Study Tips for Online Learning

We realize that no one planned on this kind of learning, but learning in online courses can be energizing and exciting.  We know some of you are on-campus doing hybrid and remote learning, while others of you are somewhere else.  You all have different needs, but the principles remain the same. We should all do our best to remain flexible and adjust as we need to adjust.  We are all, collectively and individually, feeling uncertain (and uneasy) about what “flexible” and “adjust” mean.  What we know is that everyone will need support and understanding as we navigate learning this semester.

The ideas below will help you think about ways to approach learning from wherever you are, whatever your situation.  Check out the OIT guide to remote learning for tips on using tools you have not used before and for links that you can use to test those tools.   

For off-campus students,  the library’s Guide to Off-campus Access and and overview of services available to students studying off-campus is very helpful.  On-campus students can use library tools are they normally would. 

If you have ideas or study tips that have worked for you that are not listed here, let us know and we will add them.  We can also answer questions that may arise as you figure out how to study and do assignments in this situation.  

Take a deep breath.  You have got this.

    • Use your Google calendar to tracks classes, meetings and appointments.  Setting up your Glow calendar to feed your Google calendar is an easy way to have everything in one place.
    • Take time to figure out how assignments are structured.
      • What are the due dates? 
      • How are you submitting your work? 
      • Are any quizzes or exams being offered virtually? 
      • What should you do if you need help? 
    • Is your professor offering virtual office hours? When and on what platform? 
    • Is there an online forum for asking questions? 
    • Is tutoring available for your course?  Are you able to use the writing workshop?
    • Will your professors use Glow, another app, or email to let you know what is happening in each of your courses, both for what is expected of you and when things need to be adjusted?
    • Is your professor asking you to use technology that you have not used  before?.  Check out the OIT guide to remote learning for tips on using tools you have not used before and for links that you can use to test those tools.
  • It is easy to rely on a daily/weekly routine when you are at Williams. If you are in a different setting, it is a good idea to stick to a routine where possible.  You can still benefit from keeping a regular schedule - waking up at the same time each day; roughly sticking to regular meal times.

    Some things to consider are

    • When are things due ? Schedule due dates for everything on some kind of calendaring system like Google calendar
      • Big deals: papers, projects, exams
      • Little assignments that quickly add up: problems sets, reading responses, discussion comments.  Group work will take more time to coordinate and do, so plan ahead for that, too.
      • When will you do this work?
      • Schedule your study/work sessions using your calendar.
      • Where will you do this work?
    • What do you need to share with those living in the same space as you about how they can support you during this time? Be sure to talk about your goals and the academic logistics you are navigating, so they better understand what remote learning means for you.
    • Try to make a good space within the place you are living for concentrating on the work you are doing.  Think about where you liked to study pre-pandemic and ask yourself what about the environment makes it a good space for you.  You may have to negotiate use of your preferred space with other members of the place you are living, so thinking about what space (and why and when) before you have the discussion with others could be helpful.
      • If you like working in a study carrel, see if you can build a similar space using boxes or chairs.  
      • If you like working at Tunnel, maybe you need some background noise like that provided from an online white noise generator.
      • Perhaps you need to change places in your space as you change tasks.  If this is true, what times are the places you like best available?   
      • What things (computer, papers, books, pens) do you need in order to do your work? Set them up in your workspace. If you do not have a dedicated workspace, having one box or bag with all of your things will help you stay organized.  Even better, consider having one box or bag per class.
    • Because you will be spending a lot of time in front of a screen, you will likely need time away from your screen.  What kinds of things do you enjoy? Go for a walk (if possible based on the public health situation where you are), bake, play board games, dance whenever you are able to take a break.


    The Flynn Chemical Education Research Group at the University of Ottawa has developed an online learning/work plan template that helps you think about your goals, your physical health, mental health, minimizing distractions, resources and work space and boundaries as you plan your tasks and your schedule.


  • The major difference between learning now than in a pre-pandemic environment is that will need to be more self-directed in allocating the time you need to do classwork. Try to establish new study habits early on.  Since you can't meet with classmates in study rooms or at Tunnel, set up Google Meet or Zoom study groups.  Even if you don't talk to each other, 

    Old habits to build on:

    • Organization: Staying organized is one of the biggest challenges of a learning in courses where you do not meet in person. Keep a calendar, weekly chart, or list of all the work you need to complete in each course, making sure to add in time to work long before an assignment is due.  Individual assignments may take longer to complete than they would on campus because of tools or resources. Synching the calendar your professors create in Glow with your Google calendar can be very helpful.
    • Ask questions:  When we attend classes in person, we generally ask questions, and get answers, in the moment.  This immediacy is not available when you are watching a recorded lecture or doing some other kind of learning activity without your professor.  Keep a running list of questions that arise as you do each assignment and be sure to ask those questions by email, on a Glow discussion board or in virtual office hours.  Once you get the answers to your questions, check them off the running list. Don’t wait until the last minute to ask for help.
    • Study Groups:  If you always study in groups, try a virtual or even phone-based study session with your group.
    • Netiquette: Familiarize yourself with the principles of netiquette as you build relationships with your peers and your professors.

    New habits to develop:

    • Time : Give yourself more time than you think you need to complete assignments. If you are off campus,  you may need time to learn new tools or access materials differently than when you are on campus.  Be sure to allow yourself the time you need to do your work plus some.
      • Think about working with others or setting up a schedule to recreate that. When that gets hard, see if you can even do fifteen minutes at a time. 
    • Study actively: avoid passive studying (re-reading your notes, textbook, or Powerpoints without taking notes), try

    And then there is group work, with its own issues when members of your group are not regularly seeing each other in class and other places around campus.

    • Don’t procrastinate.  Every person in your group is in a new learning situation for at least one course. The study parameters for each person will be different.  Allow time for your group to work within those parameters so each group member’s perspective will be included in the final outcome.
    • Set out a clear list of small goals and meet regularly by chat, text, video or in a discussion forum. 
    • Take notes in a shared doc so you can all contribute and follow along
    • Check on each other; if someone has been absent from your group meetings or chat, ask them directly if they’re still able to participate in the project. If you aren’t getting responses within a day or two, let your professor know.  We don’t want students who are ill, or who have ill family members, to fall through the cracks.
  • While the Williams College honor code still applies to all work done online, your instructor's specific expectations about collaboration, citation, and resources may change (or remain the same) with the move to online coursework and assessments. If you are at all unclear about these expectations, please contact your instructor. We also encourage you to contact the dean's office, which remains open virtually, should you encounter any difficulties.

    • The Writing Workshop will be open this semester beginning September 20. Please use TutorTrac, as you would normally do, to make an appointment ahead of time. To drop in, go into TutorTrac to see if anyone is working at that time. Click on the link under the tutor’s name, and if Google Meet says there is only one person in the “Hangout,” then the tutor is available for you. If it says there are two people in the Hangout, then someone has already dropped in ahead of you and you can’t join the room. This is the virtual equivalent of stopping by the workshop in Sawyer and seeing the door closed and two people working together inside. Just as in the library, you are welcome to wait until the student leaves the Hangout and the tutor is available again. As long as there is enough time remaining in their shift, they will be able to work with you. 
    • The Peer Academic Support Network will begin remote tutoring on Monday, Sept 14.  Stay tuned to update. Please use TutorTrac to make an appointment; if you see there is an appointment time available while you are logged in to TutorTrac, please feel free to “drop-in” to see a tutor using the link under the tutor’s name.  If the “join” screen says there are already two people in the room, someone has dropped-in ahead of you. Please wait your turn or go back to TutorTrac to schedule an appointment at a later time.
    • OIT is available to respond to questions and help with problems starting immediately. Many courses will use new technology toolsets. As soon as possible, use the links in the “Be Prepared” section of the Keep Learning Guide to make sure your computer is configured correctly and you can access them. Email stchelp​@williams​.edu if you encounter any problems.
    • Many library resources and services are available remotely.  Online resources (e-books, e-journals, streaming services, databases) are accessible by login in with your Williams login and password. . Most importantly, Sawyer and Schow librarians are available to help you identify and access sources you need. You may contact librarians through the Ask A Librarian service (chat and email) or you may schedule a virtual research consultation with a subject librarian.
    • IWS is open for remote appointments with students who are on-campus; for others, we strongly encourages students to utilize Talkspace  (free to Williams students) – unlimited messaging therapy with a licensed therapist and one live video session per month.  You can access this service through a secure platform anywhere in the world that has internet access. Please register here.
    • The Office of Accessible Education is available to work with students with academic accommodations or those who need changes to their accommodations.  It is important to remember that how your accommodations are offered may look different or may already be naturally included in an online learning situation.If you have questions about your current accommodations, or think that you may eligible for other accommodations please contact G. L. Wallace ([email protected]), Director of the Office of Accessible Education.
    • The Chaplain's Office is open .  All of the Chaplains have office hours and are happy to work with you on spiritual practice during those.
    •  The '68 Center for Career Exploration is available and committed to work with students virtually. We are here to support students' summer and post-graduate aspirations. Internships and job postings can be sourced through Handshake and can even be filtered by "remote work" opportunities. Our friendly advisors are scheduling virtual appointments can be scheduled via Handshake, which also features our spring events calendar. Another virtual tool, EphLink, was built for remote connections. Join the community, fill out a profile, and start connecting with alumni! Please email [email protected] with questions or concerns.
    • You should not be working at your computer for 8-10 hours per day.  If you find the remote learning workload difficult to handle, please reach out to the Dean’s Office for support.
  • This is a crazy, weird time to be living, much less to be trying to maintain some sense of normalcy around your course work. Recognize that you will have feelings and will need support and encouragement. First and foremost, take care of yourself and those around you.

    • Sleeping well, getting some kind of exercise (did you hear about this guy who ran a marathon on his balcony?), eating healthily, and staying hydrated are important parts of managing your stress.  The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center has a list of 6 things to do when you are quarantined at home.
    • There are apps and programs to help you do mindfulness and gratitude exercises, including the Greater Good In Action Center at UC Berkeley and Prof. Rhie’s Guided Meditations.
    • We are ALL going to make mistakes in the work that we do as the world outside of our learning shifts this semester.  Recognize that it is okay to make those mistakes by practicing self-compassion.
    • Stay in a growth mindset.  We are all adapting to new circumstances (sometimes on a daily basis).  Remember that being successful in this situation has as much to do with your effort as it has to do with your ability.
    • Don’t let yourself get over-frustrated with yourself or your work. If you have medical appointments, are unwell, or have family needs, slow/low internet capabilities, older incompatible devices, limited access to a device, or are experiencing mental health concerns that are impacting your ability to complete your work, tell your instructor or the Dean’s Office so that they can offer ideas and solutions.  
  • In this time of physical distance from friends and families, social connection can help our mental and emotional wellbeing.  Stay connected.  

    • Talk with the people close to you about what you will need to continue to make this a successful school experience under these conditions. And ask them what they might need from you.
    • Use chat or some other platform to share tips and info for your courses, catch up with friends, or just talk about what’s going on.
    • Collaborate with your peers when possible, and use the “elaboration” study strategy (perhaps with Peer Tutors?) to explain concepts to test your understanding.
    • Go to online study sessions when you are able so you can connect with others about what is happening in your courses.
    • Stay aware of Williams resources and ask for help when you need it.
    • Watch Daily Messages for other ways to connect with the community.

Please focus on doing the best you can.  Having patience with yourself and with others – there is so much that is out of our control – will help us all.  Take good care of yourself. You’ve got this!