Skip to Main Content

Academic Support


Learning Skills and Strategies

Learning strategies are ways to understand, remember, and apply the knowledge you learn.

Online Learning

Successful online learning requires you to create structure for yourself.

If your classes don't require you to be online at a specific time, you may not feel the need to structure your life around your coursework. To be successful, adjust your strengths and develop strategies to complete assignments and prepare for tests and exams. 

Time Management and Procrastination

Develop Habits to Manage your Workload

1. Treat an online course like a “real” course by devoting consistent chunks of time to the class

Online courses are attractive because they offer flexibility. However, that flexibility can sometimes cause students to delay working through the course material, thinking they’ll find time later in the week. Online coursework requires you to make the time for it. 

2. Review the course outline and create a schedule

Using a calendar or term planner, create mini-deadlines for completing assignments, to avoid last minute rushes.

Using a weekly schedule, plan consistent blocks of time during the week that you can devote to coursework, and stick to this schedule. 

Make daily “to do” lists to assign priorities to each of your tasks. 

3. Avoid Procrastination

If you find yourself procrastinating, it could mean you're unmotivated, but it could also mean you're overwhelmed.

For small tasks, it's important to think long-term. Do your small tasks contribute to your long-term goal? Work on smaller tasks for at least five minutes. Often, this will help you find the momentum you need to complete a task. If your task is a regular weekly task, plan to do it at the same time each week.

For bigger tasks, break them down into small, manageable chunks. Don't expect perfection, and make sure you ask for help. 

Study Space

Set Up a Productive Workspace

When creating your study environment, ask yourself:

  • Do you have enough space to spread out your textbooks and notes?
  • Do you have enough light?
  • Is your chair comfortable?
  • Have you removed distractions (e.g. cell phone, TV, etc.)?
  • Is it too noisy, or too quiet?
  • Is your space cluttered or not tidy enough?

Set up an appropriate study space that is separate from your "home space," if possible.

Prepare for Class

When accessing online classes, prepare your mind the same way you would for face-to-face classes. Dressing the same way you would for an in-person class can give you a sense of purpose and help differentiate between home and class.

Ensure that necessary materials (pens, papers, textbooks, etc.) are easily accessible. Make sure to have a charger handy and situate yourself close to a power outlet. Sit at a desk, table, or counter instead of on your couch or bed, if possible.

Use a mouse and separate screen, if available. 

Develop a Routine

Align your routine with that of your family members and fellow housemates, to allow you to study effectively with minimal interruptions. By sharing your schedule, this will inform others when you are in class or studying. 

If you can't ensure a quiet space while you are attending your online classes, remember to mute your microphone so you don't disturb others. You can always switch your microphone on when you need to speak. 

Top Tips

  • Find an area of your home that will be your work space while you're a student. It should be a place where you feel comfortable and can concentrate. It can be a room, a desk, or simply a particular chair.
  • Communicate to the people you live with that this is your space. Indicate that while you're in this space, you'll be busy with schoolwork.
  • Add something related to your schoolwork to your space.
  • Add something inspiring to your space. You're going to be spending a lot of time here, so make it inviting, encouraging, and comfortable.

Online Reading

Students are reading online through digital devices more than ever before. It's important to develop online/digital reading strategies to ensure that you're engaging deeply with the digital text in the same way you would when reading information printed on paper.

Those who prefer to read print material often do so because it's an interactive, linear experience; they can flip pages, remember where information was located on a page, highlight, and write in margins. In contrast, digital reading is non-linear because it takes place on a flat screen; reading online often takes more self-control and focus. 

The key to reading deeply in any format is to ensure you:

Focus and organize main ideas

Often instructors will list learning objectives to help you to focus on the key ideas that are being taught. Think about:

  • Why am I being asked to read this?
  • What am I supposed to get out of this?
  • How will I remember what I just read?

Engage with the text in meaningful ways

When reading online, it's important to disrupt the pattern of skipping around and getting lost in the big wide world of the internet. Break down complex text by taking notes, either with pen and paper or on your device. You can often use a notes feature on your device (or convert the document, article, or book to PDF) so that you can take notes and highlight while you read the text. 

Recall information to ensure you understand it

Check that you can recall what you just read as you go along. Try reading something, then saying it aloud. Writing brief summary notes can help with recall. Synthesizing and summarizing the material in your own words ensure that you understand the material and have given it deep thought.  

Reflect on what you've learned

When you've finished reading, review the material you highlighted or took note of. Reflect on key words you identified, and any thoughts or questions. Reflect on how you might use this information in the future, especially for an assignment, essay, or exam. 

Reading Tips

1. Highlight and tabulate

Highlight and mark important information so that you can find it again later. Don’t highlight too much. You want the important points to stand out. 

2. Write in the margins

Annotate your text material with comments, questions, and examples.

3. Read out loud

Rather than reading silently in your head, read your material out loud, either to someone else, or to an invisible audience.

4. Explain what you've read to someone else

Relaying information to other people helps you understand it better. It can also help you notice concepts that you haven’t quite grasped or understood.

5. Test yourself

After you’ve read a chapter, test yourself by trying to write down the key points without checking the text. 

6. Learn about the SQ4R Method

The important point of reading, whether it is through digital or print, is to ensure you have a deep understanding and ability to remember the material. The SQ4R method may help you develop your reading skills so you can understand and remember what you've read.

Online Exam Preparation

With online exams, it's important to understand the format of the exam, specifications, required software, and the time allotted. Exams may be scheduled at a particular time or open for a range of time, from a few hours to a few days. If you're unsure, ask your instructor. 

Technology Considerations

When preparing for and writing an online exam be sure to:

  • Check your device, Internet connection, and browser.
  • Understand and be comfortable with the process to access and login to the exam.
  • Learn how to navigate through the exam.
  • Know what you need to do after you've answered a question; are there extra steps to take in order to save your answers or submit the exam when you've completed it?

Many online exams at Red Deer Polytechnic use Blackboard. Find information about LockDown Browser and Respondus Monitor.

Exam Preparation

If your exam is only open for a few hours, you should prepare as you would for an in-person exam. Check here for exam preparation tips and strategies. 

If your exam is "open book," be sure to spend time prior to the exam to organize your notes and resources so you can easily find information when needed. This will prevent you from wasting time.

If your exam is open for a few days, treat it like a final project or essay. Before the exam is released, do some research and preparation. Be sure to budget time before you start your exam to do an outline. Before you submit the exam, budget time to proofread and edit your work.

Resources to Print