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By Kem Saichaie and Michelle Rossi on April 15, 2020

This story was originally published by Keep Teaching: Strategies and Resources for Instructional Resilience.

Spring Quarter finds us in an extraordinarily unique context. We can agree that nobody signed up for these circumstances, yet here we are. Together, we must make the most of a less than ideal situation. Along with the resilience we will all need to navigate the quarter, we must also remember to embrace flexibility, patience, and compassion — for other students, our TAs, our instructors, our staff.

We are all doing this for the first time. While this journey on remote learning will be new to us, every university and all their students are on the same path. In fact, many workplaces and careers already feature virtual collaboration, so in some ways, this quarter will be an opportunity to prepare for futures beyond the undergraduate experience.

1. Organize and manage your time

A student works on her laptop in front of a whiteboard with a complex math equation.
Fourth-year computer science and Japanese double major Gabriella Quattrone studies in the LEADR student center in Kemper Hall on October 17, 2017. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

As we begin, it’s important to consider that taking three or four courses remotely will be far different from taking an online or hybrid course amongst other traditional face-to-face courses. This will likely be more challenging than you anticipate, since the usual structures that anchor your day (i.e., in person lectures, on-campus work, exercise at the gym, etc.) will not be in place this quarter. 

We all need structure. You will need to impose structure in your life in order to maximize your learning. You might start by reflecting on when, where, and how will you learn and study?

You will want to manage your time, eliminate distractions, and limit social media. It may benefit you to keep the same course schedule as you would if you were attending face-to-face lectures, discussions, and labs. For example, if one of your course lectures is scheduled for Monday/Wednesday from 9:00 – 10:50, then keep that schedule. Whether the lectures will be live or not, you can still watch recorded videos or do the readings for that class during that same time period.  

Sticking to such a traditional schedule will help you maintain a familiar pace of learning. You’ve already committed to these times when you registered for these courses, so try to adhere to them. 

You might organize the whole quarter by reading through your syllabi and mapping out all your assignments (e.g., papers, exams, presentations, group projects) and their due dates onto a one-page Quarter Calendar (editable pdf) designed by the Success Coaching and Learning Strategies team at UC Davis. This will help you visualize the entire quarter at one glance, and you will quickly be able to determine the weeks that will require a lighter versus a heavier workload. You might also block out a Weekly Schedule (editable pdf) and make a study plan with dedicated study blocks.

Lastly, you should consider your learning environment. It will be best to create a regular and quiet study space (which may be different places from class to class or morning to afternoon). Such a dedicated study space (or spaces) and routine can serve as a type of structure that will otherwise be absent.         

2. Check your tech

A student works on the lawn with his legs crossed.
A student works in the grass on the first day of the Fall Quarter on September 26, 2018. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

While UC Davis students are all familiar with Canvas by now, your remote learning will rely more heavily on technology than in prior quarters. Ensure that you have access to a device and the necessary software required to learn.

Here are instructions if you need to access library resources using the VPN. Also, check for adequate internet connectivity in all of your dedicated study locations, if possible. If you find that your internet access is spotty in certain locations, some of your course content in Canvas might be downloadable for viewing offline. This resource, ”How do I download a single file as a student?”, can help you figure out how to download available content.

Next, check technical requirements for browsers and plug-ins. This resource, Strategies for Online Learning, might help inform your preparation.

Once you review your syllabi, log into all tools required by each course to ensure access. Be sure you know how to use online resources that your courses are likely to use, such as Zoom, Canvas, and the Google suite. It is likely that many of your courses will use Zoom for live class sessions or office hours. Please review this Zoom Guide for Students and this How to Use Zoom at UC Davis video (your instructor/course might use Zoom differently from what is shown in the video). If needed, ensure that you have access and accommodations through the Student Disability Center

Lastly, you should consider adhering to general netiquette expectations. For example, during video conferencing, be sure you are dressed appropriately and have your microphone muted so as not to interfere with teaching and learning. Here are a few simple steps for Zoom Etiquette for participants.            

3. Communicate 

A student works on the grass surrounded by yellow leaved trees.
A student studying on a laptop computer sits on the grass with trees turning to an autumn gold and yellow on November 14, 2019. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

In remote learning, it will be critical that you intentionally connect with your Professors and TAs. Attend virtual office hours and ask questions early and often. 

It is vital that you communicate early with your instructors if you are struggling due to illness, family responsibilities, or financial challenges. You don't necessarily have to share details, but give them an opportunity to help support you during this difficult time. They too face their own challenges, so they will likely understand. 

If needed, communicate with the Student Disability Center and instructor regarding your accommodations. As well, if captions are not being provided in the video for any of your courses, ask via email for captions to be enabled.

Interacting with classmates will also be different this quarter. How will you engage in discussion forums? How will you actively participate via chat, break out rooms, google docs, etc.? Beyond what may be required in courses, you might also consider participating in online study groups or joining a study team. How will you work in groups or teams? Establish ways to leverage and connect to your network beyond classmates, such as with friends, roommates, or family. 

4. Actively learn and study 

A student sits on a ledge with her laptop in front of a large cactus.
A student with a laptop studies outside the Student Community Center on October 22, 2019. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Learning well remotely will require you to actively and intentionally engage in your learning. This means that you do more than passively watch videos, lecture capture or highlight while reading. Instead, mentally engage in both your notetaking and reading. Research shows that learning is a science. Here are specific evidence-based strategies you can use: 

You can read more about them in Learning Strategies 101. After reading and watching about these strategies, reflect on how you might apply them to each of your classes. 

Here are more videos and handouts to help you actively engage in your assignments, readings, and note-taking:

5. Reflect and refocus

A student studies on a brightly patterned couch.
A student studies in the Memorial Union in March 2020. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Once you’ve settled into all your courses and have developed a plan for engaging with your course material, it will help to monitor how well you are working your plan. In other words, how well are you sticking to the time schedules you designed for yourself and may have communicated to others?

It may benefit you to take some time at the end of each week to reflect and consider these questions:

  • What worked well for you this week?
  • In which courses do you feel more confident in terms of remote learning?  Why do you think this is?
  • What didn’t work well for you this week?
  • What are some minor adjustments you can make so that you find more success next week?
  • How will you implement this change?
  • What kind of support (from a TA, a professor, a classmate, a family member, or a Success Coach) do you need?

Reflecting on and monitoring your own learning and studying helps you regulate your behavior and form good work habits. This type of thinking can help you be successful throughout the quarter.

Self-regulation and resiliency are skills you can develop that will help you beyond this quarter and into the workforce. See this TED Talk about Grit:

More resources                                                 

Student-to-Student Advice: UC Davis senior Orey Aderibigbe's Six Tips to Get Through Remote Classes

Health & Wellbeing: During uncertain times as these, our mental and physical wellbeing must also be maintained, as they can also have an impact on your academic performance. This website can help students avoid common pitfalls, improve academic performance, manage stress and time effectively, and find relevant resources. Use this Campus Resource Guide to connect with UCD organizations that can support you during this quarter of remote learning, such as the Student Health and Counseling CenterAggie Compass Basic Needs Center, or Services for International Students and Scholars.

Success Coaching: The Success Coaching and Learning Strategies team will offer its services online during Spring Quarter. Success Workshops will be live webinars around such topics as Communicating with ProfessorsFocus and Concentration, and Task Management.

If you can’t make it to an online workshop, but instead want one-on-one support, meet with a success coach to discuss any of the workshop topics described on their site. Coaches can support you through this journey of remote learning. Appointments will be held over the phone or via Zoom. Schedule an appointment through the Advising Appointment System.

Academic Assistance and Tutoring Center: Drop-in Tutoring will move online for Spring Quarter 2020. AATC provides academic support to undergraduate students enrolled in Biology, Chemistry, Economics, Engineering, Mathematics, Physics, Statistics, and Writing Across the Disciplines. Our professional instructional staff offer classes, workshops and office hours.


Kem Saichaie, Ph.D., is the Associate Director of the Center for Educational Effectiveness. Michelle Rossi is a doctoral candidate in the Sociology Department and a Graduate Student Researcher in the Center for Educational Effectiveness.

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