Tips for Online Learning

The Information Revolution Doesn't End

By NYC Wanderer (Kevin Eng) - originally posted to Flickr as Gutenberg Bible, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Tips for Online Learning

It seems likely that at some point in your life, you will have to learn something online - take an entire course, get a certificate, something. This has become a permanent and expanding part of the education landscape. These are some tips to help.

I wrote the original version of this when we went online during the Spring 2020 semester. I've modified it some (obviously), but kept the core message of tips to succeed in online learning and how it differs from taking a class face-to-face.

Stay organized. Communication is harder. With online it can be harder for both instructor and student to find a rhythm.

Technology We are Using

Moodle 3.9

Microsoft 365 (formally Office 365)

Doodle to schedule office hour meetings

Podcast (Google and Apple both have podcast apps, but there are a lot of them out there. I use Pocketcast)


This Google Site

Set Goals

  • Figure out your class content

  • Figure out the technology and techniques you need to take the class

The first realization should be that online learning is hard. It has pros and cons, but it also means that it is up to you to stay on top of things. You can lose a lot of the context that campus and classroom can bring. Your priorities should be:

  • Getting organized

  • Having a place to work (I won’t address this, but you know what I mean).

  • Looking at your toolkit

  • Keeping in touch with classmates and professors

  • Continuing to make use of university resources

  • These are not necessarily in order

Here at St. Bonaventure, I’m recommending you make use of the MS Office tools because we are a Microsoft campus. Log into and look at all the apps. Go to your App Store of choice and search for Microsoft. It’s a lot. You can use them across devices.

Get Organized

  • Your study skills are at least as important online as face-to-face.

  • Check out Abby Covert’s How to Make Sense of Any Mess for organizing information

  • Thomas Frank’s YouTube channel is a great refresh on study skills and getting organized

  • Organize your day, week, and semester. I’m recommending you use an electronic calendar because things are in a state of flux so ease of editing is important and events like Zoom meetings are being scheduled on the Outlook calendar. Include class times, due dates (which can also be done are reminders), meetings, and work.

  • Chunk your day into times that you will get stuff done. Don’t try to squeeze your coursework in between getting other stuff done. Schedule time to read, write, and such.

Your Toolbox

  • Your phone. It’s not really a phone, it’s a personal computer so treat it as such, In the current situation, you should think of your phone as a tool for getting work done. I wrote the first draft of this in a Google Doc on my phone. The software (apps) you put on your phone matter. There is a reason why the internet is obsessed with productivity apps. Put the productivity apps you need on your phone if you can, including Outlook, the Microsoft Office app that combines Word, Excel and others, and, probably, the SharePoint app.

  • Your PC is like your phone but with a physical keyboard and a bigger screen. Again, put as much of the Office suite apps on it as you can or that you think you will need. Syncing across devices can be helpful, especially if you are collaborating, but it is also less secure. I regularly backup and collaborate on OneDrive (the Microsoft version of Google Drive and Dropbox), but I don’t put things on it that need security.

  • Zoom. We are all Zoomers now. Zoom will integrate with Office. Add it to Outlook to make scheduling easier.

  • Moodle learning management systems can be fidgety but it is secure and does some things really well.

Some Other Tools to Consider

  • Trello. Trello is a kanban board planning. You can work individually or collaborate. This is great for visualizing how to do a project. The Microsoft version is Planner. If you like sticky notes you will love this.

  • Slack. Collaborate in channels organized like hashtags. This is a nice piece of software commonly used in tech and business. MS Teams is a similar app. Both Slack and Microsoft Teams can be used across platforms - pc, phone, tablet, web - and are rapidly adding features.

  • A note-taking app. Most phones have a simple note-taking app built-in. This is really helpful in remembering stuff. Some note-taking apps are Microsoft OneNote, Google Keep, Simple Note, Notion (free upgrade if you have an educational email), Evernote (freemium), and a whole slew of others.

  • A to-do list. This might be part of your note-taking app or a separate experience. Most note-taking apps include a format for a todo list. However, I use a separate app. Microsoft ToDo integrates nicely with Outlook and has a lot of useful functions like setting times for reminders and having different lists for different reasons. Again, the internet abounds with tasks apps, but Google Tasks works well if you use Google calendar.

  • Cloud storage. OneDrive. Dropbox. Google Drive. OneDrive is included with your Office account. Great for backing up and collaborating.

Figure Out Your Information Flow

  • We’re all being bombarded with information right now - Zoom meetings, Zoom lectures, e-mail always email, texts, notifications. The issue is how do you manage that inflow, triage it into a list of tasks, get stuff done, and go to bed at a reasonable hour having binged a little Star Trek or Walking Dead and done some light reading.

Find Resources

  • The library. If you can't go into the library, visit it on the web. Libraries, including Friedsam, have great web pages. Use them.

  • Google. If you don’t know how to do something, Google it. Just Google it. Google.

  • YouTube. Avoid radicalization on the fringe channels. YouTube is full of videos on how to use all the tools mentioned above. All these companies have YouTube channels. It’s worth watching a 10-minute tutorial if it saves you time and frustration that comes from not understanding how to do something.

  • Wikipedia. Use it to fact check. Is it perfect? No. But it’s good and it is responsible. See the above comment about avoiding online radicalization.

  • Wikimedia. Stuff you can use that won’t violate copyright law.

  • NY Times. Stay informed but not alarmed. SBU provides a subscription. If you haven’t signed up now is the time to do so. Info on the library page.

  • Social media. Finally, find places on social media that are helpful. There are lots of people organizing on Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms to help each other out. Join those groups. It’s good.