Tips to Succeed in your Remote Learning Class

Person working on a laptop computer.
Rebecca A. Eckland

It’s official: TMCC is moving to remote instruction as of March 23. In this series of news stories, we’ll offer you tips and tricks that will help you to be successful, even when the classroom shares a space with your home. It might seem like a silly thing to say, but it takes dedication and discipline to succeed while the obligations of attending a physical class session are no longer a part of your college experience. 

In a way, taking a class is very similar to buying a gym membership. The ability to have a “specialized space” in which to workout (like the gym) makes the commitment to fitness a bit easier. In fact, studies have shown that gym-goers tend to be more successful in their fitness goals than folks who buy workout equipment to use at home. While the spin bike becomes a convenient place to hang laundry, the gym-goer goes to the gym ready to complete a very specific task.  The same thing works with academic pursuits, too.

However, before you throw in the towel—and your final grade—let’s go through some easy ways you can keep yourself on track even while you turn your bedroom or home office into your next classroom. 

  1. Set a regular schedule and hold yourself to it. Even though you might not have to show up to class on campus at 9 a.m. every day of the week, that doesn’t mean you should totally let yourself go, either. Instead, make a point of setting your alarm, and wake up at a reasonable time each morning. Make yourself regular meals at around the same time. And, make it a point to login to your class(es) at specific times of the day, every day. Consistency will help you to be successful. 
  2. Dress for success. This might sound like a crazy piece of advice, but it actually works. Even though you might be working from home, don’t do your assignments in your pajamas with your hair looking more like the fur of a wild animal. Make a point to “show up” to your class (even when you’re at home) in clean clothes, with your teeth brushed and hair combed. This is important because it sends the psychological message to yourself that the material you are covering in class--and the time you are investing in it-- matters to you enough to show up respectfully.
  3. Make “SMART” goals. It’s always great to say things like “I want to be successful in class” but that kind of nebulous positivity does very little to keep you on track. Instead, you need to make “SMART” goals: milestones that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Here is a breakdown of what each of these terms mean, and how you can use this kind of goal-planning to your advantage: 
    • Specific: instead of wishing for your general “success” in a class make goals that are specific. Are you going to complete a homework assignment every night? Are you going to write 500 words of an essay every day? Whatever your goal, make it specific and avoid language like “best”, “great” and “fun.” These words describe experiences, but in imprecise ways. 
    • Measurable: If your goal is specific enough, it should also be measurable. That means you can easily determine whether or not you met your goal. For example, if your goal is to participate in an online discussion for your class every night, it is very easy to measure that goal: did you, or didn’t you? You can’t easily measure if you “studied hard.” What does that even mean? A better goal might be: to study every night for an hour. Again, that is a goal that you can easily measure.
    • Attainable: It doesn’t do you any good to wish for the impossible. The goals you set for yourself in classes held remotely should inspire you to take action, not overwhelm you because they are, frankly, impossible. You might not be able to write a 50-page thesis for your biology class in a week, but you could probably write a strong 5-6 page one, if you dedicate a little time each night to the writing and revision process. Another way to think about making a goal attainable: it’s important that you’re realistic with yourself about what you are able to achieve.
    • Relevant: Make sure that your goal contributes to your success in each class. Studying for four-hours a night on an unrelated topic probably isn’t going to help you much because the work you’re doing isn’t relevant. Stick with what matters (the class material, assignments and exams) and you’re far more likely to be successful as a result of your focused efforts. 
    • Timely: It would be nice if we could take as long as we wanted to complete tasks, but a part of getting anything done is the necessary evil of a looming deadline. Setting your own deadlines for assignments or restricting the amount of time you will spend on any one project can help you to be successful. Maybe one of your goals is to complete homework assignments one day in advance of their due date. Or, maybe it’s to dedicate two hours a night to the class readings. Either way, these targeted and time-driven goals will help you to say on track.  
  4. Take short breaks. Did you know that the average attention span for a human being is 45 minutes? You should never force yourself to endure study blocks any longer than that, or you might not remember what you were studying. But, how can you cover all the material you need to know? Follow this studying best-practice: set the timer on your phone to remind you when 45 minutes has passed. When it goes off, give yourself 10-15 minutes to stretch, walk around, use the restroom, wash your hands-- in other words, to do something away from the material you were studying. And, don’t use this opportunity to check out your phone or social media (that’s not a true break for your brain, according to science.) Your brain needs sunshine and fresh air to reset. Once the ten minutes are up, set the timer again and get back to studying. You’ll be surprised at how much more you remember. 
  5. Reach out for help when you need it. Even if you’re at home, remember that your instructor is there to help you whether you need clarification on a particular assignment, or you’re confused about an upcoming deadline. TMCC’s Tutoring and Learning Center is still offering tutoring online, too. If you’re feeling anxious, the TMCC Counseling Center is open and is offering virtual appointments. 

Follow those five tips and we promise that you’ll be well on your way toward a successful semester in your classes. And although the COVID-19 situation is far from ideal, learning to make the best of a bad situation is a skill that can serve you well in life. 

Use this opportunity to learn how to keep yourself accountable, how to study more efficiently and how to succeed despite a considerable roadblock. And if you need help, chances are there is a TMCC department who can help. 

Visit for information about the Coronavirus and TMCC’s response.

For information about scheduling an online appointment with the Tutoring and Learning Center, contact the department at 775-674-7517. 

For information about scheduling an online appointment with the TMCC Counseling Center, contact them at 775-673-7060.