Here are some tips to help you prepare for your workspace for online course activities.
Get some peace and quiet. You will need a quiet place to work without distractions from things like television, family, or roommates. Have headphones for listening to lectures or discussions (especially important in shared spaces).
Avoid social media. Consider installing website and app blockers that prevent you from using social media during specific times.
Turn off your cell phone. Let friends and family members know the hours that you will be "at" school. If you are in your own room, consider putting a sign on your door like "in class, please do not disturb."
Beware surfing. It is easy to lose track of the time as you wander from site to site.
Consider ergonomics. Adjust the height of your chair, keyboard, and screen so that you are comfortable. Forearms and thighs should be level and parallel to the floor. Wrists should not be bent while typing.
Set up good lighting and comfortable seating. Lighting in the room should be at least as bright as the computer screen to avoid eye strain.
In general, you will need the following resources at home in order to take online classes:
A webcam and microphone (almost all webcams have mics built in)
Dr. Darcy Janzen, Director: Don't wait to reach out if technology has you stumped! We are always here to help you navigate the tools you will be using in your courses and are waiting to help. Call or email the helpdesk (253-692-4357, firstname.lastname@example.org) with your questions right away. We can usually save you some time and frustration so you can focus on your studies.
Start your Research Process Early
As a UW Tacoma student, you have access to millions of library resources and services from anywhere with an internet connection! Here are some tips to improve your library research:
Take it one step at a time. Even a small action can help when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Identify a few easy tasks to help you move forward as soon as you get your assignment. Some good options are doing a test search on your topic on the library’s website, setting up a meeting with your subject librarian, or finding a few helpful databases related to your course.
Ask for help. Research help is available to you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Whether you’re meeting with a subject librarian on Zoom to brainstorm a research topic or in a late-night chat to answer a citation question, support is available. We can help via phone, Zoom, chat, or email.
Stay informed. We’re always working to provide you the best support possible. You can stay up-to-date as services change by checking the Library Status box on the UW Tacoma Library homepage.
Serin Anderson,Collections & Budget Coordinator: Be experimental! It can be easy to rely on a research database that you’re familiar with, but often a specialized database can streamline your work. The UW Libraries currently has a list of more than 600 databases with many different types of content. Fun tools to start your exploration might include:
Online learning can be harder to manage your time than an in-person class. Without solid time management skills, you might easily find yourself cramming before classes or handing in subpar assignments.
Though how you manage your time will depend on your schedule, learning style, and personality, here are some universally valuable tips to help you practice and improve your time management skills.
Review the syllabus for each of your courses. Develop a long-term plan for completing your major assignments - If you know the due dates, you will be able to spread out your coursework, so you can complete tasks in a timely manner.
Make a daily "To Do" list and create a weekly schedule that you follow, designating certain hours each week to reading, watching lectures, completing assignments, studying, and participating in forums. Commit to making your online coursework part of your weekly routine, and set reminders for yourself to complete these tasks.
Pro Tip from a Teacher!
Dr. Ingrid Walker: Try to find a way to participate in your class as soon as possible. Studies show that students who don’t participate in a breakout or regular class Q/A are less likely to join in the rest of the term. And faculty will tell you that active participation makes a big difference in learning.
Stay organized – If you have separate binders, notebooks, and folders, you will be able to locate assignments easier. Also, avoid clutter. You can also use digital note taking systems like Google Docs or Evernote.
Stay healthy – Practicing regular exercise keeps energy levels up, resulting in a more engaged mind. Getting adequate sleep and eating healthy also helps.
Check in periodically throughout the quarter, and look at how you’re spending your time. Ask yourself: How much time am I dedicating to course reading and assignments? Am I regularly underestimating the time it’s taking me to get things done, forcing me to cram the nights before the exams? A little self-reflection and adjustment can go a long way.
Pro Tip from a Teacher!
Dr. Tracy A. Thompson: Develop a weekly schedule that includes multiple 1 to 2 hour blocks of time to devote to each of your (online) classes. The UW's definition of one academic credit says you should expect to commit about 15 hours per week for a 5 credit class (5 credits times 3 hours per credit).
Peer Success Mentorsare available to guide their peers toward academic success through one-on-one appointments to discuss study habits, set academic goals and develop effective learning strategies.
Communication skills are vital in online learning because students must seek help when they need it.
Instructors are willing to help students, but they are unable to pick up on non-verbal cues, such as a look of confusion on a student's face. Here are some tips to communicate effectively in a virtual space.
Use the tools provided by the school to communicate with your instructors. These might include e-mail, discussion groups, chat room office hours, cell phones, and even text messaging. Instructors want to help you to succeed in your classes and will answer your questions. It may feel awkward to talk with your instructors this way, but don't worry. If your instructor has chat room or cell phone office hours, don't be shy about using those tools to communicate with your instructor.
Use appropriate style and language for school. When communicating with instructors and other staff, you should write in full, grammatically correct sentences and with a respectful tone. Many students are used to a very informal style of writing in chat rooms, blogs, text messages, and so forth.
Because of the distance, it's tempting for some students to say things out of anger or frustration that they would never say to an instructor in person. Online teachers are professionals. Treat them with respect and courtesy.
Pro Tip from a Teacher!
Dr. Marion Eberly: If your instructor has set up a discussion board for general questions, use it! We love getting messages on those boards. Posting your general questions there will allow us to provide a response to everyone in the class so all students may benefit. When you see someone else post a question and you know the answer, post your answer!
Pro Tip from a Teacher!
Dr. Tony Perone: Get to know at least one classmate in each class and invite them during the quarter to chat with you about course materials, to be a study partner, and/or to discuss activities in Tacoma and at UWT. Building relationships is so important!
Netiquette refers to a code of behavior to promote professional digital interaction. When attending an online class or in a breakout room, treat the experience as you would an in-person class, especially if you are required to show yourself on video. Think about how you are presented both in words (in a Chat or other typed discussion board), in sound (because everyone can hear all of the sounds in the room you are in), and in image (because everyone can see you and the background - real, virtual - behind you).
Include a subject line. Give a descriptive phrase pertaining to your message (not just “Hi!”)
Avoid sarcasm. People who do not know you may misinterpret your meaning.
Acknowledge and return messages promptly. Check your student email and course messages for important information sent to you from your instructors.
Use appropriate language. Avoid coarse, rough, or rude language. Observe good grammar and spelling.
Use appropriate intensifiers to help convey meaning. Avoid “flaming” (online screaming) or sentences typed in all caps. Use asterisks surrounding words to indicate emphasis.
Any derogatory or inappropriate comments regarding race, gender, age, religion or sexual orientation are unacceptable and subject to disciplinary action.
Remember that distance learning interactions are still overseen by the Student Conduct Code and all prohibited conduct, including academic misconduct, alcohol/drug violations, computer abuses, bullying, harassment, violence, and discriminatory acts, will be sanctioned as appropriate.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF!
It is easy to forget about wellness when you are at a desk in front of computer. It is important to take care of our bodies and minds now more than ever. Practicing self-care every day includes relaxing, getting the appropriate amount of sleep, exercising when possible and staying connected with our communities.
Here are six quick tips for self-care:
Connect with community: Take time every day to connect with your community. This can mean friends, family, or peers. Pick three people a day to check in with. Social distancing does not mean isolation, so find creative ways to stay connected.
Take a break and relax every day: take breaks and make a point of relaxing and doing things you enjoy everyday.
Limit information intake: checking the news constantly leads to unnecessary stress and anxiety. You can stay informed by checking reputable news sources occasionally, not constantly.
Practice gratitude: Taking time out of every day, even in difficult times, to practice gratitude can help us persist through challenges. What are you grateful for today? Take two minutes every day to make a list.
Dr. Tony Perone: Consider class activities and assignments as offers. You might consider your education as something you receive, or classes that you take, but we often forget about all that we give or offer to learning environments. How might it be to consider what you give to the online learning environment? For example, how might your discussion posts be an offer for the class to learn about you and what you consider meaningful? How might activities to build community or get to know each other be possibilities for you to give support or offer connections? How might you learn and develop if you perceive what your instructors and classmates provide as offers to build with?
Pro Tip from a Teacher!
Dr. Rubén Casas: Be diligent: work hard, ask for help, and be willing to try again · Be communicative: ask questions, seek clarification, and talk to your instructor. · Be inquisitive: your reasons for being here should go beyond needing to fulfill a requirement; there's always something to learn, if you are open to learning.
Pro Tip from a Teacher!
Dr. Bonnie Becker: Ask for Help! There are lots of resources to help you get started, figure out a technical problem, or polish your study skills. We hear from many students that they don't ask for help because they aren't sure where to go. Reach out to the Teaching and Learning Center for tutoring and study support and to IT for technical support. If you're not sure who to ask, reach out to any of these support services and they will help point you in the right direction.
Learn about Technology, Communicating, and Connecting Online.