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Tips on setting yourself up for success in a virtual learning environment

The future of academics looks like it will have a blend of in-person and virtual learning environments. Whether you are preparing for virtual courses or just setting yourself up for success studying at home check out these tips on how to find success!

Additionally, the document Recommendations for Students in Virtual Learning Environments contains a set of recommendations and guidelines designed to help you contribute to you classroom community, to treat your classmates and instructors with respect, and to support your success in virtual learning environments.

Hold Yourself Accountable

Graphic of pencil in circleSet goals at the beginning of the quarter, and check in with yourself weekly. In a traditional classroom setting, you’ll often receive verbal or visual reminders of an assignment’s upcoming due date. Without a professor actively reminding you, it’s up to you to make sure you’ve allotted enough time to complete the work so you’re not starting an assignment the day before it’s due.

Getting Accountable

Graphic of two peopleIf you’re having trouble holding yourself responsible, pair up with a fellow classmate, or enlist the help of a spouse or friend to check in as an accountability partner. By being organized, proactive, and self-aware, you can get the most from your virtual class even when life outside of school becomes chaotic.

Get Into a Routine

It’s usually easier to maintain self-discipline for your virtual courses when you develop a routine for doing work.

Some of your virtual classes will keep the same schedule as if you were on campus, others will allow you more flexibility with a self-paced learning, and some will meet somewhere in the middle. What you can do is to create and stick to your own schedule by creating a quarter calendar by following these tips:

Time Management

  • Look at the syllabus at the start of the quarter and start by:
    • Adding the courses that will keep a standard meeting day and time
    • Then include in the classes that are self-paced by creating your own standard day and time to work
    • Finish with setting aside intervals for study time (this can include supplemental workshops, student created study sessions, and your general work time each day.
  • Use your syllabi to make note of major assignments. Mark them on your calendar you check regularly so you know what workload is coming in the weeks ahead.
  • Check in periodically throughout the term, and look at how you’re spending your time. Ask yourself: 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.

Setup your Space

As part of your routine, set up a dedicated learning environment for class time and studying. It’s important to determine what type of environment will work best for you within your locus of control, your kitchen table, living room, bedroom, or maybe the house office. Try to stay out of bed and create a work zone that allows you to have your technology and papers as needed.

Setting up a regular workspace or office will also help you to stay organized. Knowing exactly where important dates, files, forms, syllabi, books, and assignments live will help keep you on track towards hitting your goals.

In addition, it can be helpful to dress like you are going to class. Getting out of comfy clothes and your bed can really put your brain into the school mindset.

Know Your Resources

Virtual classes may sometimes make you feel like you are learning on your own, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. You have support at Cal Poly in your class and your resources outside the simulated classroom.


Within the Class

Most courses are built around the concept of collaboration, with professors and instructors actively encouraging students to work together to complete assignments and discuss lessons.

Build relationships with other students by introducing yourself and engaging in discussion boards. Your peers can be a valuable resource when preparing for exams or asking for feedback on assignments. Don’t be afraid to turn to them to create a virtual study group. Chances are that they will appreciate it just as much as you will.

Look for your professor’s virtual office hours! Office hours are a great way to get a better understanding of the material and to understand what is expected of you.

Outside of the Class

Most, if not all, of our campus resources have also moved to a virtual platform.

Eliminate Distractions

You will be faced with many distractions that can easily derail your studies, from Netflix, to social media, to your family dog needing a walk.


Finding Your Strategy

Exactly how much of a challenge these distractions will prove to be will depend on your own unique personality and situation. Some might find that they can tune out a noisy home by listening to music. Others might need to bunker down in a quiet room. Ultimately, you will need to find a strategy that works best for you. Talking with the people you live with about setting boundaries and designating quiet time to study can be a helpful start.


Consider turning your cell phone off to avoid losing focus every time a text message or notification pops up.


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