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How to Succeed in a Remote School Environment

This fall term, PSU is using a flexible format for courses. This means that a majority of classes will be remote in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. Whether you are right out of high school or a returning student, transitioning to a remote learning environment can come with challenges. Here are our best tips for success this term based on recommendations from current students.

As always, remember that the PSU community is here to help you succeed! Please reach out to professors, staff members or anyone who you feel comfortable with for any issues. 

Make sure you have the right technology long before the term starts. 

Different classes may use different technology, but here are some ideas to get started:

  • Computer with access to Microsoft Office and Google
  • Reliable internet connection
  • Webcam
  • Headphones: noise-cancelling headphones are great if you are in a noisy environment. Earbuds are a good alternative. Either way, wearing headphones prevent an echo in video calls.

Missing something? You can check out technology through the PSU library for free. They stock things like headphones, laptops, Wi-Fi hotspots and webcams. They can even mail these things to you if you are out-of-state.

If you’re new to Zoom, the Office of Academic Innovation has a guide to using Zoom.

Meet with your professors.

Meet with your professor virtually or send an email asking for tips on how to do well in the class. It shows that you are engaged and you’ll probably learn something useful! While you’re preparing, evaluate the course requirements so that you have an idea of how much time to set aside each week.

Throughout the term, you can meet with professors virtually during office hours to ask questions about any material.  Elaine, a junior studying Public Health: Community Health, says “I found it easier to connect with my professors virtually since everything is online and many of them are on their devices during the weekdays.” Building relationships with professors is a great thing to do at any time during college, and is true especially in a virtual classroom.

Establish productive routines for yourself.

Many people say the hardest part of a remote learning environment is with keeping on track with assignments. We highly recommend scheduling times every week to sit down and focus on schoolwork. 

You may have more control of your time now, so use this to your advantage. Are you an early bird studier or better later in the day? Pick some times and create calendar events in your email address with a notification reminder. A popular app called Egenda helps by sending reminders of assignment deadlines. This homework managing app was built by students, for students. 

Make sure to set aside a couple minutes each hour of studying to take breaks as well. You can also recruit help from a friend or family member who can keep you accountable.

Build a designated study space to help you get in “work mode” and stay focused on your assignments. Sofia, a fourth year double major in English and Spanish, recommends “section off a specific part of your room or home for just studying and nothing else! I have claimed my parents' dining room as my classroom.”

The same goes for your outfit as well! Chuck, a senior history major, says “Change your outfit to get you in the mindset of your class or work.” This sounds silly but it works.

Take notes during online lectures. This is a big one. The more you are engaged, the less likely you will be to lose focus and tune out. David, a sophomore studying Political Science, says “It’s always a pain to go back to the lecture recordings and you can’t always rely on them due to technical difficulties.” 

Minimize distractions during lectures just like you would if it were in-person. Put your phone on silent and close other tabs on your screen so you aren’t tempted to scroll through social media. Keep your camera on even if you are not speaking; it will help you stay tuned in.

Be patient with yourself as you learn to navigate an online environment.

This is an especially challenging time for all of us. Adjusting to a remote learning format takes time to get used to. You may try a few tricks until you find the ones that work for your situation. 

Take at least one class that you are interested in and can be fun. Having something to look forward to can give you the motivation you need to get started.

Many courses are offering the option to switch to a Pass/No Pass format to allow students to keep on schedule with their program. Of course, you should use it only if you need it. Meet with your professors to see if this is the best option for your situation.

Ensure you are staying connected.

Feeling a sense of belonging is critical to our overall well being. Create a strong support system of friends and family members who will support you on your college journey.

Interact with other students whenever you can. Set up an assigned Zoom study group time each week. The more you engage, the more likely you are to have a better experience in the class. Building friendships now will make the return to campus easier in the future.

Eva, a fourth year student studying Global Studies, says “If someone takes it upon themselves to set up a more social activity, like getting together outside of class to play Scrabble or Pictionary over zoom, go to it! It's easy to be lazy and not participate, but it's been a great way to get to know your classmates in a more social way.”

Attend club meetings to stay involved. Many clubs have switched to a virtual meeting format and would love to have you join. You can check out our full list of clubs and organizations on our website. You can also read our post about finding the right club for you.

Make time to take care of yourself.

Social distancing might mean that you are alone most of your days, or that you are now surrounded by family or roommates! With everything going on, it is super important to make taking care of yourself a priority.

Get 7-8 hours of sleep at night at minimum, with a regular schedule if you can. Going to bed at a regular time is a huge part of wellness and staying healthy.

The Campus Rec Center is planning on opening for fall term with enhanced programs and innovative formats. Currently, Campus Rec is offering virtual fitness classes (some as short as 20 minutes). These are great for when you need a quick pick-me-up and another way to make friends.

Resource centers have virtual office hours to continue to serve students. Make an appointment with the Women’s Resource Center, Diversity and Multicultural Student Services, Disability Resource Center, and more. View the full list of Services and Resource Centers available to PSU students.

The Center for Student Health and Counseling (SHAC) also remains open to help students with wellbeing. Check out the Virtual MindSpa for help with emotional wellbeing, physical wellbeing and mindfulness.

Remember that remote learning is only temporary. We will return to normal, in-person instruction as soon as it is safe. In the meantime take care of yourself and, if you can, someone else too.