Strategies for Online Learning

We are Pilots. We’ll get through this together.

As we progress through the COVID-19 pandemic, you may feel out-of-control as you try to study and learn online and away from your UP community. You may be facing a lot of unknowns and disruptions. Try to be patient with yourself, your classmates, and your instructors during this time. See to your wellbeing first. Making a plan and adjusting your studying may help you feel even a little sense of control.

Use this resource as a starting point.

In this guide, we’ll talk about:

  • Staying organized
  • Avoiding multitasking
  • Making the most of video lectures
  • Setting a schedule
  • Trading old strategies for new ones
  • Working with a group or project team
  • Staying connected to other people
  • Available resources 

Your study habits may need to change.

Although more of your course work and teamwork have to be online and remote, here are some strategies to help.

Staying organized

With so many things changing in your courses, you might be reliving that first-week-of-class confusion at a finals-week pace. Here are some things you might want track for each class:

Are in-person parts of the class changing? Creating a list of how you will connect with classmates and the instructor will help you.

What are the in-person parts of the course? (lecture, lab, etc.) Some instructors might use Microsoft Teams or Zoom to connect in person.

Where can you find these parts now, and how do you access them? (live-stream, discussion board, etc.) For example, if go to you can access the Teams app if you need it for a class.

Are these parts at specific times or can you watch them anytime? Some faculty will post links to recorded material (e.g., lectures or demonstrations), and you can watch these anytime. Sometimes you might meet in MS Teams or Zoom at a specific time.

Are assignments changing? Your instructors will let you know what is changing. They will likely post this on Moodle.

Are there new due dates? Faculty are getting used to this new way of teaching, just like you are. Your due dates may be pushed back some to accommodate the current need to learn how to operate online.

Is how you submit assignments changing? Look for directions from your instructor on how to submit assignments.

Will any quizzes or exams be done online? Your instructor will let you know.

What should you do if you need help? The Learning Commons is offering online tutoring. More information is on its homepage.

Does the instructor have virtual office hours?  When and on what platform? You instructor will inform you about how this will occur. For example, some will meet you in MS Teams or on Zoom. For others, it may be over the phone.

Does the course have an online forum for asking questions? Ask you instructor if its possible to set up a forum for student questions.

Over time, you will find your way of staying organized. You will possibly become more organized through this process.

Avoiding multitasking

If you do more work on your own and your time is less structured, you might be more tempted to multitask. Research shows that few people can succeed at doing multiple things at once or can switch between tasks quickly.

Some downsides to multitasking:

  • Assignments take longer. Each time you return to an assignment (from Instagram, for example) you have to get familiar with it, find your spot, remember what you were going to do next, etc.
  • You are more likely to make mistakes. Distractions and switching between tasks tire out the brain.
  • You will remember less. When your brain is divided, you are less able to commit what you are learning to long-term memory.

Try this instead:

  • Focus on one thing at a time.
  • Take breaks between tasks.
  • Consider working on a task for 25-minutes, then rewarding yourself with a 5-minute break. Research suggests this pattern helps achieve better concentration and alleviates “cognitive boredom” in most people.

Making the most of video lectures

Some tips:

  • Stick to the instructor’s schedule as much as possible. Staying on schedule will help you have a feeling of normalcy and prevent you from falling far behind.
  • Find out how to ask questions. Is there a chat feature? A discussion forum?
  • Close distracting apps and tabs. Humans are not as good at multitasking as they think!
  • Continue to take notes as you would if you were there in person. Many studies show that notetaking builds the recall of material and helps to increase test scores.
  • Watch recordings at normal speed. Watching at faster speeds can decrease retention and result in lower test scores.

Setting a schedule

As the situation unfolds, you may have fewer social commitments, group meetings, or work hours. Setting a schedule for yourself can help provide structure and keep you motivated. If you don’t already keep a weekly or daily calendar, try doing it. Include time for exercise and self-care.

Some of you have been using the Time Budget Sheet from the Shepard Academic Resource Center; keep using it as you organize your new online learning schedule.

If you use the Study Cycle model, you can adapt it to your online learning. Remember to break up your learning activity into hour-long chunks for which you set specific goals.

Trading old strategies for new ones

You may be forced to adjust your routines during this time. Look for ways to adapt your usual habits or to form new ones.

For example:

If you usually study in the library, in a study space in DB Hall, or in a classroom, ask yourself what kind of environment helps you study. Consider how you can recreate this at home. Maybe you need to study in a chair, rather than on your bed or couch. Maybe you need to move to a new spot when you change tasks. Do you need background noise? How about a white noise app?

If you always study in groups, try a virtual or phone-based study session with your group. Microsoft Teams is a great tool for study groups. If you instructor has a Teams page set up, you can ask if it’s possible to set up virtual study spaces on that Teams page.
If you thrive on tight timelines, but now have a more open schedule, think about how working with others or setting up a schedule can recreate that for you. When following that becomes difficult, see if you can do even just fifteen minutes of coursework at a time. 

Working with a study group or project team

Remote collaboration will look a little different, but it is definitely possible. Here are some ideas:
Try not to procrastinate. That group project may be out-of-sight, out-of-mind if you aren't seeing your group members regularly. Resist the urge to put the project off.  Make small progress regularly on the project and stay in touch.

Meet regularly, especially if you usually communicate during class or lab. Consider a quick text on your group chat about progress every few days. Ideally, have real conversations over video any week you’re working together.

Remember to use our Group Work Lab on MS Teams. You can make an appointment at
Set a goal for meetings and use a shared notes document, like in OneDrive. Meetings might now feel different when using video, even if your team was really good at working informally in the past. Try to establish the purpose of your meeting in advance. Take notes in a shared document so you can all contribute and follow along. You can also record meetings in MS Teams.

Keep videos open when you can. As long as you can see whatever you need to collaborate, aim to keep the video visible on your computer screen. Doing that will help you see the expressions of your teammates and stay connected to each other.

Check on each other and ask for backup: if someone has been absent from your group meetings or chat, ask them directly if they’re still able to participate in the project. If you aren't getting responses within a day or two, let your instructor know – this isn’t being petty, it is your team’s responsibility. 

Staying connected to other people

Our new era of COVID-19 make us limit in-person time, so connecting with family and friends can be more important than ever. And staying in touch with instructors, classmates and team members is still important for continued class work. Consider:

Scheduling video calls with family and friends. Talking to loved ones can be really helpful when you feel stressed or nervous about something. Taking a break to laugh is also important.
Connect with classmates, for example, to talk through a tough problem.

Attend virtual office hours or study groups so that you can stay up on your coursework.
Meet with tutors online through the Learning Commons

Available resources

The Shepard Academic Resource Center staff are here to support you.
Go to to connect with SARC staff.

Tutors are available online through the Learning Commons at
Brother Thomas is available to provide learning assistance counseling support online.

Accessible Education Services is available to assist with accommodations at 

Please remember, this will pass.

Even though COVID may have disrupted your life, and you may feel that it came at the worst possible time, take a minute to remember that this is temporary. You will find your way when the situation settles down in the coming months. You will get back on track, and things will return to normal. We don’t know when, but it will happen. Until then, take a deep breath, do your best, get some rest, and wash your hands regularly. We are all in this together as a Pilots community as you advance and complete your UP education during this pandemic.


This document was modified from a document of the University of Michigan ( The modified document was produced by Maine Maritime Academy’s Center for Student Success, in accord with CC 4.0 copyright provisions. Thank you to our colleagues for making this available to students and learning assistance professionals in this time of need. We greatly appreciate their solidarity.