Student Success > Success Strategies

Success Strategies

5 Tips from Current DePaul Students

Moving quickly to a fully online format can be challenging! Whether you're new to online classes or not, we've collected a number of tips from current DePaul students, faculty and staff to help you succeed.

Like these tips? Visit the Tips from Student Leaders page for more.

Tip #1: Stay Updated and Use Your Resources

  • Check your course site at least once every 48 hours. For activities that require prompt feedback, your instructor might expect you to access the course and participate at least once per day.
    • Online and remote courses are not necessarily self-paced. Most courses contain discussions and other assignments that must be completed within a specific time frame.
    • Download the Brightspace Pulse app to get push notifications from D2L on your phone or tablet, which may be more reliable than email notifications. You can also access your courses with the app.
  • Check your email frequently. It is recommended you check your email at least once per day is highly recommended for online students.
    • Make sure your email address is correct and up to date in Campus Connect. After you log in to Campus Connect, the option to change your email address can be found under Main Menu > Self Service > Personal Information > Email Addresses.
    • Be sure to read DePaul Newsline Daily and other official DePaul emails for important information.
  • Visit go.depaul.edu/covid for COVID-19 updates and guidance.
    • Browse FAQs about health concerns, global travel recommendations and university operations.
    • Take advantage of public health, mental health, and student health resources as needed.
  • Get involved at DePaul by visiting the Digital Engagement Network (DEN), a one-stop shop for students and staff to share information about virtual opportunities.
  • Browse this Student Success website to find resources like tutors, mentors, coaches, advisors, and more.

Tip #2: Stay Organized

  • Plan to spend at least one evening a week and a few hours each weekend on your coursework.
  • Reserve a time for quiet hours with your family or roommates (e.g., a few hours in the afternoon for studying, a guaranteed bedtime on weekday nights).

Enable D2L notifications to make sure you're getting all important updates.

  • Download the Brightspace Pulse app to get push notifications from D2L on your phone, which may be more reliable than emails or SMS
  • You can also go enable email or SMS notifications in D2L: Click on your profile icon > Notifications and select the ones to receive via text and/or email. Good ones to enable are:
    • Discussions - new post in a forum, topic or thread that I subscribed to in instant notifications
    • Grades - grade item released
    • News - item updated
    • News - new item available
    • Quizzes - quiz due date or end date is 2 days away
    • Submissions - assignment feedback released
    • Submissions - assignment due date or end date is 2 days away
    • Submissions - assignment feedback completed
  • View D2L’s documentation for students if you need help using D2L. 
  • How is your grade calculated?
  • What are the due dates for projects and assignments?
  • What are the dates of exams or quizzes?
  • What expectations are given for discussion board assignments?
  • Is there a rubric or guideline you need to follow to earn full points?
  • What are the lateness, absence, and sickness policies?
  • What resources are available for students with a disability?
  • Are there any unique expectations for your class?
  • What questions or clarification do you need? Email your professor to find out!
  • You can subscribe to your course calendar in D2L.
    • From the course homepage, click the dropdown arrow on the calendar widget and click Subscribe. Follow the instructions on the screen to save to your favorite calendar application.
  • For physical calendars, find what formatting works best for you and stick to it.
    • Set aside a time every week to plan out the rest of your week.
    • Color code your subjects if you tend to lose papers - set aside certain notebooks, folders, etc. for each class.
    • Use a calendar organization method, like the Bullet Journal.
  • For digital calendars, discover hints and tricks for the specific app you’re using.
  • If you are in a different time zone, add Central Time (CT) to your phone’s world clock.
  • Start with a small task
    • If you feel overwhelmed at all, find the easiest task on your to do list and complete it. This achievement will motivate you to continue your other assignments while also shorting your to do list.
    • Just give yourself 10 minutes to begin a new task. Set a timer, and after the ten minutes is up, decide whether you want to keep going or not. (You often will want to keep going).
    • Reward yourself when you finish a task.
  • Slow down
    • Don't rush yourself by trying to finish all of your work in a single day.
    • Begin early to give yourself plenty of time so that you are not cramming at the last minute.
  • Listen and respond to feedback
    • Don’t panic if you receive a poor grade or constructive feedback at the start of the quarter. Instead reflect on this grade and establish a plan to do better.
    • Be proactive and reach out to your professor with questions or if you need extra practice.

Tip #3: Stay Connected

  • Stay in contact with professors and don't hesitate to ask questions. Be willing to “speak up” if problems arise. Actively participating online and communicating effectively helps you create a positive rapport with your professors and helps you build your network.
  • Before you email your professor, check the syllabus to see if the answer to your question is there. If it is not, look for directions on how to email your professor (e.g., if a specific subject title is required).
  • Many syllabi include information on instructors’ response times, so you can gauge how quickly you can expect a reply. Sending questions or comments well before due dates will ensure you get a response in time.
  • Include the reason for emailing and course number for the email in the subject line (e.g., MAT 135: Final Exam Question - Student Name).
  • Always be professional.
  • Begin your email with a greeting (e.g., Dear, Good Morning, Hello), then Professor {Last Name}.
  • Start your email with your motivation or purpose for emailing them.
  • If you have multiple topics or questions in your email, consider addressing each in its own paragraph. You can use headings to convey the topics if your email is particularly long.
  • Always end the email by thanking them for their time.
  • Sign your name and be sure to CC anyone that may also require the information (e.g., other group members).
  • Email template - Feel free to use this template for emails that you send to your professors.
  • Get to know someone else in your class to review material together.
  • See if your professor has a preference for group communication tools that you should use.
  • Consider using these collaborative tools to enhance your ability to work well others:
    • Zoom: Students have access to Pro accounts through DePaul’s license. To activate your account go to depaul.zoom.us and login with your @depaul.edu email address.
    • Microsoft Teams: Using your @depaul.edu account, communicate and collaborate with anyone in the university community, including other students, faculty, and staff. Create teams and channels for work with classmates; you can use text chat and audio/video calls while working collaboratively on documents like Word files and PowerPoint presentations.
    • Office 365: Draft documents, spreadsheets, PowerPoints, etc. individually or with a group of people. Includes OneDrive for 5TB of cloud storage and free access to download and install Office ProPlus, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and more. Follow the link and sign in with your @depaul.edu email address.
    • Google Docs (not supported by HelpDesk@depaul.edu): Draft and collaborate on documents. Use Google Drive to store other kinds of files, including Sheets and Slides.
    • Slack (not supported by HelpDesk@depaul.edu): Create a workspace with your classmates to instant message, share files, and connect over videoconference through different channels. For individual work, write to yourself to keep notes or other material organized.
    • Discord (not supported by HelpDesk@depaul.edu): Create a server with your classmates to instant message and share files with one another. Audio and video chatting system is available for this application. You may live video chat with up to 10 people in a call.
    • Google Hangouts (not supported by HelpDesk@depaul.edu): Schedule video meetings, use instant messages, and share files with one another. Good free alternative to Zoom.

Netiquette is a set of recommendations for interacting in a digital community. Here are some key pieces to keep in mind.

  • Tone: When you’re posting in a discussion board or emailing someone in your course, the text you send isn’t accompanied by a facial expression, a tone of voice, or other non-verbal cues. Before you send text, read it carefully and think about how your audience will interpret what you’re saying.
  • Font: The font you use adds meaning to your text. ALL CAPS feels like shouting, but other font features like bold and italics can help convey meaning.
  • Time: When you post to a discussion topic or send an email, you might not get a response right away. Even though many people have smartphones or other devices that keep them connected to email, they might not be able to respond immediately.
  • Length: In digital writing, brevity is valued: paragraphs are often shorter and more direct. The prompt for a discussion may ask for an in-depth response, but using shorter paragraphs will make your response easier to read.

Tip #4: Create an Effective Workspace

  • Use a desk or table if possible, not your bed.
  • Leave everything you need in reach (supplies, snacks, water) and everything distracting out of reach (your phone!)
  • Get a notebook! Don’t forget to take notes just as you would with an in-person class. Whether virtually or on paper, writing important ideas, concepts, and content helps many people retain the material.
  • Use digital blue light filters (e.g., f.lux for computers, Twilight for Android, iOS’s built-in Night Shift) and your operating system’s dark mode to reduce eye strain.
  • Take a screen break by stepping away from your screen. Try to stand up and stretch for 5-10 min. every hour.
  • Read our friends' post from the Idea Realization Lab about setting up study spaces
  • Watch this quick video on creating productive workspaces.

Here are some ideas for finding a quiet place to work on campus:

Loop Campus - DePaul Center

  • 11th floor: Main cafeteria, patio and DePaul Club
  • 5th floor Executive Board Room (Room 5800)

Lincoln Park

  • Lincoln Park Library, 2nd floor (reservation required)
  • Arts and Letters Hall: Common area
  • O'Connell Hall: Rooms 202, 224, 230, and 256
  • Brownstone's

Tip #5: Take Care of Your Wellbeing

  • Start off your day right! Make your bed, exercise quickly, shower, eat breakfast... in other words find a morning routine that works for you. This can help you feel more accomplished and energized, making future tasks seem easier.
  • Don’t forget to schedule yourself time off. Allow yourself time to take a mental break from school and don’t feel guilty about taking that time for yourself.
  • Set a relaxing alarm on your phone to remind you to take a break and then set one to remind you when your break is over.
  • Get involved at DePaul by visiting DePaul's DEN (Digital Engagement Network) and join in on virtual community-building.
  • Leave your apartment or house once in a while by doing something active like taking a walk or riding a bike.
  • You can get exercise while staying inside too! YouTube has a number of videos on exercises that you can do at home or you can download free fitness app such as MyFitnessPal to track how much you're moving and staying healthy.
  • Listen to podcasts that you enjoy or borrow an audio book from the Chicago Public Library. 
  • Now is a good time to get started on that new side hustle or hobby that you've been thinking about.
  • Finding it hard to sleep? Try meditation apps (like Calm) or sound machine apps that can help you ease into sleep.