Counselling Success Tips for On-Line Learning

This article is written by Kaveh Farrokh (Ph.D.), Counsellor & Learning Specialist at Langara College Counselling Department.


As more post-secondary institutions offer on-line learning options, below are Eight success strategies for adapting to on-line learning …

[1] Old Fashioned Time Management and the “Reality” of Your Course

Remember this: Your Course is as “Real” as any “in-the-Classroom” Course! However, with on-line courses we are not in a structured environment (the classroom) with a regular (Monday-Friday) schedule. This places responsibility upon us to hold ourselves accountable for test-preparation and other course tasks that need to get done. Since we do not have that “structure” (the classroom, regular schedules) we need to make sure that we remind ourselves that the course is “Real”. For that, Time Management helps us to keep the course “Real” for us:

a] Identify your Deadlines … Read More

b] Spread out your studying as evenly as possible to avoid cramming – this can be done even if you are just weeks away from finals/exams … Read More

c] Set clear daily priorities for your tasks … Read More

d] See more Learning Tips in [4] below

For more quick tips on Time Management click on the Langara College Student Success resource link for videos and handouts:

[2] Your Study/Work Space: Keep it Neat – Keep it Organized

Getting organized is a great way to achieve success and to reduce stress – which in turn allows us to focus and concentrate much more effectively.

Organize your study/work space in a way that is convenient, practical and comfortable with you having quick and easy access to the materials you need.

There are two types of workspaces:

a] Your physical desk/workspace (where you keep your paper notes, books, ones, etc.) and …

b] Your virtual workspace which is your computer/laptop. This is where you store your files, etc. Make sure that you rationally and practically organize your cyber files, which saves you time by giving you quick and easier access to these. Also, have backups of your files at all times (extra drives, DropBox, etc.) – and – Make sure these are secure.

Getting organized is good for your brain health (especially your Frontal Cortex) – so getting organized is also very good for your wellness!

[3] Tune Out Distractions

The number one challenge for us is focusing on the task we need to do. Several studies have found that a large number of students engage in excessive texting, e-mailing, and engagement with on-line platforms even while they are in class, studying at home or in the library. The overall result of these is decreased academic performance, diminished focus, concentration, learning, memory and (according to a number of recent studies – some as far back as 2005!) lowered IQ of up to 12 points!

Excessive texting and engagement with on-line platforms also have significant negative impacts on mood, emotions and thoughts – For more on managing your Wellness with respect to your smartphone and on-line platforms, read the counselling Department’s new workshop write-up:

Your Smartphone and Your Wellness

[4] Upgrade Your Learning and Test-Preparation … and DO NOT CRAM!

There are a variety of quick tips you can use that are highly effective AND readily available from the Langara College Student Success resource page – to get your Quick Tips, click on the below links for videos and handouts:

For more resources, visit the Langara College Counselling page and go to “Student Success”

Below are three effective techniques which you can see also in the Learning and memory links above …

  • Distribute Your Learning: Organize your Learning into Manageable Chunks and Learn these piece by piece … Read More
  • Self-Testing: give yourself quick and short timed quizzes … Read More
  • Pomodoro Strategy: Study in shorter study chunks (for example: 25 minutes) with breaks in-between (suggest 5 minutes) … Read More

[5] Adapt-Adapt-Adapt

Two main things to adapt to are the Tech stuff and course requirements stuff…

First, make sure to be clear as to what is expected from you in the technological requirements of the course (the tek stuff). If unclear in any way make sure to get answers to these questions asap, through the prof as well as any other resources available as outlined in your course syllabus (Brightspace, D2L, etc.).

Second, depending on your prof, you may be required to engage in virtual group projects and/or to write individual papers, etc. Make sure you are clear about these items… if not, make sure to contact your prof asap for clarification. This also somewhat overlaps with item [7] further below …

[6] Participate and Collaborate

Engage in on-line links with fellow students, which can be done through a variety of platforms, such as Facebook but also video chat venues (e.g Zoom, Facetime, etc. This of course makes logical sense with projects that require collaboration. However even if you are often engaged in more “solo” activities such as writing papers and preparing for exams, tests, etc. there are often a lot of concepts you need to learn (a concept is anything that can be tested for an exam). It is here where virtual study groups can often be highly effective, especially when you put several minds together to collaboratively learn concepts. These groups can also be very effective for exam preparation, notably with respect to brainstorming on possible questions (especially Why, What, How questions).

[7] If some Course Material is Unclear … Ask Questions from Your Prof

If there are any conceptual/theoretical items that do not make sense, make sure to contact your prof for questions. The longer we wait to address misunderstood concepts, the more our learning and performance will get compromised in the course. So, as always, be proactive and ask any questions you deem as important, as soon as possible. The sooner you clear up course-material misunderstandings, the more fun your learning will be which also reduces stress.

[8] Most Important: Your Wellness

The most important element in any scenario is our wellness: mental and physical. The Langara College Counselling Department has a number of articles outlining the relationships between your mental wellness and your sleep, diet as well as exercise.

As outlined in the above articles, sleep, diet and exercise have a profound impact on the following:

  • Focus and Concentration
  • Thoughts, Moods and Feelings
  • Learning and Memory

The centers in your brain involved in your feelings and overall happiness are the same as those wired for learning and memory … for more, see the Langara College Counselling Department write-up for the below workshop:

The Science of Happiness

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