This guide includes key information for your academic success, as well as strategies to help you learn and focus. Elon faculty and staff are committed to providing you with resources to help you learn.
Our hope is that this guide empowers you take ownership of your learning and provides general strategies for you to be successful during this unprecedented time. Your faculty members can help you understand more specific study strategies and expectations for assignments in each class.
Relationship-rich experiences are the foundation of an Elon education. Interacting with faculty, staff and peers in an active and challenging community of learners — in and out of the classroom — is at the heart of teaching and learning at Elon. Those relational experiences are what may have drawn you to be here, and the same holds true for faculty and staff.
The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us all to re-imagine where and how teaching and learning take place, but it does not shake our shared devotion to engaged, inclusive, rigorous and interactive education. Faculty and staff are committed to Elon’s model of “student- and learning-centered relationships.” All courses will include regular, educationally purposeful faculty-student and student-student interactions.
Faculty will continue to focus on helping you meet course and program goals and outcomes, in whichever modality (in-person, blended or hybrid or approved online) they are teaching in during the term. Faculty will continue to use flexible approaches best suited for course learning goals, their own teaching styles, classroom assignments, curricular demands, and student needs, including equitable access to course materials and activities. This means that students will encounter faculty who are each approaching their courses differently — using different methods of teaching, technologies, and more.
As in the fall, you may be navigating differences across courses, including variations in course design, Moodle organization, learning technologies or even differing expectations on how or where you will engage in class. You may simultaneously be managing differences across social engagement, including navigating social gatherings, expectations for physical distancing and limiting the size of your social circles. Stressors like quarantine, ill relatives, family or personal financial challenges that reduce your cognitive capacity to pay attention to the details and navigate this complexity. Given these factors, set aside time regularly to understand and remind yourself of expectations related to the Healthy Elon Commitment and Shared Accountability, as well as expectations for each of your courses, including how the course will run, policies for attendance and engagement, norms for using webcams, how to alert your faculty member for COVID-related absences and more.
There are a number of campus support resources designed to support your learning, health and well-being. If you figure out how to proactively connect to them now, you’ll have the information you need to reach out later. Reaching out to your faculty and support resources may help you reconnect if you are placed in quarantine as transitions to and from periods of quarantine can be disorienting.
We are all facing a lot of unknowns, and things may feel out of control sometimes. Even during times of disruption, following proven strategies will help you learn and succeed.
- Take care of your well-being first.
- Try to be patient with yourself, your classmates, and your instructors.
- Make a plan, set your goals and a schedule. Be willing to adjust when things don’t go according to plan.
Reflect on the Previous Semester
Reflect on what strategies worked for you in the previous semester and which strategies weren’t as helpful. It’s more important than ever to double down on the strategies that are producing results for you and set aside strategies that aren’t paying dividends.
Stay Organized and Keep Track of your Coursework
Determining a strategy for keeping up with due dates, assignments, and class location (some meeting in person, some meeting online) can help you stay on track.
- Keep a calendar, make a schedule or create a list of work for your courses to help provide structure and keep you motivated. Visit the Student Resources page from Learning Assistance for resources on time management, including how to use Kanban boards to visualize your work. This page also includes helpful techniques for staying organized and tracking work, along with planning templates, calendar templates, and more. Learning Strategies Tutors in Learning Assistance can help students develop skills to stay organized. Visit this page to learn more and schedule an appointment.
- Be sure to include time for exercise and self-care.
Figure out the Right Pace
Give yourself more time than you think you need to do the reading, homework and assignments, or figure out the technology. Access campus resources for learning, such as Belk Library, the Writing Center and Technology support, early (and often) for projects that involve research, writing, and multimedia creation. Staff are available to support you in the earliest stages of this work, including brainstorming, finding resources, drafting, revising, proofing and finalizing the work.
Learn and Engage
Most classes for winter term and spring semester will be held in-person or hybrid mode, similar to the models used by faculty during Fall Semester. If you are enrolled in a fully online class, that will be indicated in OnTrack. Otherwise, you should plan on attending class in person, unless you have remote accommodations. Your instructors will provide instruction related to attendance.
Physical distancing or course design may mean you meet some portions of your class face-to-face and others virtually. Faculty may also hold class outside in campus green spaces or in open-sided tents — some of which have heating and WiFi access. No matter your physical location, strategize on how you can best use class time to learn. Some faculty may ask for volunteers to serve as a facilitator to help students joining remotely to help connect to the class. Be willing to assist, as you’ll want the same when you join remotely.
Attend Class Virtually
There may be times when you need to join a class virtually (due to a hybrid model, quarantine, isolation or illness), or you may be enrolled in a fully online course. Creating an environment where you can engage (just as you would in a face-to-face classroom) is important.
- Choose a comfortable place that allows you to focus on your class and minimizes distractions. This could be in your residence hall/apartment room, a study room or nook in Belk Library or the Koenigsberger Learning Center, an empty classroom, or another quiet space on campus (the Great Hall, study nooks in Sankey or other academic buildings, the Reading Room in Lindner, the library in Mooney, etc.).
- If you are joining class from a shared space like your room, talk with your roommate, suitemates and apartment-mates early on in the semester to set some ground rules for how you’ll join virtual classes from this shared space.
- In some cases, a classroom space may be available for students in fully online courses; your instructor will let you know whether that is true for your course. You should follow all classroom safety protocols, if you choose to join your online class from there.
- Consider purchasing your own headset with headphones and a built-in microphone, allowing you to hear better, make your voice clearer to others, and reduce ambient noise when you unmute your mic. Don’t forget to mute your mic when you aren’t speaking. If you are joining your class through Microsoft Teams, this platform has a feature for live captioning that you may find helpful.
- Faculty may talk with the class early in the semester about expectations related to using your webcam. Follow those expectations and communicate with your faculty member when you have concerns.
- Student feedback from the fall indicated that students want to see their classmates and feel more engaged when they do, so keep your video camera turned on, if possible, to allow your instructor and classmates to see you and each other. Consider turning off your self-camera view, if it makes you feel awkward and using a virtual background to reduce background distractions for others. (ex. Your classmates may be distracted by your roommate being in the background. Utilize the virtual backgrounds that are available in video conferencing platforms, find one online, or be creative and create your own.)
- Learn about best practices for utilizing video conferencing platforms, like Zoom, Teams and Webex.
- Close programs, browser tabs, chat windows and other unnecessary distractions on your computer. Put your phone aside.
- Make the most of this synchronous experience by taking notes just as you would in-person.
- If you discover your Wi-Fi connection is weak or unreliable, consider finding an alternate location. If you live on-campus and are trying to connect from your residence hall room, report the issue to the Technology Service Desk.
Find a regular study space
Choose a comfortable place that allows you to focus on your schoolwork and to minimize distractions. If you like to study in groups, try a virtual or phone-based study session with your group.
In this hybrid, blended and online environment, your study habits may need to change. If your time is less structured, you might be more tempted to multitask. Although many people think they can do multiple things at once, research tells us otherwise. Multitasking can make assignments take longer and tire out your brain, leading to mistakes and less learning. Consider using the Pomodoro method and the Pomofocus app to avoid multitasking and increase focus while single-tasking.
Make the most of pre-recorded video lectures
Pre-recorded online lectures or narrated slides provide important course content. Continue to take notes as you would in person. Although it might be tempting to watch recordings at a faster speed — don’t. Research shows that playback speed of 1.5x can lower your retention and result in lower scores. Some may find the use of closed captioning helpful: For videos that you watch through Kaltura, LinkedIn and YouTube, you can turn on the closed captioning feature.
Set goals for yourself and for collaborations
Goals help provide direction and allow you to measure your progress. Consider your short-term goals (this semester) as well as your long-term goals and values. Try to break major assignments into manageable chunks. Tell study partners about your goals so they can hold you accountable or write them on post-it notes or a white board, so you have visual reminders to help you focus. For group projects, clarify goals and expectations (how you’ll meet, who is doing what, and by when) with everyone at the beginning, and revisit those as the project develops.
Stay in touch with your instructors
Ask questions. Reach out if you are falling behind. Take advantage of virtual office hours, or email or schedule a phone or video conferencing conversation with your instructors, especially if you have questions or are having trouble keeping up with assignments. Communicate with your instructor to clarify due dates, instructions on assignments, and expectations on collaboration with classmates. If you are placed into quarantine or isolation, openly communicate with your faculty members (as well as your advisor and/or on-campus employment supervisor). This open communication will be helpful as we support you through this time. You’ll find contact information and office hours for your instructor listed in the syllabus or on Moodle.
Stay in touch with your classmates
Use a video conferencing platform like Zoom, Teams or Webex or a group texting app to set up study groups or work on group projects. Many blended/hybrid courses require you to interact through video, collaborative software or other online tools. You can also connect with classmates to form study groups or talk through a tough problem. When you are working on a group project, be sure to discuss expectations for how you’ll work together effectively, including your expectations for cameras, roles or using technological tools to help you collaborate on and manage projects, especially if you or other group members are working remotely.