Distance Learning Tips during COVID-19


Online learning for UNC students starts today. You are not alone if you’re feeling anxious or ambivalent or annoyed or any other feeling that starts with “a” (or any other letter) about this shift. This is a new context for most of us. We believe you can be successful learning online. We also understand that not all students have access to a computer or high-speed internet. Here are some tips that might help you with your academic life over the next few months:

Practice time management.

  • Mark major assignment and exams on a calendar you check regularly so you know what workload is coming in the weeks ahead. In a traditional classroom setting, you often receive verbal or visual reminders of an assignment’s upcoming due date. Now you will need to make sure that you have allotted enough time to complete the work so you’re not starting an assignment the day before it is due.
  • Create a weekly schedule that you follow, designating certain hours each week to reading, watching lectures, completing assignments, studying, and participating in forums. Commit to making your online coursework part of your weekly routine, and set reminders for yourself to complete these tasks.
  • When working on your assignments, try time-blocking, allotting yourself a certain amount of time for each task before moving on to the next one and setting a timer to keep you accountable.
  • Check in periodically with yourself, and look at how you’re spending your time. How much time am I dedicating to course reading and assignments? Am I regularly underestimating the time it’s taking me to get things done, forcing me to cram the nights before the exams? A little self-reflection and adjustment can go a long way.

Eliminate distractions.

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A UNC student uses the studying area at Kenan Science Library on August 27, 2019, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)
  • Turn off cell phone notifications or put your phone in another room if you are working from a computer.
  • Find good internet. Many libraries are closed, but their internet access extends beyond their building walls. The same is likely with government buildings. Sitting in your car in the parking lot while working online is allowed during social distancing. Finding a spot outside on a nice day is as well. Some cell phone companies are allowing unlimited data during this period – so you may also be able to turn your phone into a hotspot for a larger device if you have one.

Working from Phone

Don’t have a larger device than your cell? We have some tips for you:

  • Use voice to text for your written submissions. (Make sure you review before submitting any thing you write in this way – these tools sometimes get it wrong).
  • Configure your phone best for you. You can turn off notifications or set your phone to stop notifying you of things at a certain time. Disable or uninstall apps that you don’t use.
  • Become familiar with your phone’s split screen capabilities. Using a split screen can help you connect your work with online research or your assignment’s requirements.

Remember How You Learn Best

  • When and how do you accomplish your best work? If you’re a morning person, make time to study first thing. More of a night owl? Set aside an hour or two after dinner to cozy up to your computer.
  • What types of information help you understand new concepts? If you’re a visual learner, for example, read transcripts of the video lectures to review. Learn best by listening? Make sure to build time into your schedule to play and replay all audio- and video-based course content.

Actively participate.

  • Participate in the course’s online forum to help you better understand course materials and engage with fellow classmates. This might involve commenting on a classmate’s paper on a discussion board or posting a question about a project. Read what other students and your professor are saying, and if you have a question, ask for clarification.
  • Set a participation goal to check in on the class discussion threads every day.
  • If you feel yourself falling behind, speak up. Don’t wait until an assignment is almost due to ask questions or report issues. Email your professor and be proactive in asking for help.

Leverage your network.

Online classes may sometimes make you feel like you are learning on your own, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Most online courses are built around the concept of collaboration, with professors and instructors actively encouraging that students work together to complete assignments and discuss lessons.

  • Create a virtual study group. 
  • Pair up with a fellow classmate or enlist the help of a friend to check in as an accountability partner.
  • Keep open communication with your professors.
  • Connect to support that will lead you to success.

In this unique circumstance, it’s important to keep open communication with your professors and ensure you are connected to the support that will lead you to success.

This is a new scenario for all of us – be patient with yourself and your community as we all transition to online teaching and learning.

More resources to support your online learning:

Designing Your Online Academic Life
Academic Coaching
Writing Coaching 
Peer Tutors 
Coaching Groups
STEM Support Groups on Sakai
Students with ADHD: Tips for Online and Remote Learning 

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