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Digital Education Strategies (DES)

Five Tips to Set Yourself Up for Online Learning

Whether you’re a first-timer or an old pro, there are always some useful tips to make sure that going fully online for your education will be a success.

For students of all ages, including those enrolled in post-secondary education, “school” looks a bit different this fall. While institutions like The Chang School of Continuing Education transitioned to online learning halfway through the Winter term earlier this year, the Fall term marks the first time courses will be fully online.

Learning online versus traditional in-class learning is different, and for first-timers or even old pros, there are always ways to make sure you are as productive and prepared as possible. With that, here are five tips on how to set yourself up for online learning success.

We spoke with the friendly people at The Chang School’s Online Course Support team who are students themselves for their advice. Here’s what they had to say:

Tip #1: Manage Your Time Wisely

Not having to worry about commuting or being in a physical place for class definitely has its perks, like no subway delays and a short walk from your bedroom to your desk. But don’t get too comfortable (WFB or “working from bed” is a bit of a stretch). Being in charge of your own time means making good decisions, like picking the right environment for learning.

Online Course Support team member Cassandra Ferworn said taking time to attend class, study, and work on assignments is especially difficult when you’re not in a different physical location meant for that.

“Self management can be really hard and it can feel like no one is there to hold you accountable,” she said, adding a trick to use is making class time distinct, like dressing up for a Zoom session, making a special study corner in your home, having a specific playlist, or even a particular type of drink.

Tip #2: Preview Technology Requirements

When technology works, it’s wonderful but when there are problems, we all know how frustrating it can be. To help mitigate any technical glitches that can be a barrier to you successfully learning online, check the technology requirements on our course outline, which can be found on The Chang School Website.

Online Course Support team member Trent Rand said learning online doesn’t have to be tricky. He advises students to get to know the tools they’ll be using beforehand by visiting Resources for Learning Online. There, students can find information on Zoom, D2L (Ryerson’s online learning system), Google suite, and Google Meet.

“This will help prevent you from leaving your mic on in Zoom class, or accidentally uploading vacation pictures to your class discussion board,” said Trent, adding that it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle outside of the digital classroom. “Just because online courses offer you the ability to work at 2 a.m., doesn’t mean your mind is at its best while you’re doing it. Keeping healthy can easily be overlooked for students studying full time online.”

Kevin Tang, who is also an Online Course Support team member and who used to be a TA in Electrical Engineering said preparation is key. This includes making sure you have all software updates installed, obtaining software licences where necessary, checking your computer settings, checking your printer and/or scanner (if needed), and, the most important of all, staying connected: “The internet must be working!” he said.

Tip #3: Get Organized

To keep yourself motivated and accountable, use tools such as your Ryerson Google Calendar, which already has all of the classes you’re enroled in, advises Cassandra. “Scheduling is my favourite tip,” she said, adding that students can schedule Google Calendar events around their classes, including reading through material, studying, and taking assignments.

Likewise, Kevin said to read and write down what you need to do. “It’s very important to read instructions and make notes online,” he said. “Communication is different from actual class: you might have missed the deadline if you don’t clearly read and write it down, or put it in your Google Calendar.”

This is very important to keep in mind when it comes to important dates for exams and assignments, which are in the course outline and are an agreement between the student and the university. Students should make sure that there are no prior family or work commitments that might get in the way. If in doubt, students can speak with their instructor.

Also, Cassandra said to include reminders for assignment due dates and tests. This will help you keep on track with the expectation that you will complete 3-6 hours of studies per week as well as online assessments.

In addition to making a schedule, Trent advises students to stay accountable by keeping a routine. “It’s easy to fall behind or ignore the obligation of an online class,” he said. “Keeping a routine that is similar to in person learning can help make sure students are making progress every day or every week towards completing their academic goals.”

Tip #4: Collaborate and Get Involved

This is perhaps one of the most important pieces of advice for remote learning. Trent sums it up nicely: “Don’t isolate yourself. Learning online and learning alone are not the same thing.”

On D2L, students can find class discussion boards, which Trent says is a good place to start. Everyone has access to them and you don’t need to awkwardly have to ask for phone numbers, emails, or social media to connect.

“While many students will move outside of the course and build personal connections through those mediums, starting with something in common, somewhere you’ll both frequent is usually a good start,” Trent said, adding that most classes feature a “coffee shop” style forum in their discussion board where connecting with students can be done without the need to stick to any particular topics.

Similarly, Cassandra also advises to utilize the discussion board in D2L. “Make posts and participate!” she said. An easy way to do this is to reply to other students and get to know each other there. Another way is using social media, which Cassandra admits she’s guilty of: “You can also look up other students on social media. I’m very guilty of scanning through names in zoom lectures and looking people up. A simple, ‘Hey, We’re both in the same class! Nice to meet you,’ goes a long way.”

Tip #5: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

There’s no shame in asking for help. Beyond the technical requirements and planning for online learning, you also might need help with the course content or instructional components. Some examples of these include, if you’re unable to complete a quiz, you don’t understand the readings, have a question about an assignment, or aren’t sure about a term that keeps being used in a video lecture.

Without being physically there with your instructor to put up your hand and ask them, the physical distance can make it harder to get this information sometimes. But don’t be afraid to put your virtual hand up (or a message in the comment box on the video chat). Asking questions is all part of the learning process.

Here are some online resources to help you:

To start, you can visit our main website, The Chang School at Ryerson University for information on drop dates, appeals, instructor bios, administrative contact details, and more.

For help with D2L, Google suite and other tools, see Resources for Learning Online. For login issues and to access D2L, visit my.ryerson.ca

For learning strategies and study skills for business courses visit the Academic Success Centre. For all students, visit the Student Learning Support.

Many of the course materials are available online at Ryerson University Library Digital Repository or you can Ask a Librarian.

Contact us at ce@ryerson.ca

You can also speak directly with your instructor for more specific information pertaining to your course.

Or if you like, there’s also a chatbot to help you with some of the more frequently asked questions.