How to successfully transition to remote and online courses

Taking courses online and/or remotely can be a challenge. Changing between various modes of learning requires modifications to your learning strategies and task management, so we want to share some tips to think about for remote and online learning. Keep in mind the level of commitment to your academics and average hours spent each week on academic tasks, including the virtual in-class time and the day-to-day out-of-class time, may increase as you navigate multiple learning modalities.

Chloe Tucker and CU Boulder's Student Advisory and Resource Board have written Tips for Online Learning to help your transition to a remote learning environment.

Support Resources:

The Office of Information Technology put together a guide that provides students with information and resources for using technology to continue participating in class activities remotely, when classroom instruction is disrupted due to an emergency. This includes offering refurbished laptops to students with financial need.

Time management:

Your online classes may or may not have designated times for lectures, and this can be hard to navigate. The flexibility can be a welcomed opportunity as well as a challenge for motivation and learning. The flexibility allows you to participate in your education on your own time, although some courses will continue with synchronous class learning, virtually meeting at the same time for each class meeting. But keep in mind that the flexibility may lead to procrastination, and no one wants to complete every assignment for every class the day before the semester ends. 

It’s important to:

  • Check Canvas to see if your professors’ lectures are set for certain times or prerecorded. This can help determine how you will structure your days. Confirm directly with your instructor if you are not sure.
  • Set designated times to watch lectures and complete assignments. Dedicating specific times to watch lectures and study can help you feel organized and keep pace with the course.
  • Create daily to-do lists. Writing out tasks can keep you accountable. Crossing off your completed tasks feels satisfying and can help you literally see your progress for the day.
  • Schedule breaks in between classes. Sitting all day staring at a screen can tax the eyes. In between lectures and assignments take a break, by getting your body moving.
  • Make sure you schedule is manageable. You could burn out if you overload your schedule, so be sure to pace yourself with your courses while staying on top of your daily academic activities.

Setting up a home work station:

Just like finding great places to study for in-person classes, it’s important to create or find a space to participate in your online classes.

Your home-work station should:

  • Be a quiet space to work. Find a space that is free of distractions, free of family, roommates, TV and videogames.
  • Avoid temptations. Consider taking games off your laptop so you won’t be inclined to play them. Set time limits or block social media and “black hole” websites during your school time with browser extensions like SelfControl or Forest.
  • Be a phone-free area. You can get easily distracted by your phone in classes on campus, and it can happen while watching a lecture online or studying at home. Turn off your cell phone, or put it in a different room. Turn off notifications on your laptop, too, so you can give your education your full attention.

Staying engaged:

Online classes can make it hard to stay engaged and motivated.  

Try to engage in classes by:

  • Attending your professor’s (and TAs) office hours
  • Asking questions during lectures or on the discussion boards on Canvas. 
  • Creating group chats with classmates
  • Making a study group that you can video-chat with a few times a week.
  • Reaching out for help if you need it. Academic Coaches can help you figure out how to adapt your skills with online learning.
  • Check your email EVERY DAY!

Study help:

Several of CU Boulder's tutoring labs are now offering online help for classes:

  • ASAP Tutoring is still available for first year students and students living in residence halls. Sessions are now held via Zoom, through their app Penji. New students can login with their school credentials and select a day/time. 
  • Economics offers a free "drop-in" tutoring lab online via Zoom! Please see the updated tutoring schedule to check availability.
  • The Physics Help Room is shifting to remote sessions via Zoom. You can access the full schedule and corresponding Zoom links on their Resources and Help page under Physics Help Room.
  • The university has opened up two computer labs that will be sanitized after each use and where there is adequate space for social distancing. They are located in the Engineering Center Civil Engineering Wing (ECCE) and the Engineering Center Classroom Wing (ECCR) and will remain accessible to all students who swipe their Buff OneCards between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The available computer labs are in  ECCE Room 141 and ECCR Room 252.

Accommodation resources for remote learning:

Disability Services (DS) is here to support you in the transition of your courses to remote classrooms. As you prepare, please review the Student Accommodation Resources for Remote Learning page. Here you will find information about academic accommodations and how they show up in the remote classroom environment.

In addition, DS has created a Tips for Excelling in an Online Learning Environment page for you to review. Please direct any additional questions you may have to your assigned access coordinator.

Social connection:

Moving completely online can cause loneliness. 

Connect with friends and family by:

  • Calling or video-chatting. We encourage social distancing, so a great way to stay connected to friends and family is to call and video-chat often.
  • Utilizing group chats with friends.  

Working with your instructors:

  • Be patient. Many instructors have not taught an online course before and are learning how to teach online as fast as they can.
  • Keep open lines of communication. Email and attend virtual office hours and ask for clarification if you are not sure about something.
  • Activate self-directed learning. Don’t wait for answers to come to you. Seek out questions and find new and engaging ways to learn the material.

Also, Scientific American addresses these issues in a recent article, How to Prevent Loneliness in a Time of Social Distancing.

Faculty resources:

Disability Services (DS) is here to support you as you transition your course to a remote classroom. As you prepare, please review the faculty Accommodation Resources for Remote Learning page. Here you will find information about academic accommodations and how they show up in the remote classroom environment. DS is also available to address any additional questions you may have at dsinfo@colorado.edu. If you would like to schedule a phone call or Zoom appointment with a DS sccess coordinator, please contact them at 303-492-8671.

Student perspectives on remote learning:

Students in the course ARSC 1550: Making the Self were asked to research responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their goal is to help university leadership more fully understand students' academic experience. We compiled their research on a page dedicated to their work.

More tips on remote learning from ASSETT

We are rooting for you, and we are here to help! Do not hesitate to contact the Academic Advising and Academic Coaching Community. We believe in you!