Maximize Your Learning

Learning online may seem new and unfamiliar, to you and your instructors.

Everyone in the Harvard community – faculty, staff, and students – is working together to continue your educational experience.

Initially the remote learning environment may feel strange. Barriers to creating a learning environment may include difficulties finding internet access, communicating with peers, mitigating distractions, and more.  We have some tips on what may be different, but let’s start by acknowledging what’s staying the same.

What isn’t new

  • You're still in a classroom: a vibrant learning community. Adopt the same norms (clothing, etc.) as in a physical classroom. Please don't walk around or leave the room (unless the instructor has said it's okay).

  • Take notes. For many people taking notes during the class helps with focus and engagement.

  • Build on others’ questions and comments.

  • Silence/mute other computer apps (messages, calendar, etc.) while you are in class.

  • If you're watching pre-recorded lectures, pause periodically (~5 minutes) and ask yourself what you’ve learned. What were the takeaways? What aren’t you clear on? If you can’t remember what was covered, go back and review.

  • If you have questions after finishing the lesson, reach out to your instructor, teaching fellows, and/or peers.

  • Keep track of assignment due dates (which might change from what is listed on the syllabus). Do not wait until the last minute to submit assignments. And make sure you submit assignments by the method the instructor has specified – don’t e-mail when you should have uploaded, etc.

  • Consider forming study groups with your classmates. Working through questions and concepts together is an important part of learning. You’ll have to spend some extra time getting that human contact when you’re learning online.

What is new

  • You won't have the luxury of a physical, dedicated classroom. Do what you can to find a quiet place where you’ll be able to focus, gather the materials you’ll need (computer, headphones, assigned readings, notes, etc.), and commit to participating in the class. That often means making sure that anyone who shares your space - parents, siblings, even pets - know when you will be in class and shouldn't be interrupted. Harvard's Academic Resource Center offers multiple suggestions to help you prepare and participate.

  • Plan to turn your camera on. Your instructor may call on you in class or have you break out into discussion groups with other students, just as in a physical classroom. It’s easier to communicate clearly – and engage fully – when you’re able to see each other. 

  • Zoom may be new to you, particularly for learning remotely. In addition to the tips below, review HUIT's Zoom Quick Start guide and downloadable 1-pager.

    • Chat: it’s not just that you can communicate with your peers, but that your instructor can see what you communicate – which can be a powerful addition to the learning process. Keep Chat messages short and to the point. If you have a longer question, consider sending it to the instructor and teaching team after class instead.

    • Raise Hand: faculty are used to “reading the room” in the physical classroom, and this might be harder in some online contexts. You can use the Raise Hand feature [in the Participants control] to get their attention, or use Chat to ask for clarification before the professor moves on.

    • Your instructor’s expectations for how you participate (speaking up, Raise Hand, submitting questions via Chat, etc.) may be different online. Make sure you understand their expectations. If you don’t know, ask.

    • You can use Zoom on your own - for study groups, meetings, and connecting with peers. All you need to Host a Session is your HarvardKey..