Student Success > Success Strategies

Success Strategies

6 Tips from Current DePaul Students

Moving to an 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.

Looking for more strategies? Visit Tips from Student Leaders and Weekly Challenges​.

Tip #1: Stay Updated and Use Your Resources

  • Check your D2L 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.
    • 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 DePaul email frequently. It is highly recommended that online students check their email at least once per day.
    • All DePaul emails now go through your @depaul.edu email address. Check here for more information.
    • 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.
  • Follow the social media pages for DePaul programs and student organizations you're interested in!

Tip #2: Stay Organized

  • You can choose to receive notifications when resources are added, announcements are posted and when deadlines are coming up. Use this link to find out how to get notifications via the Brightspace Pulse mobile app, email or text.
    • If you're having trouble with email or text message notifications, push notifications may be more reliable.
  • Connect the course calendar on D2L to your Outlook, Google or iPhone calendar. Use these instructions so that events on your D2L calendar are added to your personal calendar.
  • 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!
  • When it comes to organization, it’s helpful to find what works best for YOU and stick to it. Something that works for one person, might not work for you and that’s ok!
  • Writing all of your commitments such as class times, work or internship times and other events in one place will help avoid overlapping meetings.
  • Most courses contain discussions and other assignments that must be completed within a specific time frame. Add the due dates for all your assignments large or small to your calendar.
  • Establish a regular schedule to work on each class as if this was the time your class would typically meet- add this to your calendar so you have time set aside to watch video lectures, read texts, complete online activities, and so on.
  • Set aside a time every week to plan out the rest of your week. What assignments, projects, or tasks are coming up? Be realistic with the amount of time it will take you to complete, then add specific times you can work on these into your calendar. This will help you know how much time you have that week to schedule in other events!
  • Add breaks into your calendar to make sure you give your brain time to process and retain information! Go a step further and give yourself ideas for what you can do during that break- check out “Tip #5 Taking Care of Your Wellbeing” for these strategies.
  • Look at your next day’s schedule the night before and morning of. This helps you feel confident knowing what to expect and making sure you have everything you need for that day.
    • Physical calendars/planners: 
      • Color code your subjects/types of tasks. Buy stickers and use them to motivate you or highlight important dates.
      • If you tend to lose papers you can set aside certain notebooks, folders, binders, etc. for each class.
      • Use a calendar organization method, like the Bullet Journal.
      • Use the Stickies or Sticky Notes app on your desktop to organize all of your weekly online meeting links e.g. zoom links so you always know where to find them.
    • Digital calendars: discover hints and tricks for the specific app you’re using.
      • The Ultimate Guide to Google Calendar - Step-by-step instructions on how get started with Google Calendar.
      • 7 iPhone calendar tips everyone should know - Learn about features of the iOS calendar app.
      • Add online meeting links e.g. zoom links to your event location so you always know how to join the meeting on time.
      • See how to connect your D2L Course Calendar to your personal calendar by going to the "Use D2L to Help Stay on Task" section above.
    • Reminder apps:
      • Most phones come with a reminder app or notes app where you can make checklists with notifications at set times. There's nothing like that feeling of checking off a completed task!
      • Make a general homework folder and list all the assignments and tests that you have coming up. Create separate folders with smaller tasks when you have a bigger project.
      • Use a widget on the homescreen of your smartphone to immediately remind you of upcoming assignments and class meetings. You can even get creative with them and customize them exactly the way you want them!
      • 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 can motivate you to continue your other assignments while also shortening 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 and/or a tutor with questions or if you need extra practice.
  • Break down goals
    • If an assignment seems intimidating, try breaking it down into smaller, easier to tackle goals.
    • Try the 1-3-5 Rule to create a task list that's realistic with your time and helps you intentionally focus your day.
    • Use your alarm or reminder app to help you work on each goal and to check-in with yourself on how you're doing staying on task. Remember to build in breaks!

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.
  • Consider this when constructing an email:
    • Include the reason for emailing and course number for the email in the subject line (e.g., MAT 135: Final Exam Question - Student Full 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 or bulleted list. Use headings to convey the topics if your email is particularly long.
    • If you're requesting to set up a meeting, include a full range of days and times you are available as options. Put these in a bulleted list to organize them. Make sure to include dates and time zones to provide clarity! If you have flexibility, you can include a statement like this, "If neither of these days/times works for you, I am happy to be flexible." 
    • Always end the email by thanking them for their time.
    • Sign your full name and be sure to copy on the email anyone that may also require the information (e.g., other group members).
  • 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.
  • Create a shared space with one of these platforms to get to know your classmates and stay connected! After creating the channel, you can post the link in your D2L discussion channel for other students to join. This can also be very useful for creating study groups. 
    • 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. In addition to the chat function, Discord has a video, voice and screen-share option to switch up communication and group study strategies!
    • 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.

DePaul’s physical campus buildings and offices are operating on a limited schedule. Students are encouraged to engage with offices via phone, email or virtually (via Zoom or chat, if available). If you need to visit campus, please review important information regarding campus access and building hours on the Building Hours page.

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

Loop Campus - DePaul Center

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

Lincoln Park

  • Lincoln Park Library, Study rooms on 2nd floor (reservation required)
  • Arts and Letters Hall: Common area
  • O'Connell Hall: Rooms 202, 224, 230, and 256
  • Brownstone's
  • Reserve a time for quiet hours with your family or roommates (e.g., a few hours in the afternoon for studying, a guarenteed bedtime on weekday nights).
  • If you live in a shared space, either at home with your family or with roommates, hanging up a paper schedule in a common space is a great idea. Try writing down your designated synchronous class times/designated asynchronous study times. This way your house-mates can refer to it to help encourage and respect your study time.
  • Try changing it up: find new places to do your work. Sometimes changing the location can make a big difference. Parks are a great way to safely switch up your environment.
  • Sometimes just having a friend, who's a responsible study buddy, be on zoom with you while you're both studying can help motivate you to study. Having a study buddy helps you stay accountable!

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.
  • Join a virtual group fitness class provided by the Ray Meyer Fitness Center! This is a great opportunity for individuals looking to exercise, get active, and take a break from online courses. Find the class schedule and more info at this link.
  • 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.
  • Join a student organization by visiting DePaul’s DeHUB (student engagement platform at DePaul) and search for other clubs you may be interested in. Find a Tutorial for How to Navigate DeHUB here.
  • MyLife App – free meditation app with over 400+ activities! This app allows you to put words to your emotions and identify how you’re feeling that day. This app also enables you to set a daily reminder for meditation at a time that works for you each day!
    • If you are experiencing anxiety or depression from school or the COVID-19 crisis, there are specific activities dedicated to these topics.
    • Unlike other meditation apps, most of the activities are free and there is a wide variety to choose from!
  • Journaling – This is a great practice for anyone struggling with their mental health. Make this practice as easy for yourself as possible, write whatever feels right for you, and use your journal how you want to use it.
    • “Whenever I’ve had a bad day with classes, a grade that didn’t turn out the way I had expected, or when I am experiencing a lot of stress with my courses, I will write my feelings down in my journal right before bed. I use my journal as a way to release my emotions, so I don’t take them to sleep with me, and it allows every new day to be a fresh start.”  - DePaul Student

Tip#6: Strategies for Asynchronous Courses

It can be especially difficult to keep track of assignments in asynchronous classes. At the beginning of the week, look at the tasks you’ll have to complete that week. Block out times on your calendar to do this work and treat it like your class time. See specific tips above under "Tip #2: Stay Organized."

  • Go to office hours! If your professor holds office hours, either over Zoom, Google Hangouts, Slack, or something else, attend at least a couple of times/whenever you have questions. This is a great way to meet/ introduce yourself to your professor as well as staying connected with them. If they don’t hold live office hours or you can’t make the times, reach out to them via email to schedule a meeting using this template
  • Stay active in discussion boards on d2l. Ask questions to your professors or your peers and reply to others whenever possible.
  • If possible, try watching pre-recorded videos in 1.5x speed
  • Take a mid-lecture stretch break, walk around the room and grab a quick snack to avoid zoning out in the second-half of long lectures.
  • Try to avoid multitasking during lectures, studies say that multitasking causes you to have a harder time remembering information than if you’re focusing on one task. Before you begin watching a lecture video, close other applications or windows and put your phone on do not disturb mode to remain present.
  • Use the 20-20-20 rule to limit eye strain! Every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break and focus your eyes on something at least 20 feet away. 
  • Try watching lectures at designated times every week so that they don’t pile up and so that it feels like class.
  • If your phone has a screentime application (ios, Android), use it to monitor what apps you’re using the most and set daily limits. 
  • Take up a hobby that doesn’t involve screens, try crafting, reading a physical copy of a book or magazine, or going for walks or runs outside. 
  • Try charging your phone overnight away from your bed so you can “unplug” and have time away from your screen before going to sleep. Having your phone and alarm across the room can also help you get up and out of bed earlier and easier in the morning.
  • Use the darkmode or night mode feature on your phone and computer to avoid straining your eyes from blue-light as much as possible.