As remote learning at UCF continues through all Summer 2020 semesters, it’s crucial now more than ever to strive for success in online courses. Even though the coronavirus has affected many aspects of our daily lives, it’s important to focus on doing your best with the things you can control.

At this time faculty are encouraged to be flexible and understanding with students and academic work due to the difficult circumstances. Students who are facing personal challenges can reach out to Counseling and Psychological Services for support and Student Care Services to discuss academic impacts. Both students and faculty who are dealing with financial hardships at this time can apply for aid through Student Emergency Fund, Student Housing Insecurity Fund and Employee Relief Fund, respectively.

The university recognizes the transition to online classes isn’t easy for every course, but there are some basic strategies and resources that can help you adapt to this learning format.

One resource at UCF students can connect to for help are success coaches through the UCF Online Connect Center. If you have a question, a success coach likely has an answer — but if they don’t they can connect students with the appropriate contacts for help.

“We pinpoint the contributing factor(s) to students’ challenges or concerns, review available resources and collaborate with them on solutions that best meets each individual’s needs,” says Jennifer Gonzalez, a UCF success coach. “Even when students are not experiencing anything negative, we’re here to support and guide them to reach their short- and long-term goals.”

Gonzalez shares the following tips and resources to help make the most out of digital learning:

What can every student do to set themselves up for success?

  • Access courses right when they begin to review the syllabus and outline every assignment deadline.
  • Check Canvas and Knights email multiple times per week for any updates to the course. I prefer everyday but four to five times a week is sufficient for most classes.

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What is a helpful method for managing multiple online courses?

Create a schedule with due dates using a color-coding system to designate not only which course the assignment belongs to but also what kind of assignment it is, such as quizzes, exams, discussion posts, papers and projects.

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What are some tips for faculty to better support students through online classes?

  • Practice open communication by sending out emails and posting announcements within Canvas with clear directions and expectations. Faculty should also provide up-to-date contact information and office hours to allow students to easily reach them as needed.
  • Faculty can always reach out to the Center for Distributed Learning for assistance with the development and implementation of their online courses. There is the Keep Teaching site for faculty that is specifically designed to provide guidance while providing instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic. I also suggest they read Teaching at its Best by Linda B. Nilson (4thedition) for additional guidance.
  • Inform students of commonly used resources within and outside of UCF.

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What are some great online resources to help with coursework?

  1. SARC: UCF’s Student Academic Resource Center is offering supplemental instruction, Peer tutoring and academic coaching online via Zoom at this time.
  2. University Writing Center: If you need help writing any sort of paper, the UWC is offering online writing consultations via Zoom. Be sure to schedule your appointment at least two hours in advance.
  3. UCF Libraries: While UCF Libraries are physically closed to the public at this time, you can still connect with a librarian for help through the Ask a Librarian feature online. UCF Libraries also has a resource guide that provides access to the library’s catalog, textbooks, research guide, external resources and more.
  4. LinkedIn Learning: This online educational platform helps you discover and develop business, technology-related and creative skills through more than 12,000 expert-led courses and 5,000 videos, which also help you build your resume. All UCF students, faculty and staff can access it for free and learn more here.
  5. Google Scholar: Search for academic journals, research articles and other scholarly literature to help you complete assignments through this free search engine.
  6. Khan Academy: This nonprofit provides free courses and personalized help for specific disciplines, qualifying exam preparations and even advice for college and career experiences.
  7. YouTube: Whether you’re a professor looking for multimedia to add to your teaching materials or a student seeking supplemental information, YouTube has endless options. There are even channels dedicated to learning, such as Ted-Ed and Crash Course.

Why is it important for both faculty and students to stay engaged with online classes?

There are plenty of research articles that validate online learning as a legitimate teaching and learning modality, and it can be effective with various student populations. By faculty staying engaged, it facilitates learning in a manner that will actually be retained and applied by students, rather than regurgitated information just for the sake of completing their assignments.

For students, the skills learned in a digital classroom, such as time management, organization and technological savviness, will be beneficial to their success in a professional setting. By consistently logging in, reading all the assignment material in a timely manner and being intentional with the effort they put into the class, this will reflect not only in their grades but how well they end up learning the material. They might be surprised to know how much easier it is to complete the assignments when they break it down into smaller pieces, re-read the material, take notes and make connections with real-world issues.

I think the beauty of online courses is the flexibility and ability to be tailored to various learning styles. It just requires work from different parties to make that possible by evaluating and making adjustments when appropriate. For example, faculty tweaking a syllabus or students trying different study habits. Success coaches can also enhance the learning experience by reviewing gaps and barriers for students and formulating a plan to address those points. Through our frequent check-ins we can gauge the efficacy of the plan and modify steps as needed, while providing students with encouragement.

For more information about UCF Online’s Success Coaches, visit ucf.edu/online/online-student-resources/ucf-online-connect-center