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The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged colleges and universities to reevaluate every facet of the student experience.

Faculty have refined pedagogical best practices for online teaching and learning. Staff and administrators have expanded in-person student services and activities to the virtual space, offering an array of online programs and resources, some of which are available 24/7. With this evolving online landscape comes a host of new expectations for today’s college students.

The following five tips will help your student anticipate possible hurdles identify strategies for success as an online learner. 

  1. Lean into technology. One of the greatest indicators of success in the remote learning environment is a student’s ability to stay connected via email, educational technology platforms, and social media. Most college-going students today are incredibly savvy when it comes to utilizing a wide range of technology platforms, but it is essential that they remain plugged into the online environment. Students should check their college email account on a daily basis so as not to miss critical information regarding deadlines and processes. Additionally, students will need to be adept at navigating the specific learning management system(s) utilized by the college. Some of these include Google Classroom, BlackBoard, and Moodle. Most colleges provide online tutorials to support the effective usage of these platforms. Finally, social media is an excellent way for students to stay abreast of college events, resources, and announcements. During the COVID-19 pandemic, most campuses have increased social media usage, so students should definitely follow official college accounts.
  2. Establish a virtual network of support. It’s safe to say that all students want to belong. Research shows that a positive sense of belonging is linked to increased persistence and success in college. Furthermore, students from underrepresented backgrounds persist and achieve at higher rates when they are able to identify and engage with faculty and staff who reflect their identities, cultures, and experiences. In short, the basis of belonging is feeling seen, valued, and validated. This often begins by identifying peers and professionals who can provide important guidance throughout the college journey. In the virtual world, this connection to others becomes even more essential. The key to fostering relationships, even in the virtual environment, starts by simply showing up. This may mean attending a virtual open mic hosted by the Student Activities Office, dropping into faculty office hours on Zoom, or setting up virtual study groups for each course. Even in the virtual space, meaningful connections can be made.
  3. Utilize online resources (early and often). Online campus-based services can provide students greater flexibility when it comes to seeking support at times that are more convenient. In most cases, students no longer need to travel to campus in order to see an academic advisor or financial aid representative. Now, most services are offered online by appointment. In fact, during the COVID-19 pandemic, colleges have enhanced online student support offerings that include tutoring, leadership development programs, recreational and wellness activities, mental health counseling services, and more. Your student would benefit from understanding what virtual services are offered and how to connect with these services from day one of their college experience.
  4. Manage your synchronous and asynchronous time. Most of us, at some point, have struggled with procrastination. Speaking from personal experience, cramming for eight hours straight is not the best route to success. In the remote learning environment, it is even more crucial that students are able to plan and organize their time effectively. Balancing synchronous demands (live lectures and real-time discussion groups) and asynchronous demands (pre-recorded lectures, reading, written assignments, discussion boards) requires a daily schedule with specific times to complete academic work. In order to be successful, students should set aside two to three hours of study time each week per credit. Someone registered for nine credits should study approximately four hours per day (outside of synchronous class time). Using checklists, calendars, mobile app reminders may support productive habits and help create needed structure when working from home.
  5. Prioritize your wellness. With so much time spent plugged into technology, finding healthy ways to unwind and destress is an important part of any academic routine. Take breaks, step away from the screen, and allow your eyes to rest. In fact, your student’s daily schedule should incorporate enjoyable activities that support balance and focus. Attending in-person or virtual exercise classes is a great way to combat the sedentary nature of online learning. Downloading a mindfulness and meditation app can help relieve stress and set intentions for the remainder of the day. Finally, tap into the college’s health and wellness services. Your student may benefit from one-on-one mental health counseling or group counseling sessions. These services are free, confidential, and designed to promote holistic development and wellbeing.

The online learning environment provides significant flexibility for students who are balancing multiple priorities including family and employment responsibilities. However, it also comes with a host of challenges associated with technology usage and remote instruction. The key lies in taking a proactive approach in balancing workload, wellness, and relationships. Finding ways to connect to the college and individuals in the virtual space will only support academic momentum and overall student satisfaction.


Danny serves as the Assistant Dean of Student Support at Stella and Charles Guttman Community College within the City University of New York (CUNY). Over his 15-year higher education career, Danny has focused on inclusive leadership practices, building collaborative partnerships, and increasing access and retention for historically marginalized students. He completed his EdD in Educational Leadership, Administration, and Policy at Fordham University. Danny’s research interests center on the lived experiences of former foster youth within the college environment.