Ask Ryan: Stick with It: Six tips to conquering online learning

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Dear Ryan,

Last semester was my first semester taking an online class. I did just okay. I know I’ll be taking classes online and virtually in the future because of COVID-19. How can I be more successful in this classroom setting?

Virtually Challenged


Dear Virtually Challenged,

Congratulations on finishing up fall semester – I know it was a challenging time.

For many students  —  and instructors  —  2020 brought their first experience with an online class. It takes time to adapt to a new setting, way of learning and process for engaging with classmates and faculty. Here are six steps you can take to be a successful online college student:

1. Troubleshoot any technology issues you think you may encounter.

Make sure you have daily access  to a computer with Internet service. Pima Community College has a limited number of laptops, tablets and WiFi hotspots available for check-out to enrolled students. View for information on the College’s remote learning resources (including a link to the library system where you can request a laptop if you are enrolled in classes).

2. If there’s extra credit, do it! Your instructor wants you to engage with your learning.

If you have questions about the material or need clarity about an upcoming assignment, sign up to talk with your instructor during virtual office hours.

3. Set expectations for yourself and manage your time. 

Use these goals to monitor your progress toward completing readings and drafting outlines for papers. And remember to submit that assignment before class. Don’t miss due dates or you risk not getting credit for your work.

4. Ask for help through:

a. Tutoring – Contact the Learning Center to schedule a free tutoring session.
Call 520.206.495, email [email protected] or submit a request at

b. Library Resources – Ask a librarian questions about citations, finding sources and how to check out materials. Ask questions by visiting

c. Advising – Advisors can help you with questions about degrees, selecting courses, and other available resources. To connect with an academic advisor, email [email protected].

5. Home Environment – If you live with other people, get them onboard since you’ll most likely be studying from home.

Let them know when you have class. If you have children, find ways to keep them busy. If you can, create a study space so your brain can shift to work mode whenever you’re in that space.

6. Think about using any of these study-related apps you can download (basic version is free for all) on Android, iOS and Windows:

  • Dragon Dictation – digitally convert speech to text
  • Evernote – collect research, data or notes and store them all in one place like a virtual folder
  • Exam Countdown Lite – keep track of how many minutes, days, weeks or months are left until your next assignment is due
  • myHomework Student Planner – keep track of homework, exams and upcoming projects through this virtual student planner
  • My Study Life – get more flexibility than a regular paper planner
  • Quizlet – create your own flashcard, quiz or study game to review the material and prepare for any upcoming exams
  • SimpleMind – Mind-map ideas with pictures, videos, websites and notes
  • StudyBlue – upload class study materials and create flashcards to review key topics

Try some or all of these strategies to help you succeed. Find a system, process, app or tool that works best for you, your goals and learning style.

Success is at your fingertips,

Ryan Sermon is a Pima Admissions and Recruitment Program Coordinator.
Send your questions to [email protected]







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