Skills Hub

Preparing for online learning

“Sometimes having a lot of independence in your learning can lead to procrastination. It helps me to remember that there are a variety of learning methods you can use when you are studying e.g. reading and absorbing, answering questions and past papers, flashcards, online videos –don’t give up”
Second-year Business studies student 

Online learning is different from face-to-face learning, although many of your skills are transferable. You need to consider how you study, where you study, how you engage with your learning materials, and how you communicate with your tutors. There will be some skills that you already have, e.g. time management, but others that you may wish to develop further. Here are some suggestions to help you when learning online:

Make a schedule

Time management is an important skill for all students, but especially so for students working remotely, who are often juggling multiple responsibilities at work and home. In order to help you identify time for study, make a schedule of all of your activities, planning them out over a week. If you are learning online and your lectures are not live, make sure you watch the recordings weekly, otherwise you will fall behind and find it difficult to catch up. Making a schedule will help you to highlight times that you can dedicate to your study. Share your plan with your family or housemates, so that everyone knows when you are studying.

Create a study space

It is important to think about where you can study and to spend some time creating a suitable dedicated study space, with enough natural and artificial light to ensure that your eyes are not strained by screen time.

Learn to avoid distractions

Try to remove distraction, such as your mobile phone, and avoid using the internet for anything other than study during your dedicated study time. If you do not have a lot of time for study, try using the Pomodoro technique to keep you focused and make the most of short study periods.

Stay motivated

Use active learning techniques to keep motivated for learning; actively participate by asking questions, posting on forums; set up virtual study groups with other students to study together (e.g. using Zoom or Skype). It’s really important to actively engage with your learning because this will help you to understand the material.

Be proactive

Keep an eye out for announcements and information coming from your module tutor. This will be designed to keep you on track.

Reward yourself

Success in your studies will be a big reward, but you can also reward yourself when you’ve stuck to your plan, taken part in a webinar or completed an assignment, with something that will help you relax. Enjoy doing something that offers physical or psychological rewards such as cooking, or reading for pleasure. Continuing your studies requires self-discipline and motivation and rewarding yourself will help to maintain your motivation.

Learn how to make notes

When you make notes, it is important to make sure you understand the material. It's best to write it down in your own words - your notes can be brief and informal. If you copy text directly, you may not fully understand the material and you run the risk of committing plagiarism. Use the Note Making pages on Skills Hub to find the style of noting that suits you and helps you to understand what you are learning. When learning online you may want to consider digital note making tools, such as OneNote and Evernote.
As you progress you will discover what works for you. Don't forget you can always contact your module tutors, Academic Advisor, or school office for advice.
"Continue to communicate and socialize as much as possible through the means you can - email and Skype tutors if they've made that an option, talk to your course mates, Facetime friends and family"
Second-year Media student

What will online teaching be like?

Online teaching sessions will enable you to remain connected with your module convenor, seminar tutors and class-mates. Here are six examples of online teaching you can expect:

  1. Pre-recorded teaching and live online teaching
  2. Learning through Canvas with clear direction on how to interact with the activities
  3. Discussion Forums. These can either be structured and facilitated by your module tutors, or be used as a means of peer to peer interaction
  4. Quizzes – used to check your progress
  5. Module Chat – academics may run office hours using this function in Canvas
  6. Direct messaging through Canvas or via email with academics.

Three-step guide to participating in online learning

Your school will provide you with more specific guidance on how you will need to participate in your online learning and details about what online teaching you can expect but here are three things you can start with:
It is likely that your convenor or tutor will set a specific activity to be completed within the webinar. This may be a discussion or debate about a specific topic or reading. If so, the activity will be communicated in advance. Complete any preparatory reading and/or activities to ensure that you can get the most out of the session.
Preparation includes testing your equipment to be sure that there are no technical barriers to your participation. Find out what equipment and technology you will need for learning online. Even if you are familiar with the webinar system and you have used the same device previously, it is worth testing that you can access the webinar room. Try logging in at least 15 minutes before the session starts, using the device you plan to use. This will make sure that there are no last-minute technical issues that might result in you missing the opening of the session. You can use the extra time to chat with your peers.
Be an active participant. If the group is asked to give an opinion, to vote, or to comment, make sure you respond. But remember to stay on topic. Most online conferencing tools have a chat box where you can also ask questions during the session. If you have questions, do not be afraid to ask them. If you are not speaking, ‘mute’ your microphone to stop background noise distracting other participants. You can reduce external distractions by turning off other devices and on-screen notifications from other applications.

"When everything is online, you need to have the discipline to sit down and say, "I am going to work on this," and the dedication to be able to follow through. Though you can be flexible as to when you choose to complete your work during the week, you should be careful to not put it off indefinitely."
Second-year Psychology student

Checklist - Are you ready for online learning?

  • Are you ‘online ready'?

    Find out how to get on to the University’s wifi and set up the internet on your phone or computer, visit the Student Hub Get online page. If there is any reason why you will find it difficult to engage in online teaching (e.g. poor Wi-Fi connection; don't have a digital device; don't have the right software), notify your school office as soon as possible. They will refer you to the right member of staff.
  • Can you set up a study space wherever you are joining from?

    This should be free of distractions, but you may wish to have home comforts (tea, snacks) within reach so you are able to settle in and stay motivated. You can read more about dealing with distractions on Skills Hub.
  • Are you able to communicate with your tutors and peers?

    Make use of online communication methods in Canvas such as module chat and discussion forums.  These are an excellent way to immerse yourself in online learning, and they will make the learning experience more active and more engaging (and maybe even more enjoyable).
  • Do you know who to contact for support?

    If you don't, familiarise yourself with the support available from your school and student services on the Student Hub.
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