Online Learners

How To Do Well In An Online Course

Contacting Your Instructor

Follow your instructors direction for contact. Many courses will already have modes of contact listed, a good place to check is the syllabus or Canvas.

If you are starting a new course: Try contacting your instructor in the first two weeks of the course to introduce yourself and ask any questions you have.

If you are continuing an in person course: If you are ill, contact your instructor via the recommended channels as soon as you can. If you are concerned or have questions at the midpoint of your studies this is a good time to contact your instructor for the best course of action and avoid any academic penalties.

Review the Requirements for Your Course

Make sure you review your course requirements, whether it is a course that has been moved online, UBC Distance Education course, or a Massive Open Online Course.

Find the requirements in the course syllabus, which may be on your Learning Management System, Canvas, or on the course website.

Many instructors are using Zoom at UBC to connect through audio and video. Read the Student Guide to Zoom* and Student Guide to Microsoft Teams* for more information.

Set up a study schedule. You’ll find some links to practical study tips on this site. See Managing Your Time Resources, below!

Follow the Schedule and Format for Submitting Assignments

Keep in mind that learning technologies may not be flexible with late submissions the way that instructors can sometimes be. If you miss a deadline and cannot submit, contact your instructor to see if you can turn in a late assignment another way. Instructors can refuse to grade assignments submitted in a batch. Late, batched assignment submissions too close to the exam date will jeopardize your ability to write the final exam and may result in a failed standing in the course.

Find out the acceptable file types and maximum file size allowed for any technology you’re using, well before your due date. File type and size constraints are common challenges students encounter when submitting assignments online. It will be stressful to be caught off-guard at the last minute.

Please consult with your instructor if you are having trouble keeping to a schedule or submitting a file type of assignment.

Tip: Many applications let you save or export what you make in different formats (PDFs are generally a safe bet) as well as minimize file size.

Info: In Canvas, assignment file uploads are limited to 5GB and media uploads to 500MB. If you can submit using the Canvas text editor, the Kaltura (rainbow sun) icon in the text editor toolbar will let you include media up to 2GB.

Keep a Copy of the Assignments You Submit

Save copies of assignments you submit including assignments you write directly in application textboxes. Having a backup helps if there are issues with a submission. Organize your files into course folders, and name them with meaningful, descriptive words.

Example of file naming for Dorian Gray Econ 101 Course Work. Econ 101-Assignment1_Gray, Econ101-Assignment2_Gray, Econ 101-GroupWork1_Gray

That way you if an assignment gets lost or damaged en route, you can re-submit it. You should allow at least two weeks for assignments to be received, graded and returned to you.

Be a Good Scholar

Part of your responsibility as a student is acknowledging the work of others as you learn from them.

Learn about academic integrity and what you can do to stay clear of problems with plagiarism. Be aware of UBC’s policies and stay on top of this.

Learn about copyright. Check out common student questions about copyright.

Learn about what students are doing to support open learning.

Examination Prep

Test Yourself

Try self-enrolling in our practice Canvas exam. Explore different exam types: using lockdown browser, webwork, proctored exams and more.

Check out our guide for Online Exams! It has handouts and guides for different exam formats, troubleshooting and prep tips.

Your exam schedule will be made available to you via the Student Service Centre (SSC). Learn more about off campus exams here.

You can review exam requirements for general distance education here.

All assignments must be completed and submitted before you take the examination.

Use the Library

First, you’ll need to get a UBCcard. Learn about Library services available to you in this Library Guide for Distance Education Students.

Access to UBC Library Online

Obtain your UBC Card (if you don’t have one)
Register for services online or in-person.
Access Library Resources Online
As a UBC student, you have full access to the wide range of print and electronic collections through the Library from home, as well as in person. To get instant access to online journals, indexes & databases, and other Library licensed resources from off-campus locations you can use Connect to Library Resources
Click for help with Library resources login.
You will need: Your Campus-Wide Login (CWL) OR your UBC card’s barcode and PIN. Don’t know or forgot your pin number? You can request a new PIN at Forgot Your PIN?

Access Resources for your Course

You can access licensed resources that have been reserved for your courses using the Library Online Course Reserves (LOCR). In most courses, you will access LOCR from Canvas. See UBC’s LOCR student guide for more information.

Need More Help?
Refer to the UBC Library’s Guide for Distance Students for information about online services for research and interlibrary loans.

Research Help

Start your research by using the Library’s search tool: Summon. Summon is a one-stop search tool that allows you to search for print and e-books, journal articles, statistical data, government documents, theses/dissertations and much more all at once. For more information on searching, how to narrow down topics, and more check out the Library Skills Tutorials.

Ask an Expert and Get Writing Help

Library Help

Every branch of the Library has staff members who can help you find what you need.

Can’t find an article for your term paper? Don’t hesitate to ask a Librarian using Askway for assistance via email, online chat, or by phone. The online chat is available day, evenings, and weekends during regular school terms.

Writing Help


Connect with a UBC Writing Consultant [*All Writing Consultations are currently available for booking online.]
The Centre for Writing and Scholarly Communication supports a diverse community of writers at UBC, at various levels of proficiency, across many types of undergraduate and graduate writing situations: academic, creative, professional, and technical. Book a one-on-one appointment with a peer writing consultant to support your writing projects.

Write Away

Connect with a Tutor
WriteAway is a groundbreaking eTutoring service that provides free online writing assistance by connecting learners seamlessly to a network of tutors and resources.   WriteAway, BC’s first eService for collaborative online tutoring, was developed in cooperation with BCcampus, the BC Electronic Library Network (BC ELN), and Irving K. Barber Learning Centre.

For more information about tutoring services at UBC, check out the Tutoring, Coaching, and Writing page!

Research Guides

The library also has tailor-made research guides designed to help you find the best sources for your research. You can find a guide for every discipline taught at UBC from Art to Zoology.

Borrowing Books

Accessing the Library is made easy with the Distance Education Students’ Guide Find out how to borrow books, access journals from home and borrow from other Libraries.

Transitioning to Online Learning

The resources below will help you navigate the transition to online learning, including maintaining your wellbeing.

Preparing Your Devices for Online Learning (Downloadable PDF & Video)

Download this PDF for advice from Chapman Learning Commons Assistants about preparing and setting up a faster and safer device to use while learning online, accessing online resources, and using learning technologies.

Download PDF

You can also watch the video version below, and on our YouTube!

Balancing Learning and Living at Home (Downloadable PDF)

Download this PDF for advice from CLC Assistants about balancing learning and living at home, when you are working and studying off campus.

Download PDF

Maintaining Your Wellbeing Away from Campus

UBC Wellness Centre: Online: While the physical Wellness Centre is temporarily closed, Wellness Centre: Online is a Canvas space for engaging in topics relevant to your wellbeing, wherever you are. All UBC students can self enroll. Learn more at their website.

Things to Do For Free From Home: Our CLC Assistant Minori has compiled a list of resources and activities to do from home!

If you have concerns about maintaining your wellbeing while learning remotely, your instructor could help you to find the resources you need. Many courses will already have modes of contact listed for campus health and wellbeing resources. Check your syllabus or Canvas.

Communicating and Collaborating Online

Communicating with others can be challenging when you can’t speak face-to-face. Below are some resources for communicating and collaborating effectively online.

Communicating Online

Be a respectful online presence

Communicating in online courses comes with a code of conduct sometimes known as “netiquette”. The rules may vary depending on context, but these top ten apply universally:

  1. Instructors will usually set the tone and provide guidance and guidelines for behaviour. Follow their model.
  2. Introduce yourself in any new setting. You can ask your instructor to set up a discussion board where everyone can exchange greetings, if no other space or opportunity is provided.
  3. Respond to other people using their preferred names, when you can, and make sure you are spelling and pronouncing names right. Names help personalize the conversation.
  4. Avoid assuming people’s gender or pronouns based on their name or appearance. Instead, refer to people using names or non-gendered language (e.g., “I agree with what the student before me said”).
  5. Check your tone and phrasing before you share, particularly when responding directly to someone. What you say online is difficult to take back, especially when it’s written.
  6. Be careful with jokes and sarcasm. They don’t always translate well to the online environment. Both may be misinterpreted by people who are unfamiliar with you or from backgrounds different than yours.
  7. Know that people participate differently, some by reflecting rather than jumping in right away. But reach out if you notice someone has been absent for a while, particularly in group work.
  8. Quote or otherwise give credit where appropriate, for example, if you are responding to a specific point made by someone else or including something from another text.
  9. Accept and forgive mistakes. We all make them sometimes, despite our best intentions.
  10. Always remember there is a person behind the words and that UBC’s diverse community includes people from various cultures and backgrounds, which influence their communication style and practices. Stay open-minded and ask questions if something seems unclear or unfriendly—avoid negative assumptions and try to assume the best about others!

In rare instances, online behaviour can appear so blatantly disrespectful and even hostile that it requires attention. In any case like this, let your instructor know right away.

This handy CLC Learning Skills Workshop on Online Communication Skills: Key Advice and Resource Handout has best practices and tips for communicating online effectively.

Download PDF

Many instructors are using Zoom at UBC to connect through audio and video. Read the Student Guide to Zoom and Student Guide to Microsoft Teams for more information.

Communicating Online [Audio clip] Part 1 & Part 2: Listen to a few CLC Assistants’ tips for communicating with others online.

Contacting instructors [Audio clip]: Check out one student’s advice for best practices when contacting instructors.

Tips for effective discussions: Check out this instructor-facing resource on creating engaging, beneficial online discussions. Consider as a student, how can you help create and support an engaging discussion environment online?

Software to Use at Home for Course Work

Sometimes you will be asked to create multimedia projects as part of your course work. These resources and software are all free for UBC Students.

UBC IT Software: As a student at UBC you automatically receive access to software like Microsoft Office 365 and Windows 10.

UBC Student Software: Snagit & Camtasia  Snagit is a powerful screen capture tool that allows you to easily capture, modify and share screenshots and basic video. Camtasia complements the functionality of Snagit and includes comprehensive video and audio recording of your screen. 

Recording 101 We have an online toolkit to help even the greenest of beginners, including recommendations for software you can access at home.

DIY Media:This resource walks you through each step in the multimedia creation process.

More Resources?: Find tons of free software recommendations at UBC Sauder Library David Lam Research Guide, look at the Accessing Digital Media Lab Resources section.

Keep cyber-safe: How you communicate online is one part of your digital identity. Protect your information online by following the 5 ways to keep cybersafe from UBC’s Privacy Matters website and using antivirus software or check out UBC Digital Tattoo site to help you think about your overall online presence and learn about your rights and responsibilities as a digital citizen.

Download PDF

Collaboration and Group Work: Advice and Software

Canvas Student Guide: Check out this comprehensive student guide to Canvas.

Using Student Groups in Canvas: In Canvas, self-organized student groups can be created by students. You can use this feature to create study groups to collaborate on projects and discuss topics. Learn more in the People and Groups section of the student guide »

Zoom Student Guide: Zoom is a popular video/audio conferencing software, often used for meetings, tutorials, and group work. Review this guide* to learn how to make the most of your Zoom experience!

Microsoft Teams: Chat with friends, set-up meetings, and work on assignments together using MS Teams*.

Microsoft OneDrive: OneDrive* is the new file sharing service that offers 1TB of free space and keeps your files secure.

Engaging in Remote Collaboration Using Social Media for Learning: Check out this a student guide on collaborating remotely using social media! 

Online Group Presentations: The CLC Learning Skills Workshop on Group Presentations Online: Key Advice and Resource Handout details top tips and resources for delivering an online presentation.

Download PDF

Adjusting to a Remote Workspace

Our environment is very influential to how we work, learn, and live. It’s important to organize your space in such a way that promotes a positive and productive workflow. Read below for some tips:

Organizing Your Physical Space

Getting Organized [Audio clip]:Here is some advice for organizing your space.

Online Working Environment [Audio clip]:Adjusting to an online working environment.

Setting up a Study Environment at Home (Minnesota State):How should you set up your study environment?

Tips for Working from Home: This guide has a number of tips for adjusting to, and maximizing your productivity and ease, when working from home. 

Get Active At Home: UBC Recreation offers ways to thrive from the comfort of your own space! 

Ergonomics: UBC HR has created a resource with advice for maintaining good ergonomics (posture) in your home workspace.

Download PDF

Attending Online Lectures

For the best experience:

  • Know that fees may apply when calling in to a session, depending on where you call in from. Check your phone plan first to avoid incurring additional charges, or use other ways of joining sessions.
  • Understand your options for giving feedback during a session, such as how to virtually “raise your hand” or respond to questions. Ask if these options are unclear.
  • Find as quiet and distraction-free a place as you can with a strong internet connection to attend the lecture. Consider using headphones, preferably ones with a built-in microphone, so you can be heard clearly.
  • Close down all background programs that you don’t need on the computer or device where you’ll be streaming the lecture. Try taking pen and paper notes to minimize having to switch between windows on your screen.
  • Join the session a few minutes early, if you can, to test your connection, microphone, and camera before the lecture begins.
  • Keep your microphone muted during the session, unless you’re talking, to reduce echoes and background noise from interfering with the class.
  • Make sure there is nothing behind you that will be distracting or revealing for others to see, if you share your video during the session. If you experience lag time when sharing your video, you may need to turn it off.

Tip: If your Internet connectivity, time zone, or other remote issues make it hard to attend an online lecture at the scheduled time, talk to your instructor. Together, you can figure out how to best address these issues.

Watch recorded lectures

  • Schedule a regular time to watch lectures and put it in your calendar. Treat this time like a live lecture and try not to miss it. Your lectures can quickly build up and you may become overwhelmed about catching up.
  • Find as quiet and distraction-free a place as you can with a strong Internet connection to stream the lecture. Consider using headphones, to improve your focus.
  • Don’t feel like you have to watch the whole lecture at once, especially if it’s long. Depending on the topic, you might learn better with smaller chunks and regular breaks (e.g., try the Pomodoro Technique ).
  • Take advantage of being able to pause and rewind what your instructor says. Sometimes hearing something a second or third time is all it takes to understand it.
  • Ask your instructor if there is a transcript available. You may find it helpful to review this transcript, especially if the video’s audio is poor. 
  • Take notes to summarize and absorb the material, even though you can re-watch the video. When it comes time to study, you may find it more efficient to review your notes.

Tip: You can propose a time to watch online lectures together with classmates. Sharing the experience can help you all stay accountable and ask questions of each other, if any content is unclear.

Related Links

Some great resources to help you plan, learn and grow in your online class!

Managing Your Time Resources

Time management begins to take on a somewhat mythical quality with learners at university. There never seems to be enough time and what there is seems to become unmanageable quickly! Following are some resources which may serve as useful reminders about planning and managing your life so that you have some time to enjoy:

Download PDF

Coaching/Tutoring Links and Help: Many of these resources are available remotely

Go Further and Get More Help

These resources will help you to learn more and get the most out of your online experience.

  • Open UBC Check out free and openly available resources
  • Refworks Use this guide to format your citations
  • Understanding Academic Integrity Learn more about what your role is as a student for academic freedom and sharing
  • Tech Help Reach out or find the answers to your tech questions
  • New to UBC  If you are new to UBC this give you what you need-to-know, quickly!
  • Keep Teaching (UBC)A dedicated resource for instructors and faculty who must transition rapidly to teaching online

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