Learning Strategies and Resources | University of Portland

Learning Strategies and Resources

Learning Strategies

Welcome to the Learning Commons learning strategies page. Here we provide ideas to help you create your pathway to success during your time at UP.

In this guide, you can review:

  • Setting a schedule
  • Avoiding multitasking
  • Trading old strategies for new ones
  • Working with a group or project team
  • Available resources 


Setting a schedule

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.

Use The Study Cycle model. You can adapt it easily to your online learning. Remember to break up your learning activity into hour-long chunks for which you set specific goals. This will help you avoid online fatigue.
Use your UP Outlook account or whichever email platform you use to create your weekly schedule and to schedule your exams.
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.

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. Learn more about this "Pomodoro Technique." Research suggests this pattern helps achieve better concentration and alleviates “cognitive boredom” in most people.
  • Use the Study Cycle.

Trading old strategies for new ones

You may be forced to adjust your routines in the early weeks of the semester. Look for ways to adapt your usual habits or to form new ones.

For example:

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. Zoom and Microsoft Teams are great tools 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. Also consider creating groups in Discord.
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 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 with the Group Work Lab.
Set a goal for meetings and use a shared notes document, like in OneDrive or Google Drive.
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 Zoom or MS Teams.
Meet with your cameras on 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. 
Check our study group tips for more ideas.

Available resources

The Shepard Academic Resource Center staff are here to support you.
Go to www.up.edu/sarc/index.html to connect with SARC staff.

Tutors are available in-person and online through the Learning Commons at www.up.edu/learningcommons.

Accessible Education Services is available to assist with accommodations at www.up.edu/aes/index.html 


This document was modified from a document of the University of Michigan (https://ai.umich.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/student-disruption.pdf). 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.