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.

Reading to Understand: Tips and Strategies for Reading Comprehension

 

Reading is important,

because if you can read, you can learn anything about everything and

everything about anything.

~Tomie dePaola

 

It is not unusual to read a book or article and forget all the details soon after. This can be especially true for anything students must read for school when, perhaps, the topic isn’t all that interesting or engaging. When it comes to reading to absorb academic content, there are strategies that can help improve retention, helping students read not just to remember, but to understand.

To begin, let’s dispel some common reading myths.

Myth #1: Reading Once is Enough.

Fact: Reading more than once helps you to retain information. When paired with effective notetaking, you are able to determine the main topics, further solidify your understanding, review sections that are still unclear, and draw connections to the ideas that you are learning.

Myth #2: It is Bad to Skip Passages in Reading.

Fact: It is important to remember that certain passages are worth spending more time on than others. Skim through the content to determine what topics may be relevant and important to the material you are learning.

Myth #3: If I Skim or Read too Quickly, my Comprehension will Drop.

Fact: Your reading speed is not related to your degree of comprehension. Concern yourself with extracting important ideas and facts from your reading as opposed to being preoccupied with how fast you can cover content.

Myth #4: Questions to Aid Comprehension Must Come from the Teacher or Textbook.

Fact: Determining your own unique style of learning will better cater to your understanding of the content. Creating your own questions will help you extract information and determine your gaps in learning.

 

The following tips and strategies will help you become a more effective and active reader so that you can understand and get the most out of what you are reading!

Tailor How You are Reading to What You are Reading: The attention you give to your reading should be determined by what you are reading, and the level of intensity required. Some content may require complete attention while others require a quick skim. For example, in reading journal articles you may be able to skim through the research details but focus in on the author’s discussion and recommendations.

Read More: One of the most effective ways to read to learn, to understand, and to improve comprehension is to continue to read. Setting small achievable goals pertaining to reading can help solidify effective reading habits and foster greater learning throughout your academic journey.

Ask Questions: Before reading, ask yourself what you will be reading about, what you already know, what you need to learn, and why it may be important.

Become Comfortable with Your Textbook: Opening up a textbook does not have to be frightening! Begin by examining the title page, reviewing the table of contents, and reading the introduction.

Teach Someone Else What You Have Learned: Teaching content to others is one of the most effective ways to learn. This helps you to clearly recognize what you understand versus what you do not and also helps you retain the information for longer periods of time.

Beware of the Highlighter: To retain information, you need to comprehend what you are reading; highlighting sections of text does not achieve this goal. Instead of highlighting passages, use your highlighter to connect important ideas and recognize important concepts.

Use the SQ4R (Survey, Question, Reading, Reciting, Relating, Reviewing) Method: When opening a textbook, survey the content for structure and organization by looking at headings, subheadings, and illustrations. Question what you are reading; it could be helpful here to become your own teacher by asking the 5 W’s (who, what, where when, why, and how). As you begin reading, look for answers to the questions you have. Next, you want to recite the answers to the questions in your own words and relate the information to prior knowledge. Lastly, review your answers to improve recall and understanding.

Take Notes: Combine effective notetaking habits and strategies to improve reading comprehension. One approach is to create a written summary, bullet points are fine, at the end of each chapter that outlines the key points of what you just read and, if you can, connects the information to something in your life. Use these notes as your study guides. Another approach – the Blank Sheet Method – has you start by writing down everything you already know about the topic before you begin reading. After each section, summarize what you’ve learned using a different colour.


Improve your Vocabulary
: You may come across terms in your textbook that you may not comprehend. Take this opportunity to learn new words and expand your vocabulary.

 

To read is to fly:

it is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view over wide terrains of history,

human variety, ideas, shared experience, and the fruits of many inquiries.

~A.C. Grayling

 

Resources

Rewordify: This free online program simplifies text so that they are easier to comprehend. The program also highlights words that may be difficult and utilizes interactive flash cards and exercises to help you expand your vocabulary and more thoroughly understand the content you are reading.

Reading Scientific Articles: This article by the Cain Project in Engineering and Professional Communication provides effective strategies on how to extract major points from scientific articles and provides a template on how to take effective notes.

Reading Math Textbooks: This resource by the Learning Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill provides tips and strategies on how to better understand content from a math textbook and how to utilize the content to get the most out of your learning.

Using Pivotal Words: This handout from Darmouth College provides a list of words that you may come across in your reading that help to guide the audience towards a specific and important direction or idea.

Finding the Author’s Purpose: This article highlights different words that may be used by authors that can be helpful to determine the overall message that the author is conveying.

 

Content Adapted from:

Farnam Street. (2021, January 7). Reading better. FS Blog. https://fs.blog/reading/

Vojnov, A. (a). Reading good copy [Handout]. Used with permission.

Vojnov, A. (b). Reading good copy pt.2 [Handout]. Used with permission.

Vojnov, A. (c). Reading good copy pt.3 [Handout]. Used with permission.

Vojnov, A. (d). SQ4R [Handout]. Used with permission.

 

 

Tips for Effective Notetaking

 

“You have to make your own condensed notes.

You learn from MAKING them.

A lot of thinking goes into deciding what to include and exclude.

You develop your own system of abbreviations and memory methods for the information.”

― Peter Rogers, Straight A at Stanford and on to Harvard

 

From Richard Branson and Bill Gates to George Lucas and Thomas Edison, many of the world’s most successful people take notes. Although each is known to have a preferred approach and type, these people are never without a notebook!

As a student, your notes can summarize key thoughts that emerged during course discussions or activities, outline content learned while reading, create important links between content and your own ideas or beliefs, and help you get clear on key points. Your notebook can also be an important place to jot down ideas you have and want to explore further or be a list of random things that you do not want to forget.

Although much research still needs to be done, many studies show that using a laptop/computer to take notes is not as effective as longhand – as in good old-fashioned paper and pen. When using their computer, students were more likely to simply type exactly what the professor said – rather than converting concepts and ideas from a lecture into their own words – and more likely to be distracted by email, task reminders, social media. In short . . . taking notes by long hand has proven more effective!

However, researchers also recognize that electronic notes are searchable, easily moved to other sections, and can include hyperlinks to course resources and articles and, given pages never run out, electronic notes can be more environmentally and storage friendly. Whether using some simple like Notepad or Word or diving into notetaking apps like OneNote or Evernote, there may be some benefit to electronic notes.

When it comes to notetaking, the key first step is to reflect on personal preference then adopt a system that will work best. Selecting longhand, for example, may not be the best approach if you find it frustrating, can never find a pen, or cannot read your own handwriting.

In addition to electronic vs. longhand, there are several note taking methods you may want to consider to ensure you are effective:

Outline – a structured format, using headings, sub-headings, and bulleted lists to keep concepts organized.

Cornell – uses a specific page layout, providing a space to jot down key points, note key words and questions, and to summarize lectures.

Boxing – uses topical boxes to summarize and organized notes; perhaps one of the only methods best suited for electronic notetaking since notes can more easily be moved and boxes expanded.

Charting – uses a table or spreadsheet to create categories of content.

Mapping – using a mind map approach to build branches, and sub-branches off the main theme

See https://medium.goodnotes.com/the-best-note-taking-methods-for-college-students-451f412e264e for more detailed descriptions of each of these methods)

Once you have your note taking system – electronic vs. longhand – and method – outline, Cornell, Outline, Mapping – remember to:

Prepare for each class or study session by doing any assigned pre-reading, reviewing previous notes, gathering all you need ahead of time.

Listen to what your instructor is saying, paying attention to phrases, cues, or key remarks that should be anchored in notes. Pay attention to the questions asked, and answers provided.

Write only what you need to. Taking notes is not copying every word of the lecture, or huge amounts of text from your readings. Capture only the key ideas, and sub-themes.

Review your notes within 24 hours, to help enhance your learning. Take this time to highlight key points, or write a brief summary.

 

You can see that there is scarcely an observable fact unworthy of mention in your notes,

and yet you could easily spend more time scribbling than watching, and that would defeat the purpose.

So be selective, don’t be compulsive, and enjoy your note-taking.

~Robert Pyle

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.

Reading to Understand:
Tips and Strategies for Reading Comprehension

Reading is important, because if you can read, you can learn anything about everything and everything about anything.

Tomie dePaola

It is not unusual to read a book or article and forget all the details soon after. This can be especially true for anything students must read for school when, perhaps, the topic isn’t all that interesting or engaging. When it comes to reading to absorb academic content, there are strategies that can help improve retention, helping students read not just to remember, but to understand.

To begin, let’s dispel some common reading myths.

Myth #1

Reading Once is Enough.

Fact: Reading more than once helps you to retain information. When paired with effective notetaking, you are able to determine the main topics, further solidify your understanding, review sections that are still unclear, and draw connections to the ideas that you are learning.

Myth #2

It is Bad to Skip Passages in Reading.

Fact: It is important to remember that certain passages are worth spending more time on than others. Skim through the content to determine what topics may be relevant and important to the material you are learning.

Myth #3

If I Skim or Read too Quickly, my Comprehension will Drop.

Fact: Reading more than once helps you to retain information. When paired with effective notetaking, you are able to determine the main topics, further solidify your understanding, review sections that are still unclear, and draw connections to the ideas that you are learning.

Myth #4

It is Bad to Skip Passages in Reading.

Fact: It is important to remember that certain passages are worth spending more time on than others. Skim through the content to determine what topics may be relevant and important to the material you are learning.

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

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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


Ontario

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

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


Quebec

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


PEI

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


Alberta

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


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


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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)


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


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NWT All Ages 24/7: 1-800-661-0844


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


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


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


Yukon

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


USA

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


India

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


China

Beijing – Befrienders: 03-5286-9090

Hong Kong – The Samaritans: 2896-0000

Shanghai – Life Line: 021-6279-8990