Learning from Online Lectures and Discussions

Successful online learners have a growth mindset! They are flexible, tolerate the inevitable technical problems that arise, ask for help when they need it, do regular work for each class, and persist when things are hard.

Learning from Online Video Lectures

In online learning, video lectures can be done either synchronously, in real-time with opportunities for interaction, or asynchronously, where you are just watching a recorded lecture.

  • If your time zone and internet connection allow, you should attend online classes at the normally scheduled time. If you need to watch the recorded version, set regular times to watch the videos and watch them at normal speed (don’t speed them up!).
  • If you are watching a recorded video, consider watching it in chunks, pausing every 10-15 minutes to review notes and connect the content to other course materials.
  • Expect to take time before each class to read the syllabus or Canvas instructions so you know before class what’s expected of students.
  • Take notes just like it’s a normal class. The LSC’s videos on Cornell Notes offer good general note-taking tips.
  • During synchronous video lectures, if there is a chat function, post your questions or points of confusion. It’s highly likely that others have the same questions.
  • Close down distracting apps while you are watching the lecture. (See “Perils of Multitasking”)

Communication is different in the online environment:

  • Find out how your professor expects you to communicate questions about the class and/or about the course material: During class? In office hours? Via email? Through Canvas?
  • For an in-person class, professors often rely on non-verbal cues to know whether their students are following along or not. In online environments students need to signal to ask for clarification when they are confused.

Participating in Online Discussions

Think about how you will find your comfort in online classes and discussions. Just like in regular classes, different students have different preferences and comfort levels in live discussion. If you’re somebody who tends to contribute very actively, continue to engage, but pull back a little to allow others to contribute. And if you normally tend to listen actively and speak less, look for places where you can contribute your thoughts. Consider:

  • Starting in the chat and then contributing more when you feel more comfortable.
  • Doing the pre-reading or pre-lecture assignments and taking a few notes
  • During the lecture, jot down some questions or points before you contribute.

These can help you feel more confident when you chime in with your thoughts or questions. No matter how you feel about participating, support your classmates! Remember, while some people feel at ease in online discussions, others may find it anxiety-producing. Offering a quick thumbs-up or “Interesting point!” can make a difference for a fellow student.

TIP: Active participation in online learning can help you—and the rest of the class— feel connected, which helps learning!

VIDEO: Reading in Online Courses

Are you wondering what some good strategies are for reading in online classes? Check out this video on “Online Learning: Reading” for some ideas before and after class.

Having trouble?

If you are experiencing challenges with online learning, let your instructors know if you’re experiencing challenges. This is always a good idea, and especially so now that we are in online learning territory. The online format is new to the vast majority of faculty, so they are figuring it out alongside you.

For useful information, go to the Cornell COVID-19 updates page cornell.edu/coronavirus/

Many of these tips are adapted from the Center for Academic Innovation at the University of Michigan and the Academic Resource Center at Duke University—thank you to our colleagues for generously sharing their resources.

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