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Tips and Tricks for Successful Virtual Learning

 In the midst of a global health crisis due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) that is constantly changing and causing unprecedented disruption to our everyday lives, CSUSM has chosen to transition to remote instruction in order to move forward together as an academic community.  This decision does not come lightly.

We recognize the strain this puts on you as students, not only as learners who must adapt to a new way of learning overnight, but as human beings who must do so in the middle of a crisis as you work to keep yourselves, families, friends, and communities safe. 

During a time where everything feels out of our control let's control what we can, which is moving forward and learning together. In the words of Dolores Huerta Sí, se puede!"

We believe in your success and resilience and encourage you to use this page as a resource throughout this semester. This is a community resource, so if you have feedback or would like to add to this page, please use this form to do so.


All Campus Policy Webinars

Do you have questions about the Spring 2020 policy changes for students? Watch a webinar or review the FAQ posted on the Office of the Registrar's website.


Important Reminders

  • Stay in constant contact with your instructors.  If you are having trouble accessing a course in any way, ask the instructor for help.  Remember that they are very likely new to this too and can use your feedback, positive or negative. 
  • Student resources will continue to be available remotely, including advising, tutoring, and support services.  Each of these offices has updated their websites.  You can use the CSUSM Incident site as a central resource for these offices.
  • If you feel that there are barriers that are preventing you from being successful this semester, please reach out to someone: your instructors, the Cougar Care Network, staff members, or even other students. The CSUSM community is here to help. We will work together in supporting one another.


Tips for Succeeding in Online Courses 

Many CSUSM students thrive in virtual classes, but for many of you, this may be your first experience with them.  If you are not as confident in your ability to succeed in this format or are apprehensive about this transition, these tips may help. 

  • Be Patient & Kind to Yourself

    First and foremost, please exercise patience and kindness, not just to your instructors, who, like you, have had little time to prepare for this transition but to each other as we all begin adjusting in this new learning environment.  Most importantly, be patient and kind to yourself.  This may be difficult or uncomfortable, and that is okay.  We all learn in different ways, but we can all make this work with the right attitude and the right strategies for success.
  • Access to Computer & Internet

    You're going to need the necessary technology.  Like face-to face courses, each virtual class will likely be different. Regardless of the differences, you will need  reliable access to a computer and reliable access to the Internet.  If you expect this to be a barrier for you, please see the Technical Support and Resources page for students. If you are in need of a computer or internet access, please email . Test your devices ahead of time if you are using any video- or tele-conferencing software like Zoom or Microsoft Teams
  • Find a Space to Study

    In addition to setting a schedule, set up a physical space that maximizes your ability to learn.  This means different things for different students, but for many this means maintaining a clean and organized desk or table on which to work, setting a space apart from distractions like television and video games, and finding either a quiet place or using headphones to block outside noise. 
  • Create a Schedule

    Although remote instruction may appear to allow for a more flexible schedule, it will be best to try and stick to a rigid schedule for your courses.  Schedule consistent, multi-hour blocks of time that you can dedicate to each course.  Just like a face-to-face class, you need to schedule time to be “in class” and separate time for studying and homework. 
  • Prioritize & Make a Plan

    It can be easy to look at the list of all you have to do and get overwhelmed, so make a plan: create a list of tasks, prioritize them, then start going down the list one task at a time.  With larger tasks and assignments, break them down into smaller chunks: for example, instead of just “write my term paper,” break it down into distinct pieces, like

    • research the topic
    • write the outline
    • develop the thesis statement
    • write the first argument 

    When you finish a task, reward yourself!  Take a ten minute break, have a snack, text a friend, watch netflix, anything that can motivate you to finish each task… and then keep working! 

  • Communicate with Instructor

    Do your best to communicate regularly with your instructor, either through Cougar Courses or directly through email.  Don’t hesitate to ask questions or seek clarification, if you have any difficulty at all with access to course content, contact your instructor immediately.  Don't be afraid to ask for help; pride won't help you pass your class!

  • Engage with Classsmates

    Instructors will do their best to continue to facilitate the learning communities you have already built in your classrooms, but it may require extra effort on your part to keep engaging with your classmates.  These relationships are vital to your academic success. You can sustain them through social media, email, text, and any of the collaborative tools like Zoom and Teams that your instructors may be using.  Teams in particular works great for group projects, as you can easily share files, chat, and use video-conferencing. 
  • Academic Support & Campus Resources

    Continue to take advantage of the academic resources that CSUSM offers and will continue to offer during this transition, particularly through Learning and Tutoring Services.  Check out the Virtual Support Services website for a full list of services including academic advising, tutoring, workshops and more. 
  • University Library Support

    During this time of uncertainty, we want you to know the University Library is here to help. The library launched a webpage with virtual services for students and faculty.

    If you are specifically concerned about availability of textbooks or other course materials on reserve, click here for further details 

  • Tips From Your Peers

    Peer tutors in the Writing Center have been working on their own list of resources for the transition to a virtual learning environment.  They are students just like you, facing the same challenges and learning to adapt.  See what they have to offer on the Writing Center’s website.
  • Additional Links & Tips

    These websites have great study tips for time management, stress management, and online test-taking.


    A few videos that discuss study strategies & time management:

Technical Support and Resources

  • CSUSM IITS has a site set up with helpful guides on all the online collaboration tools we have available for you, including email, Cougar Courses, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams. 
  • The IITS Student Technology Helpdesk will continue to be available through phone (760-750-4790) and email ( for individual technical support. 
  • Students with concerns regarding the accessibility of online course content should contact their instructors or reach out to Disability Support Services  or email for options.