Tips for Being A Successful Student

Leaping into Learning Remotely

Be an Active Participant in Learning

Interactive and participatory aspects of the course may be worth 20-25% of your overall grade. Discussions, forums, activates, or forums As a student, you are provided with a number of resources to help you succeed.

Online students engage with peers and instructors asynchronously via text-based discussion questions (DQs) that can be worth 20-25% of the overall grade. Like real-time seminar discussions, DQs serve several purposes: they allow you to assimilate, synthesise, and apply new concepts and ideas; they help you understand course material; they increase your expertise in the subject; they allow instructors to assess your understanding and offer targeted advice and assistance; and, of course, they earn marks. In sum, when approached thoughtfully, discussion posts are a great way to learn and master material. They are also a great way to connect with instructors and classmates as you build on ideas.

To get the most out of asynchronous discussions, be sure to:

  • Review the grading rubric for the DQs in your course to ensure you understand when posts are due and what is expected in each contribution. Do not hesitate to ask your instructors for specific advice or about their preferred approach to DQs.
  • Come to discussions prepared. Read the required course materials for the week, critically, and make notes about key ideas.
  • When making a new contribution in response to a DQ, read the discussion question carefully and determine which readings cover that subject. Use your notes to prepare a substantive contribution to the discussion. When contributing to an ongoing discussion, use the readings and your notes to ensure your contribution is well founded. Always strive to add something of value to the conversation. Although “cheer” posts may help build camaraderie, they do not add to meaningful dialogue.
  • Proofread your posts carefully, paying attention to spelling, grammar, and overall style of writing. Carefully attend to citation/references; in most programs, you will be expected to properly cite your sources in DQs.
  • Remember to always be professional and courteous. Respectful discussion does not mean agree with everything that has been stated. It is okay to disagree, as long as that is done in a respectful manner. Remember . . . what is considered inappropriate behaviour in a face to face learning environment also applies online.

On-campus students engage with peers and instructors in real time and face-to-face. Each class will be a mix of lecture, discussions, activities, and hands-on demonstrations and practice. Interactive and participatory aspects of the course may be worth 20-25% of your overall grade, often divided throughout the term based on the number of classes. This often means that participation in a particular discussion or activity is worth only 2-3% of the course grade. But it is critically important that you attend every class and actively participate in every discussion and all activities. You may think you are merely sacrificing a few marks by not participating, but in fact you are missing course content and, what is more important, the opportunity to learn and develop important skills and to understand, synthesise, and apply new knowledge and competencies. 

To make each class a valuable experience, be sure to:

  • Come to class on time and properly equipped. This includes bringing needed materials such as a tablet or laptop, pen/pencil, paper, and course text.
  • Know in advance what will be important. Review the syllabus and grading rubric to discover what the instructor expects and what grade value has been established.
  • Come to class prepared to participate. Review readings and other materials. The more prepared you are, the more confident you will feel.
  • Actively engage in discussions and activities. Demonstrate to your instructors you are interested in learning the material.
  • Ask for the help you need. Although it can be scary to ask questions, this is the only way to get clarity on a topic or clear any confusion. Instructors want to hear from students.
  • Remember to always be professional and courteous.

As a student, you are provided with a number of resources to help you succeed.  Many students do not become familiar with these resources and, so miss important opportunities. Here are a few resources that students often are unaware of or do not use effectively.

  • Office 365 includes a set of powerful tools that help you organize your work and collaborate with others. It is not limited to just Outlook, Excel, and Word but includes many other apps such as OneNote, which is an online notebook system, and MS Teams which is fantastic for collaborating with peers and includes group text and video chat. 
  • Faculty office hours are a valuable resource that is underutilized by all students. Whether meeting on-campus or via Zoom, these times are your opportunity to speak to your instructors outside of class.
  • Workshops and webinars are offered to students across a wide variety of subjects including math, writing, career services, and health and wellness.
  • Every student has access to 3 hours of one-on-one tutoring via Smarthinking.
  • Learning Success Centre provides informative content on a wide variety of topics, with material added regularly yet tracking shows the LSC remains an underutilized service.

Group work is a challenge for most students. It is often unclear how best to form groups and the logistics of when and how to meet can be difficult. Ensuring that everyone does their part is a large issue for all students, but group work offers learning opportunities that are unsurpassed by other types of course work.

  • Potential for improved performance as each member brings a unique set of skills and knowledge that can be applied to the group’s activities. These differences can help enhance understanding of the subject being studied.
  • Development of skills that employers value and look for in new employees such as communication, critical thinking, conflict resolution, and leadership.
  • Increased understanding of your strengths, along with areas in need of improvement. Whether you learn that you excel at the “big ideas” but struggle to take action or you discover unrecognized leadership potential, this enhanced self-awareness can improve your experience as a student and make you more employable upon graduation.
  • Readiness for the workplace where the ability to work effectively in teams is becoming increasingly important. Employers need workers who can work together to solve problems and accomplish critical tasks.
  • Expanded network and an opportunity to build new relationships.

Critical thinking transforms you from a passive receiver of information to an active learner. It is an essential skill that allows you to think rationally and question ideas and assumptions, rather than take things at face value. Critical thinkers are
dedicated learners who actively participate in classroom activities and do not hesitate to ask questions. They truly embrace the phrase “there is no such thing as a stupid question.” Critical thinkers form their own ideas and opinions, supported by
research and evidence, allowing them to deepen their understanding of the subject matter and engage in more meaningful discussions with instructors and peers.

It can be challenging to criticize ideas that are presented in readings or during lectures. It can seem quite disrespectful to disagree with instructors or challenge their ideas. However, it is important to critique what you are learning. You do this
by analyzing the ideas and arguments being made, exploring the evidence being presented, and making an informed decision about whether the information makes sense. Where you have doubts, do your research, and ask questions.

Like learning to ride a bike or play a musical instrument, it takes practice to develop your critical thinking skills. To begin, as you read course materials, listen to lectures, and participate in activities consider the following questions:

  • What is the main point being made?
  • Who is making the point (author, instructor, classmate)?
  • Is the information being presented supported by research/evidence? Is that current?
  • Do you agree with the information being presented? If not, why not? Do I agree or disagree for good reasons based on evidence and logic?
  • How is this information useful to you?
  • What questions emerge?

An important part of developing your critical thinking skills, is becoming a reflective learner. Reflecting learning is thinking with purpose and questioning and probing to understand yourself better. This approach can lead to better planning and prioritizing of your work and improved ability to set study goals and manage anxiety. Being a reflective learner helps you deepen your experience as you take time to contemplate the material you’ve learned and how it connects to other courses, lessons, and experience.

Strategies for Managing Your Time and Tasks

Click on any strategy below for more information.

The Pomodoro Technique involves breaking work intervals or tasks down into short, manageable, and time-limited parts while incorporating breaks to keep you focused every step of the way.

Paperclip Strategy uses paper clips (or any other visual “cue”) to help you track your progress, stay motivated, and focus on getting your tasks done.

Time Budgeting helps you balance and prioritize your daily tasks, with a focus on what is most important, while reducing distraction and procrastination.

Most Important Task (M.I.T) recognizes that not all tasks are equally important so encourages you to focus on completing the tasks or projects that will make the biggest difference. It helps you accomplish the most important things, giving you permission to ignore the rest.

Time Blocking involves breaking your day into blocks of time then assigning a task, or group of tasks, into each block. During each block of time you only work on the task assigned, ignoring everything else.

Self-Assigned Deadlines also known as fake or artificial deadlines are for those tasks that don’t really have a firm due date, but still need to get done. Assigning your own due date helps ensure the task gets done, instead of constantly pushed aside.

Personal Kanban involves a wall chart with three columns: Options (everything you need to do), Doing (the things you are working on), and Done (things you have successfully completed). This creates a visualization of all the work to be done, and requires you to limit the work you are doing making it more manageable.

Eisenhower Matrix is also known as the urgent-important matrix is a system for prioritizing your tasks but identifying what is urgent and important, or both. This, in turn, identifies less urgent/important tasks which can be delegated or set aside.

Don’t Break the Chain encourages you to do something related to a project each and every day, no matter how small, putting an X on a calendar. As each day passes, you get more X’s which, in turn, creates a visual reminder of progress. The key is that you must not break the chain.

Not To Do List is a list of things you should not be doing, don’t want to do, or that waste your time and energy thereby keeping you for getting to all your important tasks. Giving yourself permission to not do these items can, effectively, make time and space for the things you want to do.

A Beginner’s Guide to Time Management

Establish Good Study Habits

If you study to remember, you will forget
But, if you study to understand,
you will remember.
– Source unknown

All students, no matter their individual circumstances, juggle multiple and often competing priorities. It is often hard to find the time and energy to study and when time is found it is important to use that time efficiently and effectively Successful students have learned to study smarter, not study harder. They have established good study habits.

Here are some study-smart tips.

Click on any tip for more information.

When it is time to study, focus only on that activity. Don’t try to do laundry, cook dinner, and respond to emails, too. Your brain is very good at multi-switching which is quickly diverting its attention from one place to the next. This can make you think you are being productive but what you are is being busy . . . busy accomplishing very little. Remember that being busy, is not the same thing as being productive.

If you can, make this space school or study exclusive so that is the only thing that is done there. This dedicated workspace should have adequate lighting, a comfortable chair, and give you access to all the materials you need for an effective study session.

In addition to a quiet, comfortable space to study, further minimize distractions by turning your phone off or muting your notifications; ask those you live with for some quiet, undisturbed time; set start and stop times for study; avoid studying while hungry or thirsty.

Consider what time of the day you find it easier to work and for how long you tend to be most productive before needing a break. This time may vary for everyone, so it is important to know what works best for you, and set your study time accordingly!

As each study session begins, setting a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-sensitive will help you know when your study session is over, allow you to break down goals into manageable parts, and help you celebrate even the smallest of successes!

There is much research around the benefits of taking notes during your classes, and study sessions, then re-writing and organizing those notes, and even reading your notes out loud. This repetition helps engage more senses which, in turn, helps synthesize information. Although many students have turned to typing or taking notes digitally, writing notes in long-hand (the old-fashioned way) continues to be the most effective learning strategy.

Anyone who has studied music will have used a mnemonic device to memorize the musical scale. For example, Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge (EGBDF) are the notes in the treble clef lines. In grade school, Canadian students may have used HOMES to memorize the names of Canada’s Great Lakes Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior. Keep in mind that these are useful recall tools for remembering lists or facts; they do not help with comprehension or synthesis of information.

Trying to study while exhausted, hungry, stressed, or angry will make you less effective. [DP1] In fact, this will likely be completely wasted time. Take time each day to eat well, get enough sleep, get some exercise, and access mental health and wellness supports. Attending to self-care will help you be successful beyond your study sessions.

Guard your study time! A roommate, friend, or family member would not show up at your university class to ask for immediate help with a task. And if they did, you would say no! Insist on the same respect of your study time and set those clear boundaries. Set time in your schedule to help and spend time with family and friends, while ensuring your study time is sacred.


Mental Health & Wellness

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Are You in Crisis?

If you are…
• feeling desperate and hopeless
• worried you might hurt yourself, someone else, or commit suicide
• alone with no one to talk to

Please reach out to a Support Hotline in your region immediately for help.

Support Hotlines

911 – Canada Wide

Emergency responders and the 9-1-1 call centres who dispatch them fall within the jurisdiction of provincial, territorial and municipal governments.

Canada Suicide Prevention Service (CSPS) – 24 Hour Hotline

Crisis Services Canada, enables callers anywhere in Canada to access crisis support by phone, in French or English: toll-free 1-833-456-4566 Available 24/7

First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness

24 Hour Hotline: 1-855-242-3310


ConnexOntario 24-hour Helpline: 1-866-531-2600

Good2Talk 24-Hour Hotline: 1-866-925-5454 or Text GOOD2TALKON to 686868


Quebec National Crisis Line – All Ages: 1-866-277-3553


Prince Edward Island Crisis Line – All Ages: 1-800-218-2885


Alberta Crisis Line – All Ages: 1-403-266-4357


Manitoba Crisis Line – All Ages: 1-877-435-7170

New Brunswick

New Brunswick Crisis Line – All Ages: 1-800-667-5005

British Columbia

British Columbia Crisis Line – All Ages: 1-800-784-2433

Here2Talk, 24/7: 1-604-642-5212 (Toll Free: 1-877-857-3397)

Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador Line All Ages: 1-888-737-4668

North West Territories

NWT All Ages 24/7: 1-800-661-0844

Nova Scotia

Good2Talk 24-Hour Hotline: 1-833-292-3698 or Text GOOD2TALKNS to 686868


Nunavut Line – All Ages, 24/7: 1-800-265-3333


Saskatchewan Crisis Line – All Ages: 1-306-525-5333


Yukon Crisis Line – All Ages 7pm-3am (PDT): 1-844-533-3030


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 24/7: 1-800-273-8255

Trans LifeLine – U.S.A.: 1-877-565-8860

The Trevor Project Lifeline: 1-866-488-7386


SNEHA A Link With Life: 91-44-2464-0050


Beijing – Befrienders: 03-5286-9090

Hong Kong – The Samaritans: 2896-0000

Shanghai – Life Line: 021-6279-8990