For students: How to finish the semester strong during remote instruction

Overhead view of a laptop, a pen on a notebook, phone and a coffee cup on a plate.

SF State Assistant Vice President for Teaching and Learning Maggie Beers says time management, staying connected and taking time to reflect are key to success

San Francisco State University students are in the same boat as their peers nationwide — faced with weeks of remote instruction to combat the spread of COVID-19. But not all remote learning experiences are created equal. To help Gators get the most out of their instruction, we turned to Assistant Vice President for Teaching and Learning Maggie Beers for practical advice and expert insight into how students can best adapt.

While the concept of distance learning has been around for decades, Beers says there’s a difference in today’s context. “What we’re in right now is remote instruction during a time of disruption, and students need to conceptualize their learning through this lens,” she explained. “These are not normal times, so don’t be too hard on yourself and remember to ask for help.”

Beers shared the following tips to help students finish the semester strong.

Keep an eye on the clock (and calendar)

Beers advises students to pay extra attention to time management. With remote instruction, it’s easy to fall into the misconception that you have all the time in the world, she says. Yet time can easily slip away, and it takes self-discipline to resist distractions that prevent you from learning. Students may find themselves more tempted to text or check social media if their professor or lecturer isn’t physically present.

A great way to stay on track is calculating week-by-week how much time you anticipate dedicating to each course. “Doing the math gives you a clearer picture of how much time you need for each of your classes,” Beers said. “Typically for a three-unit course, students dedicate on average nine hours per week. That includes instruction, studying and coursework.”

Reflect on what helps you succeed

Many students have made significant changes in their lives to adapt to today’s circumstances. Beers says it’s important to carve out time to assess your current situation and see how it’s conducive to learning. She recommends asking yourself the following questions and developing an action plan based on your responses:

  • What am I, the people immediately around me, my classmates and my instructors doing to support my learning?
  • What changes can each person, including myself, make to better support my learning?

For example, a student who moved back home with family may be challenged to find an adequate space to learn in the house, especially with siblings around who also have remote classes. One solution: hold a family meeting to discuss how to divvy up dedicated spaces for learning in the house.

Stay in touch with faculty and peers

With remote courses, students may find it harder to develop social connections with faculty or peers. Students no longer have the luxury of tapping a classmate’s shoulder to ask a quick question or meeting a professor face-to-face after class to get clarification on an assignment. This calls for students to make more conscious efforts to stay connected. Beers recommends a few approaches:

  • Set goals to contact a faculty member by a certain date. Whether you have a question or just want to thank them for their efforts, it’s a good way to show that you’re participating.
  • Join Zoom conference calls a few minutes before lectures start. This gives you a chance to meet people in your class. Don’t forget to turn your video on, too!
  • Initiate virtual study groups. This can help you stay accountable to your study plans while also making friends.
  • If you find yourself struggling with remote instruction, don’t keep it to yourself. Talk to your professors and advisors or contact the Tutoring and Academic Support Center to schedule a virtual appointment.