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Strategies for Learning Remotely

The remote learning environment may have aspects that are challenging, but it's still possible to thrive and learn effectively. 

Use the strategies, tips, and support resources on this site are designed to help you maintain motivation, productivity, and learning in the remote environment.

Stay engaged. Stay connected. Communicate often. 


Learning spaces

Identify your learning space

Just like working in Geisel library can help us get in the zone, having a dedicated space to work help us all focus on studying and learning.

  • Be intentional in choosing a space - try and separate your work space from your sleeping or relaxing space. Choose an area away from high traffic (like the kitchen or living room) spaces.
  • Optimize your environment - even in learning, we are all different. Identify a space and environment that works well for you, based on the following considerations:
    • Focus - Do you need a quiet, isolated space? Or are you more motivated when there's some activity in the background? 
    • Schedule - Are there times of the day when you work best? Do you need to consider the schedules of other household members?
    • Communicate - Let others in your others in your environment know when you’re attending your class remotely, a study session, or if you need uninterrupted time to focus on learning.
  • Be mindful of your surroundings when attending remote courses or study sessions. If you choose not to share your surroundings, use a virtual background during lectures or meetings. 
  • Have the tools you need close by - notebooks, pencils and pens, adapters, and other peripheral tools and information should be kept close by, so that you can access them right when you need them. 

Secure your digital environment

Creating a safe and secure digital environment is critical during the switch to remote learning. View the recommended practices for protecting yourself while taking courses remotely:

  • Keep your system fully updated, including third party software, internet browsers, extensions, and more
  • Be aware of scams - the frequency of phishing attempts and other scams have increased during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Protect yourself from scams:
    • Never send your UCSD credentials, or other sensitive personal information, to anyone. UCSD IT will never request your password over email. 
    • Do not respond to email, phone, or digital advertising pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic. Any official UCSD updates will be sent through the Triton Alert system via email and text. 
    • Rely on established, respected news sources, such as UC San Diego’s Information Page.
  • Keep an updated, trusted antivirus software running on your devices. 
  • Protect yourself with two-step login - most major banks, email providers, and other websites offer two-step verification via SMS or through an authentication application, such as Duo or Google Authenticator. 

Additional Security Resources:

ResNet's Security Checklist

COVID-19 CyberSecurity Guidance and Recommendations

Cybersecurity Awareness Monthly Topics

Cybersecurity Awareness Monthly Presentations

Know your course

One of the most important strategies to staying on track is knowing what's expected of you. Having a clear idea of the kinds of assignments you will have complete, lectures you will have to watch, and deadlines you will need to meet are crucial for succeeding. 

Review your syllabus

The syllabus is your guide to your courses.  Here your instructor has written out everything that will be expected of you in the course, including:

  • Technology and tool requirements - Look to see if you will need to download any applications, or if you will need to learn new software or platforms.
  • Assignment due dates and expectations - Determine the frequency and the expectations for submitting assignments. Use this information to manage your time and create an individualized course calendar. 
  • Grading policies -   Determine if all assignments will be graded or will you be able to drop any grades? Are there different policies regarding where your grade standing before final exams are graded?
  • Attendance - Are you required to attend remote lectures at a scheduled time, or will you be expected to review lecture materials on your own time?
Students with real-time lectures indicate that they are more focused by attending the Zoom lecture. Some students also find that listening to the audio version without attending the real-time lecture takes more time because they find themselves constantly rewinding and relistening to become a lecture scribe rather than actively taking notes.
  • Course platform  - Determine where your course will be hosted. Most courses will be hosted on Canvas or on an instructor's departmental website. In either situation, familiarize yourself with the platform and the information available to optimize your experience. 
If your course is on Canvas, check out our Getting Started in Canvas guide.

If you still have questions regarding your course materials, resources, policies, contact your instructor or the listed Teaching Assistant for more information. They are happy to support you.

Stay organized

Manage your time

Time management supports your work in meeting course expectations and requirements for a successful outcome. Here are some suggestions for time management:

  • Work on courses daily - Managing course and requirements daily will ensure that you have enough time to learn and to ask questions to address confusing content.
  • Keep a calendar Maintaining a physical or digital calendar with important information, such as homework, exams, study time, well-being breaks, etc., will help you manage your daily activities.
  • Build in intentional study breaks - Set learning goals that are manageable and also follow-up learning breaks that give yourself time to process the newly learned information.  This is also a great time to stay active and focus on your mental health. 
The Learning Strategist's Time Management workshop can help you budget your time, including setting study breaks to support efficient learning and well-being.
  • Set personal expectations - Think about your current circumstances (such as different timezones, work, personal obligations), your personal needs, and how they will fit into your new schedule while still allowing for time to work on your courses. 

Check out this  time management calculator to get a sense of how to balance your time. 

Evaluate your study strategies

Actively monitor your learning and ask yourself if the way that you're approaching your studies is still working for you. Strategies that were successful in in-person classes may need to be adjusted for remote learning. You may need to try different strategies to see what works best for you in this environment.

Establish a routine

A dedicated routine, even a simple one, can provide a sense of structure and purpose to your day. Remember to be flexible and kind with yourself, and recognize that adjustments are normal and even necessary - what works for you today may not work in two weeks from now.

  • Set personal goals for your day, whether that involves attending assigned lectures, reviewing notes for these courses, or taking care of your mental health. 
  • Carve out class work time. Schedule specific times in your day to work on assignments. Dedicate time in your day to "check in" on your class work. Break up your workload across multiple days. 
  • Account for personal responsibilities, whether that involves employment, family responsibilities, or other tasks. Use these responsibilities to split up your studying time and decide what times are best to optimize course work time. 
  • Make time to stay active and get away from your computer. Visit the HDH Wellness website for a list of remote campus resources.
  • Make time to talk to friends, roommates, and family. Well-being is important to learning - anxiety and stress do not promote learning, so make space to take care of your social needs. 

Build your learning community

Reach out to your instructors and IAs

Establish a professional relationship with your instructor. Get to know them so that you are comfortable emailing or going to remote office hours. Read through the course syllabus to learn your instructors and/or instructional assistant's (IA) preferred communication style.

Below are some best practices for establishing a professional relationship:

  • Be courteous.
  • Ask early for accommodations.  
  • Reach out early, even if it’s just to introduce yourself at the beginning of the course. It provides you a connection to your professor and IA and it will be easier to ask questions during office hours.
  • Participate often. Staying active and engaged will help make office hours discussions more relevant and productive. 

Be sure to check the syllabus for your instructor's preferred communication style before reaching out.

Be respectful. Be sensitive. Be aware.

Effective written communication and open academic dialogue are crucial for sustaining a learning community that is respectful, considerate, relevant, creative, and thought-provoking. As you interact with peers in a remote environment, you should continue to have respectful and considerate dialogues to further your learning.

To promote these conversations, adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Include all voices in the conversation. After you share your thoughts, make sure you leave sufficient space to hear from others. If you prefer to listen to conversations, try to contribute so others can learn from you.
  • Listen respectfully. Allow others to finish their thoughts before replying to the conversation. Make sure other technology is put away and do not engage in private conversations while someone is speaking. 
  • Understand that we are bound to make mistakes. See your mistakes and others’ as valuable elements of the learning process. 
  • Understand that your words have effects on others. Be encouraging in the words that you use in online spaces. If you learn that something you’ve said was experienced as disrespectful or nationalizing, listen carefully and try to understand that perspective.  
  • Stay on task in small groups. Remaining engaged in the conversation and working on the assigned topic can help you and your peers continue the learning process.

The following behavior should be avoided:

  • Using insulting, condescending, or abusive language.
  • Using all capital letters, which comes across as shouting.
  • Contacting learners or posting advertisements and solicitations.
  • Posting copyrighted material.

Our classroom abides by these principles:

UCSD Student Conduct Code
Principles of Community

Utilize Academic Support

Develop a learning network using all of the resources available to you, including campus academic support services. Tutoring, SI, and study group sessions, in particular, are great ways for you to connect with a peer learning community.

Check out your Academic Support resources on campus.

Community Guidelines adapted from the University of Michigan Guidelines for Classroom Interactions. 

Host a Zoom viewing session

One of the things that is unique about learning online is the instructional videos. In place of listening directly to your instructor in a classroom, you are asked to watch a video online, and be able to demonstrate understanding of the concepts. There’s nothing that says you have to watch those videos alone!


How might this work?

  1. You and your classmates determine that you want to watch the videos published in Canvas together.
  2. Let everyone in the class know that the Zoom viewing sessions are going to be scheduled and ask for availability.
    1. Create a Google Form with possible dates / times and ask folks to submit the form
    2. Create a Google Doc that contains a schedule and asks folks to indicate the best time
    3. Be sure to ask your instructor to help get out the word! They can send an announcement, or post a link to the Google doc or form in Canvas.
  3. Schedule a regular Zoom meeting, be sure to allow participants to join before the host! Be sure the host is aware of the Zoom meeting safeguards
  4. Publicize the Zoom viewing session!
    1. Ask your instructor to distribute information about the Zoom sessions to the class!
    2. Tell your classmates / team mates
    3. Do not post the Zoom URL in a public forum (e.g. social media, Reddit, etc)
  5. At the scheduled day/time, login and watch the instructional videos with your peers!
    1. When you share the screen, be sure to check the box to optimize for Video sharing
    2. Avoid recording the session – this is more of an informal get together with your peers
    3. Don’t just watch the videos, talk about what you just saw… Where there parts that were confusing? Concepts you want to know more about?
    4. Share any questions you all have with the instructor / instructional assistant

Is it really just watching the videos? 

Actually, you can transform the learning experience from passively watching a video to actively working through the material. Here are a few options for collaborative learning: 

  • Use the chat feature to pose questions or share insights as you all are watching the videos
  • Take the time to pause the video when the instructor shows a problem - see if you all can work through the solution!
  • Rewind parts that seem confusing to folks, and re-watch as needed
  • Take shared notes in a Google Doc
  • Ask for a volunteer to restate the concepts that you just heard in their own words - just to make sure that you all understand the concepts
  • Once you finish a video, see if you can make connections from what you just watched to the concepts, terms or skills that you learned in previous videos

A final tip… take the time to connect with the other students. Consider starting (or ending) the session with a question that everyone can answer in one or two words. Here’s one to get you started: 

What is your favorite place to visit in San Diego? 

Stay engaged

Connect with your learning community 

Communicate with your professors and TA’s early in the course to introduce yourself, ask questions, and attend office hours. Participate in lectures, discussions, office hours, and academic support daily to meet peers in your courses and stay connected with your peers.

Be proactive

Establish an open line of communication with your professors early in the course by reaching out and attending virtual office house. 

Actively participating in lectures, discussions, and online forums can create a sense of community and help you learn better.

Be flexible

Actively monitor your motivation and be honest with yourself. There is no catch-all study plan that fits across all assignments. Give yourself the time and patience to experiment with what works for you.

Stay involved

Building community in a remote environment is still possible - in fact, it's easy! Visit the Student Affairs Keep Engaging website to learn more about how you can stay engaged in the campus community. 

Stay informed

The switch to remote learning is new to everyone, and the situation is fluid and constantly changing. 

Get personalized help with Remote Learning Strategists

Learning Strategies tutoring provides students support in developing their skills as learners. Through one-on-one appointments and workshops, students gain strategies for managing university-level learning, achieve greater insight into how they best learn, and develop a growth mindset, which research shows improves students’ knowledge, skills, and abilities for success. 

Email for additional support

Excel with integrity

The 2020 COVID-19 situation has created challenging times for our staff, faculty and students. We understand from decades of research that integrity is most difficult to uphold when there are added stressors and pressures, and when we feel that our health and safety are at risk.

Here are some tips for Excelling with Integrity in these challenging times and even when no one is watching.

Read and follow instructions 

Pay close attention to assignment/exam instructions and follow them exactly. If an action isn’t explicitly allowed, assume that by engaging in that action, you would be violating academic integrity.

Take the pledge

Sign an Integrity Pledge yourself and/or if provided by your Instructor; research has shown that reminding ourselves of our own values/integrity can help reduce temptations.

Run your action through these 3 tests

Before engaging in any action during the exam, ask yourself:

  1. Is what I’m about to do honest, fair, respectful, responsible and trustworthy?
  2. Is what I’m about to do allowed by this specific exam instructions or UC San Diego’s academic integrity policy?
  3. if the professor or my TA were standing right here watching me, would I still do this?

If the answer is NO to any of these questions, don’t do it! 

Don't rationalize cheating

Be aware of human tendencies to “rationalize” behaviors by saying things like “well, everyone else is probably doing it” or “it’s okay given the current situation” or “it’s not that big of a deal”. Those are things we tell ourselves to convince us that it is “okay” to cheat “just this one time”. If you've been engaged in the process of learning, trust that you know the material. 

Remember that, in the long-run, one grade on one exam is not worth violating your own integrity.

Strategies and information were provided by the Academic Integrity Office. See the AI's resources for students for more information.