Remote Learning Tips

How Will I Learn Remotely?

First, Don’t Panic.
This is a new situation for many students and instructors. Be patient with yourself and your professors. Assignments may change and your class may have to adjust as you experiment with new tools and methods. It’s all part of the process and occasional bumps in the road are normal. When that happens, remember that you’re not the only person finding their way through unfamiliar territory.

As Tar Heels, we are a community. Your success is our success. Realistically, remote learning isn’t for everyone. Your professors recognize that this is not an easy situation for you and want to provide all of the support and flexibility possible to ensure that you succeed in these extraordinary circumstances.

Most important is the health and safety of all members of our Carolina family. We care about your well-being as students and are here to help you through this time. We encourage you to be in consistent communication with your instructors to ensure success in your remote courses.

The following topics were taken from a survey of the most common questions and concerns UNC-Chapel Hill students expressed. We hope they will help you think of new strategies as you settle into a new remote learning routine.

  • Stay Focused
    • Many of your old routines are probably out the window, so it’s important to establish new ones. Some of your classes may not meet at specific times anymore. Deadlines may be less frequent, or you may have longer windows of time to complete work. That means that you’ll have to set your own deadlines and goals to stay on track. Take the time now to do this before you find yourself behind on work.
    • Create an incentive system where you reward yourself for finishing tasks with small treats or fun breaks.
    • Consider using self-control apps during the times you have scheduled for class and work. Some examples include Block Site for Chrome, SelfControl for Mac, Freedom for FireFox, Hocus Focus for Mac, FocusMe for Windows/Mac.
    • Work in short bursts with a clear goal. Try the Pomodoro technique: first, decide on a task you want to get done and, second, set a timer for 25 minutes of work on that task followed by a 5-minute break. Repeat the cycle three or four times before taking a longer break (e.g., 30 to 60 minutes).
    • Break your day into 30-minute or 1-hour increments, with a specific activity devoted to each one. We often think that we’ll be more productive working in big chunks of time, but research shows the opposite is true. We tend to get more work done if we work in small bursts.
    • Try interleaving, or switching between different topics you’re studying. Research shows that interleaving is better for memory than focusing on one topic for hours; the variation can also help you stay attentive for longer.
    • Don’t forget to schedule intentional breaks for eating, exercise and socializing. Try to schedule these during low-energy times of the day. Research shows that sleep and exercise actually help you learn. Make time for them.
  • Get Organized
    • Check Sakai often for updates. Your instructor is conducting ongoing communication on Sakai with information regarding scheduled classwork, tests and exams.
    • Take the time to put together the schedule and expectations for each of your classes. Check Sakai for updates to your syllabus.
    • Prioritize your work. What due dates are coming up first? Make smart decisions about how to best spend your time.
    • Give yourself plenty of time when turning in important assignments and tests. Don’t wait until the last second, just in case you encounter technical issues.
  • Adapt to New Priorities & Environments
    • As you try to juggle new demands on your time related to living with other family members or balancing care-taking responsibilities, sit down and have a discussion with friends and loved ones about how you can help each other with this adjustment.
    • Prepare for this discussion by constructing an outline of the amount of time that you will need to devote to coursework and the types of tasks you will be doing. For example, will you sometimes need quiet space so that you can engage in online class discussions using a speaker and microphone? Your family or roommates will be better able to support your learning if they are aware of your needs.
    • If you are living at home with family members who work or are also in school, consider working during the same hours that they do to help remove the temptation to socialize when you intended to be studying. If other family members are also working from home, plan ahead to share technology resources or favored working spaces.
    • Find a space that is comfortable and allows you to focus. This can be your home base for coursework.
    • If you are living in a household with young children or others who require care, be sure to clarify with the rest of your family who will be responsible for providing that care and at what times.
    • If you’re struggling with adapting to different time zones, try using a Time Zone calculator.
  • Follow Best Practices for Remote Class Sessions Attendance
    • Act like you’re going to class. Shower, get dressed, eat, and use the time you’d spend walking to class to prepare mentally for the lecture.
    • Before each remote class session, take some time to think about the topic being covered and what questions you may have.
    • Follow the same rules that would apply in a campus classroom setting including appropriate dress, respectfully listening to the lecturer, and avoiding distracting behavior such as background noise or excessive movement.
    • Take notes. For many people taking notes during the class helps with focus and engagement.
    • Turn your camera on. When you’re in a physical classroom you’re visible; in an online classroom you should be visible too. Your instructor may call on you in class or have you break out into discussion groups with other students. It’s easier to communicate clearly – and engage fully – when you’re able to see each other.
    • Do what you can to find a quiet place where you’ll be able to focus, gather the materials you’ll need (computer, headphones, assigned readings, notes, etc.), and commit to participating in the class.
    • Chat with your peers and your instructor. This can be a powerful addition to the learning process. Keep chat messages short and to the point. Writing lengthy questions may distract you and others – and class may have moved on.
    • Your instructor’s expectations for how you participate (speaking up, raise hand, submitting questions via chat, etc.) may be different online. Make sure you understand their expectations. If you’re not sure, ask.
    • When attending a Zoom class or watching a recorded lecture, focus on that one activity. Do not be tempted to multitask (e.g., do not try to attend class and scroll social media or watch a lecture and check your email). We all think we are good at multitasking, but we are not. Instead of multitasking, we are simply switching our attention between tasks, and that results in wasting time, making mistakes and remembering less.
  • Stay Focused on Asynchronous Videos
    • If watching pre-recorded lectures, pause every few minutes and ask yourself what you’ve learned. What were the takeaways? What aren’t you clear on? If you can’t remember what was covered, go back and review.
    • Take notes, just as you would in a live lecture.
    • Close distracting tabs and apps. Humans are not as good at multitasking as they think!
    • Watch pre-recorded lectures at normal speed. If you can’t resist the temptation, do not go faster than 1.25 speed. Research shows that students’ ability to learn information drops significantly somewhere between 25% and 50% compression.
    • Find methods that work best for you, whether watching through once without note-taking, and a second time to write down key points or questions. Recorded lectures create an opportunity for consuming the information at your own pace.
  • Maintain Communication
    • Communicate regularly with your instructors for updates.
    • If you have questions during or after completing lesson assignments, reach out to your instructor and/or peers.
    • Consider forming virtual study groups with your classmates. Working through questions and concepts together is an important part of learning.
    • Participate in virtual office hours to have your questions answered and continue the momentum you’ve created in your class thus far.
    • Take your student organization meetings to Zoom or hold a group chat to stay in touch.
  • Plan for Wi-Fi Access Issues
    • This guidance for off-campus internet service was created by the University to share no-cost options for improving or obtaining internet access.
    • Faculty are willing to be flexible with students facing Wi-Fi access issues. If this is a concern for you, reach out to your instructor to work out alternatives.
  • Conduct Group Projects Online
    • When possible, choose group members with similar schedules. Students are now residing in different time zones and can have opposing work schedules.
    • Communication is key; establish clear guidelines around when, where and how your group will communicate with each other.
    • Be proactive and begin setting the groundwork early.
    • Align group roles and responsibilities with individual strengths and interests.
    • Always be honest, but respectful, in a group. If either the project or a fellow group member is heading down a path you don’t agree with, speak up.
    • Provide regular group updates with your instructor, which can then be used to track progress and mediate concerns.
  • Maintain Self-Care
    • It’s completely normal to feel anxious, afraid, depressed or overwhelmed at this time. It’s also ok to feel perfectly normal. Everyone is going to experience this period a little differently. The key is noticing how you’re feeling and taking action to reduce stress and anxiety when it becomes problematic.
    • Schedule time to spend with family and friends, even if it is over the phone or online. This will signal to your friends and family that you have considered their needs and schedules and that you care about them, but that you also need to prioritize your coursework.
    • Stay healthy by getting adequate rest, nutrition and exercise.
    • Keep a growth mindset as you adapt to new circumstances. Your success has as much to do with your effort as it has to do with your ability.
    • Monitor your self-talk and stay positive.
    • If your anxiety, loneliness, or depression is making it hard for you to eat, sleep, enjoy anything, or even get out of bed, this is more concerning, but can be addressed. Mental health professionals now can conduct tele-health therapy during the COVID-19 crisis, so you can get great treatment over the phone. Call CAPS to get info, or you can look for other therapists in your areas.


Helpful Links from other institutions:

Learning Remotely and Well-Being, Harvard University

Preparing to be a Work-from-Home Student, University of Virginia

Learning Remotely: Maximize Your Learning, Harvard University

How to Ace your Online Classes, Amid Coronavirus, The University Network

FAQs About Learning Remotely, Harvard University

Tips for Online Learning, The Ohio State University

Navigating the Semester Amid COVID-19 Student FAQ , Honors Carolina

Adjusting Your Study Habits During COVID, University of Michigan

8 Ways to Stay Motivated When Studying Online, NAU Canada Online

7 Strategies to Stay Motivated in an Online Course, Florida Tech

Checklist for Student Success, Arizona State University

Tips for Participating in Group Work & Projects Online, Drexel University

Learning Strategies: Learning Online,  Duke University

Online Readiness Assessment, Penn State