Photo Credit: Sergi Kabrera via Unsplash.

For a lot of people, the pandemic was the first time that they have had to work remotely on a long term basis. This new way of life has been difficult for many to adjust to, as it quickly threw a wrench into the routines to which we had grown accustomed. 

But knowing what we know now, if you come into university prepared with the right tools to deal with this new normal, this may be a time for you to excel as first year students. That is, so long as you are able to capitalize on the opportunity in front of you. 

The Centre for Pedagogical Innovation (CPI) at Brock has a lot of helpful tips to share about how to be a successful student during this unique and challenging time. 

“Engaging in courses online will be a new experience for many students and should be viewed as an opportunity to reflect on and refine time management and self-directed learning skills,” said Madelyn Law, Associate Vice-Provost, Teaching & Learning at Brock. “I hope that students will take time to understand when and how they work best, what they need to succeed and truly embrace this new way of learning.”

The CPI first suggests to check out the course syllabus on Sakai to ensure you have access to all the materials and software you need for the courses you are enrolled in. You’ll find your syllabi in the individual course sites on Sakai, which are usually up a little while before the course actually starts, though this is dependent on the professor.

Using the syllabus, you should also be able to make a study schedule for each course and record your readings, assignments and deadlines. This will allow you to keep track of when your due dates are across your classes. This can help you get into a schedule or rhythm that works for you, while also allowing you to allott specific time to work away at larger projects or assignments.

You will also want to make sure you know whether your courses are synchronous or asynchronous. With asynchronous courses, the ones that are not held at a set time each week, you can do a lot of your online course at a time of day when there are fewer distractions or when you feel most productive. 

With synchronous courses, those that are held at a set time each week via virtual classes, you want to make sure you leave yourself 15 minutes before the class to collect yourself and get focused. This may include getting away from the computer screen, getting a glass of water, stretching, or some deep breathing exercises. 

The CPI recommends giving yourself small breaks throughout the work day to take time away from the computer. Staying active and healthy will be crucial for your concentration during online courses, so keep time allotted throughout the days to get up and move, make and eat healthy snacks and to get enough sleep at night.

 After a break, you want to make sure that you are coming back to a workspace that is conducive to getting stuff done. That means having a study area that is free from outside noises and distractions. When you are in class, find a place where you will not be interrupted. When you’re working, make sure you are in a space that will allow you to do your best work; whether that means having total silence, having the TV or music on for background noise or anything in between. It varies from person to person, so just make sure you create a space and routine that works best for you. 

You also want to make sure you are participating in class forums, asking questions during lectures or via email to your professor and/or teaching assistant when you are confused and communicating with other people in your class to work through problems together. Working remotely might make it easier to lose that communication, so it is especially important to take advantage of all the opportunities to ask questions and get help if you need it. You may also want to check out the BrockU 4U Engagement Communities, as they offer another place where you can meet people in your program to answer questions or whatever else you may need.

And last but certainly not least, do not forget to save and back up your files or assignments regularly, either to an external hard drive, a storage device or to the cloud. This will help you avoid losing notes or assignments if you have any issues with your computer or laptop. 

 This really only scratches the surface on what you want to do and know to make sure you are well prepared for this new experience. Whether classes are in person or online, you only will get out of your time spent at university what you put into it, so make sure you take advantage of all the resources and help available to you to make the most out of this unique semester. 

For more resources to help you be successful in the upcoming school year, visit A-Z Learning Services at