Learning Online

Student Technology ResourcesWith so many things changing in your courses, you might be reliving that first-week-of-class confusion at finals-week pace. While more of your coursework and group work have to be online and remote, here are some strategies to keep in mind:

Manage your time.

  • Learning at home comes with lots of distractions, some of which are easier to avoid than others. Let family know that your studying is an important priority.
  • Adjust your routines. Look for ways to adapt your usual habits or form new ones.
  • Focus on one thing at a time. Develop a prioritized to-do list and a master calendar, digitally or in hard copy, whichever is easiest for you to see the “big picture” of all of your academic due dates integrated with other personal responsibilities.
  • Take breaks between tasks. Consider the “Pomodoro technique” to help you focus for 25- or 50-minute periods and then reward yourself with 5- or 10-minute breaks.

Communicate with your instructor and with others.

  • You may be required to participate in discussion boards, which could be graded or ungraded. Discussions could be part of the class or in a small group.
  • Respect the privacy of your classmates and what they share in your virtual classroom.
  • Review the netiquette guidelines for online classes.

Watch lecture videos.

  • Panopto adapts the video according to your device and internet speed. This means you can still watch video whether on cellular service or broadband.
  • If your instructor uploads videos to Box, you may have to let the entire file load in your browser, no matter what size it is, before you watch it.
  • Watch recordings at normal speed to retain complex, multi-step material from your course lectures.

Virtual engagement tips: Attending

  • Log into your virtual session at least 10 minutes before it starts so you can run the audio and video check.
  • Both Collaborate and Webex offer a dial-in option so if you do not have access to high-speed internet, you can use your phone and still listen/participate in the virtual session.
  • Check your microphone button. When you do not need to talk, turn your microphone OFF.
  • Be patient during a live session, especially if your class is large. Raise your hand if you have a question. Use chat.
  • Keep a Google Doc open during the virtual session. Share the link with classmates to crowdsource notes and follow-up questions.

Virtual engagement tips: Sharing & presenting

  • If you are presenting, practice before your session so you are comfortable with the tools. Write a script to help you stay focused.
  • Your instructor and peers are also working from home and they may have children in the same space. Let your audience know if content will be sensitive, especially if you think minors may be in the background. Avoid profanities.
  • If you are asked to share your video, check your background area to avoid inappropriate content within view.
  • Be aware of ambient noise (televisions, barking dogs, flushing toilets, doorbells). If you are speaking, make sure anyone in the space around you knows that you cannot be interrupted.

Completing group work

  • Meet regularly, especially if you usually touch base during class or lab. Check out tools you have access to as UMBC students like CollaborateWebex, and Google Hangouts.
  • Take notes in a shared doc via Google Docs or Microsoft OneNote so you can all contribute and follow along.

Working on assignments

  • If you must write online, use Google Docs or Office 365 to compose your work rather than in Blackboard.
  • Set milestones for yourself to work on your assignments in stages so you are not waiting until the last minute.
  • Prepare your work at least six hours ahead of the due date. While Blackboard is on a very stable system, your personal internet connection could go down and prevent you from accessing the assignment submission tool.

Taking online tests

  • When taking an online exam, select a location where you won’t be interrupted. Tell family that you are taking a test and you cannot be interrupted.
  • Before starting the test, know how much time is available for it, and that you’ve allotted sufficient time to complete it.
  • Review these tips for taking tests in Blackboard.

Using secure test environments

  • Some instructors may use software for test security (Respondus Lockdown Browser and Respondus Monitor). This requires you to download a custom browser before you can access the test in Blackboard.
    • If you are taking an Original course, you must open the custom browser before you can view the test.
    • If you are taking an Ultra course, you can proceed with accessing the test as the software will automatically open.
  • If Monitor is enabled, your computer must have a functioning webcam and microphone. A broadband connection is also required.
  • Respondus has 24/7 support for students. If you encounter a problem with Respondus Monitor, select the “It’s not working” link for troubleshooting tips.

Check Your Online Engagement: Are you keeping up? Compared to Peers?

  • Use the “Check My Activity” (CMA) feedback tool via the “Bb” icon at the top of myUMBC or directly here (includes a demo). See how your activity compares to an anonymous summary of peers, across all your courses.
  • Alternately, you can use the “Activity Compared to Others” link inside the Tools section of every Blackboard course.

Additional Resources



Blackboard (2020). How to succeed online. Retrieved from https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Student/Getting_Started/Succeed_Online

Fetzner, M. (2013). What Do Unsuccessful Online Students Want Us To Know? Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 17(1), 13-27. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1011376

University of Michigan (2020). Adjusting your study habits during COVID. Retrieved from https://ai.umich.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/student-disruption.pdf