an online setting. Review these resources for help understanding how to maintain your academic integrity:

 

It’s important to make good decisions for your academic and personal development. It’s normal to have questions and concerns along the way. Make sure to ask for support and follow the values of honesty, trust, respect, fairness, responsibility and courage. Integrity matters!

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Time management for online courses

With the flexibility of online learning, it can be easy to get off track or fall behind in your courses. Managing your time is essential when taking online courses, as it’s up to you how to use your time and it can be challenging to balance your online courses with your everyday schedule. Effective time management can help with your learning, but it also can help be more productive. Always make sure to create a schedule that will work for you.

What's the best way to stay on track in your online courses?

  1. Look at the important dates for each of your courses and create a master schedule for the term.
  2. Make a weekly and/or daily schedule.
  3. Set goals for yourself.
  4. Stay on schedule and evaluate your progress.
  5. Plan time for tests, exams and/or assignments.

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How to stay motivated for online learning

Maintaining motivation in an online learning environment can be challenging. For example, it may be more difficult to make important connections between the course content and your personal goals and interests. You may find yourself looking for new ways to build and maintain social connections. Navigating a course that is entirely online can be intimidating, especially if you’re learning new technology alongside learning new content. Below are some potential barriers to motivation and strategies for how to manage some of these barriers to effectively improve your motivation. One way to look at improving your motivation is to focus on how you can reduce barriers to motivation, rather than only focusing on how to increase motivation.

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Manage your health and wellness during an online term

Learn how to manage test anxiety, find school-work-life balance and remain connected to campus while learning online.

Manage online test anxiety

What is test anxiety and what does it look like?

Test anxiety can be experienced by anyone and its symptoms can appear physically (nausea, muscle tension, sweating, etc.), emotionally (feelings of fear, frustration, irritability, etc.) and/or cognitively (difficulty concentrating or retaining information, mind going “blank,” etc.). A little bit of nervousness before or during a test is normal and can help motivate you to perform at your best.

However, interfering levels of anxiety before or during an exam can be extremely uncomfortable and in these types of situations, students are encouraged to connect with their health care providers or the counsellors and physicians in Campus Wellness for further support.

What strategies may help to reduce test anxiety?

Begin to incorporate these strategies in the days leading up to and during your online test:

  • Create a study schedule by breaking up your studying into small manageable chunks and space out your studying over a few weeks or days.
  • Begin studying with reviewing the information you already know to help build momentum. Prioritize the important topics that are emphasized in your course syllabus/lecture notes and identify gaps in your knowledge.
  • Reach out to your professor or TA through email if you have questions about certain topics.
  • Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Get a good night’s sleep (seven to nine hours) and eat well to help boost your memory and energy so you feel recharged and rested before your test.
  • On the day of the test, try not to learn new content. Instead, do something relaxing before the test begins, such as meditating, deep breathing, light stretches or going for a walk.
  • During the test, slow down and be intentional about your breathing. You can also try to repeat a helpful word or phrase to yourself, like "I can do this," to help reduce feelings of anxiety.
  • Before you begin answering questions on the test, read the directions. Depending on the format of your test and whether you’re able to, take a few moments to look over the entire test before you begin. Remember to pace yourself throughout the test and note how much time you should dedicate to each section or question. Try to focus on the question at hand, give yourself a time limit to answer each question and, if you’re not making progress, skip it and come back to it later.
  • After your test, recognize that you just did a mentally challenging task and that in itself should be rewarded. Remember to take time to do something that makes you feel good.

Find balance while learning online

Navigating the “university-at-home” experience alongside work and adjusting to new social situations may be challenging. It may bring up feelings of stress and worry – and that’s normal. It will be very important to your overall wellbeing and success as a student to ensure balance during this time.

Everyone can find themselves moving from periods of balance to imbalance, especially while navigating online learning. Each person will have different strategies for maintaining a sense of balance and will experience different signs that indicate life imbalance (e.g. feeling overwhelmed, stressed).

What strategies can you implement to help improve school-work-life balance?

Maintaining balance is an ongoing process that involves active and deliberate effort. Begin to incorporate these helpful tips and strategies to help strike a balance between school, work and life while learning online:

  • Create a flexible schedule: Time management can be an extremely helpful skill to develop and/or strengthen during an online term. It can help provide good insight into the right blend or balance between home, work and university life for you. Use a scheduling tool (e.g. a planner or to-do list) to help structure, organize and visualize your time. The key is to devise a flexible schedule that will help you strike a balance between all the important aspects of your life.
  • Identify your priorities: You may have many things competing for your attention and time while learning from home. At the beginning of the term take a moment to identify your priorities for the term and determine what’s “important” versus “urgent.” This will help you decide where you should spend your time and energy.
  • Be kind to yourself: There will be periods throughout the term when you feel like you can effectively maintain a work-school-life balance, and then there will also be periods in the term where maintaining balance may be more challenging. Try not to be too hard on yourself. Find a few minutes every day to check-in with yourself and see if you need to reevaluate your priorities, commitments and tasks to help you get or remain on track for success.
  • Learn to say no: Learning to say “no” can be very helpful during this time. Remember that no one can do everything. Before you take on a new task, activity and/or responsibility, consider whether or not you will have enough time and energy to properly commit to it. Though you may find it difficult to turn down various opportunities, it may occasionally be necessary to say “no.”
  • Regularly take good care of yourself: Self-care is critical to your well-being and success as a student, especially as you begin to adjust to this “new normal.” If you’re physically, emotionally and/or mentally drained, you’re more prone to burnout. Take time to reflect on and devise a personal self-care plan that includes intentional time for yourself. Know what time of day is your most productive and identify ways you can incorporate breaks into your schedule to help regain balance.
  • Ask for support: Don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially at this time. You aren’t always going to feel like you have balance; that’s normal and you’re not alone. We need to take care of ourselves and look out for each other. There are various individuals, resources and services available to you for support throughout this time, such as Campus Wellness and the Student Success Office. Positive supports can help provide you with a listening ear or guidance during difficult times.

Stay connected to campus

Learning from home can bring up many different emotions. Students may feel a sense of loneliness or a loss of connection with their peers. Staying connected while you’re away from campus is important to student success and overall well-being, and while we may be social-distancing, there are still ways to engage, socialize, learn from one another and maintain community.

What can you do to stay connected?

Check out the suggestions below and identify one that you can begin to implement today to help you stay connected while learning online:

  • Follow @UWaterlooLife and other University of Waterloo social channels to get your daily dose of updates, engage with other students and to learn about opportunities that may be of interest to you.  
  • Identify some time in your week to take part in Online Warrior Workouts. It’s a great way to destress and take care of your mental and physical well-being while away from campus.
  • Keep up to date with the Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association (WUSA) when it comes to clubs, services, jobs and volunteer opportunities to help make the most of your student experience.
  • Meet virtually with an upper-year student to talk about the academic skills that you want to build on and/or strengthen, identify your learning style and develop a personalized action plan for the upcoming semester. If you’re unable to meet virtually, take a moment to explore our other learning resources.
  • Consider using the online discussion boards in LEARN or Hangouts in Piazza to ask open-ended questions to your peers about course content and work through problems. Actively posting in discussion threads can offer meaningful interactions with your peers, while also improving your learning experience and your performance in online courses.
  • Communicate regularly with your instructor and/or TA’s through email or LEARN to ask questions and discuss the course material.

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