Eight Tips for Successful Online Learning

photo by Lynn Anselmi

Your professors are ready to help you make the most of your virtual learning experience at SPU. Here are some of their tips to help you be as successful as possible in your online classrooms:

1. We’re all in this together, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Your professors understand that technology can be unpredictable at times and, depending on your classes, some of the apps and programs might be new to you. If you have questions about how things work, don’t hesitate to speak up in chat or out loud. Most likely, other students will have similar questions.

2. Take advantage of SPU’s Online Campus Resources.

SPU’s Online Campus Resources center includes academic support, technology support, and even solutions for accessing the internet and help with applying for low- to no-cost refurbished laptops. Take a few minutes to explore it so you’ll know all the options available to you.

3. Plan a test run before classes start.

“If I were a student, I’d make sure my computer is working and that I have all the software I need,” said Karen Gutowsky-Zimmerman, professor of visual communications. “I would test my camera, my video and my headset or my mic with friends beforehand.”

Computer and Information Systems can offer remote support if you run into any technical issues. Call them during normal business hours at 206-281-2982, or visit the CIS Help Desk.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, Adobe is providing free, at-home access to its Creative Cloud apps for students who usually use them on campus. You can request access to Creative Cloud here.

4. Design your ideal learning space.

Think about what sparks your creativity and helps you focus. Maybe you need a serene environment or perhaps you like to surround yourself with images and objects that inspire or comfort you. Regardless, set up a designated space at home that optimizes your learning experience.

Things like plants, a nearby window, and splashes of strategically placed color can also help you combat “cabin fever” if you’re not used to long stretches of time in front of a computer. Don’t forget to take advantage of breaks by getting up and moving around — dance, take a quick walk, hop on a treadmill. That occasional boost in circulation will also help energize your brain.

5. But on the other hand … messy room? No problem.

As you interact with your classmates through Zoom, don’t stress about what your physical surroundings look like. “If you don’t like the way your house looks, create a fun background in Zoom,” Gutowsky-Zimmerman said.

The Zoom platform allows you to create your own background and/or a fun avatar if you’re not feeling particularly camera-ready. So, don’t sweat that small stuff. (To create your own background when you are signed into a meeting, tap the three dots at the bottom right to open the More menu. Tap Virtual Background and select one of Zoom’s defaults or upload your own.)

6. Take advantage of Zoom Breakout Rooms to make connections with your classmates.

Most of SPU’s classes are already small, personable places that foster strong relationships among instructors and students. In a virtual environment, the Zoom Breakout Rooms that many professors are using will give you even more chances to connect and form solid bonds. With about three to four people in a Breakout Room, you can cut loose a little and get to know each other while you share ideas and offer support to your teammates. Yes, you’re here to learn, but don’t forget to have fun and make friends!

7. Be an active participant to get the most out of your classes.

There will be times you’ll be tempted to record your screen and wander away during a lecture, but to get the most out of your virtual learning experience, SPU professors encourage you to participate as much as possible.

They understand that you might be a little camera-shy. They understand some students might not like the way their voices sound over a headset or microphone. If that’s you, you’re not alone. But also, please know your professors are committed to providing a safe space where you can take a step or two outside your comfort zone.

“Be yourselves, but also be bold, stretch yourselves, and participate as much as you can,” said Lane Seeley, professor and chair of physics. “We’re all going to learn a huge amount from this new virtual learning process.”

Seeley said being an active listener can be just as important as being vocal.

“Sometimes the most effective participant in a small group is the person who’s really listening carefully to the ideas expressed by other students and making connections between those ideas. Sometimes you can contribute the most to a small group environment in the small interjections that you make.”

8. Don’t forget to check your email!

Now more than ever, your professors will be emailing you about assignments, projects, and their personal feedback. To ensure that you’re informed and successful, keep an eye out for important updates in your inbox.

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