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The School of Public Health recognizes the unprecedented challenges you are confronting in your personal and academic lives due to the coronavirus crisis. You are not alone in this process; SPH instructors and staff are here to help you through this difficult time.

Tips and Strategies

We understand that everyone has a preferred learning method and unique concerns posed by the coronavirus pandemic. Still, the move from in-person classes to remote learning means you need to develop new approaches to stay engaged and participate actively in your courses. To help you discover strategies for adapting to an online instructional environment, we have created this page that lists tips and resources from SPH and the UC Berkeley campus. We want to ensure you find the support you need and consider strategies that will help you endure changes in your academic life.

The most important strategy to succeed in any academic environment is to prioritize your health. During uncertain times as these, anxiety and stress can inhibit your ability to learn and participate in your courses. The links below can help you find relevant mental health resources: 

  • Visit the Resiliency and Mental Health page to learn about SPH resiliency initiatives and find mental health resources.
  • Reach out to CAPS, which remains fully operational, and is committed to delivering quality counseling and consultation services during this time.

Finding a quiet, unoccupied space might be difficult under sheltering-in-place. Try your best to find a space where you can focus; a kitchen table, a corner of your room, or any space that is comfortable could be spaces to study. The important thing is to minimize distractions while working in your designated study space. You can protect yourself from distractions by

  • Communicating with any roommates or family members about how you might work together to create a conducive learning environment.
  • Signing out of social media, turn off notifications, and turn on blocking apps.
  • If possible, try to separate yourself from whatever distractions exist in your household. A good pair of headphones helps and there are lots of great studying playlists to explore!

Although your dedicated workspace is best for focused work, such as studying and test-taking, consider varying your location for some of your other work.  You could try writing or working in other quiet spots in your home or you could do your reading outside.

Access to an Electronic Device and Internet Connection

You will rely more heavily on technology than in prior semesters during this time of remote instruction. We recognize that not everyone has the same access to technology; you might be accessing course material through your phone, sharing a computer with other members of your family, or struggling to have a stable internet connection. Several programs on campus can help you obtain computer equipment:

If you have any issues with your equipment, reach out to Student Technology Services, which provides free tech support to all graduate and undergraduate students at UC Berkeley. 

Digital Tools for Remote Learning

Once you review the syllabi of your courses, log into all digital tools required by each course such as Zoom, bcourses, and the Google suite. Check that you are able to access them before the course begins and if you encounter any issues contact your instructor right away. If you and your instructor are unable to resolve a problem with any of these tools, submit a ticket to the IT Helpdesk.

Many of your courses will likely use Zoom for live class sessions or office hours. Take a look at this Zoom Guide if you have not used this software in the past. If needed, ensure that you have access and accommodations through the Student Disability Center. To ensure Zoom runs smoothly on your computer, you should: 

  • Close all active browsers and applications. Zoom meetings can demand significant memory and processing power from your computer. Closing other applications, ones you do not need during the session, will help Zoom run more efficiently.
  • Suspend any downloads in progress and close all unnecessary programs. These functions will compete for bandwidth during your active Zoom session and lead to “freezes” and pixilated images.
Zoom Video Conferencing

If you experience connectivity issues during the live session, you can join the live session by calling in. In addition to avoiding interruptions caused by connectivity issues, consider adhering to general netiquette expectations. Here are a few simple steps for Zoom Etiquette for participants: 

  • When you don’t want anyone to see or hear you, double-check that your video is off, and you are on mute, so the whole class doesn’t hear something they shouldn’t! 
  • Keep in mind how you present yourself. Dress for your video conference the way you would for an in-person course.
  • Consider using a virtual background if your background might create distractions or if you are not comfortable showing your private space. 
  • Practice speaking to the camera and not the screen. We tend to look at the person on the screen, but you should look at the camera when you talk, so your instructors and classmates feel like you’re talking directly to them.

Being on Zoom for long periods of time can be tiring, therefore, it is important that you take breaks in between your Zoom courses. If you are feeling Zoom fatigued, consider joining your classes using a tablet or smartphone, that way you can change locations or move around your home.

Access to Library Resources

You can still obtain library resources that only campus users can access. Here are instructions if you need to access library resources using the VPN.

  • Having a daily routine can help provide some structure and keep you focused, productive, and organized. Create a calendar ( Google calendar is a great option) with your class times, upcoming exams, and assignment due dates. Be sure to set aside time for breaks, physical activity, and virtual socializing.
  • It is always important to take breaks, but even more so when working remotely. Be sure to plan breaks during your study sessions to get up and move around or simply just clear your head. A great way to do this is to utilize the Pomodoro Technique, where you work diligently for 25 minutes, followed by a 5-minute break.
  • Getting organized early on is key to staying on track. Create a system to keep all of your class-related items, physical and digital, in one place. Do you know how to access your virtual lectures? Are any due dates or assignments changing? What format will your exams be in? Be sure to reach out to your professors if you have any questions.
  • Your instructors are emailing you with important information on a regular basis. Be sure to check your email multiple times a day so you are aware of upcoming assignments, changes to the syllabus, and updates from the university.
  • Learning well remotely will require you to actively and intentionally engage in your learning.  This means that you do more than just passively watch videos or lecture capture or just passively highlight while reading.  Instead, mentally engage in both your note-taking and reading.  Research shows that learning is a science (watch this video).  Specific evidence-based strategies include:

    • Retrieval Practice (see video) involves actively calling information to mind from memory.

    • Interleaving (see video) involves intermixing types of problems and topics.

    • Spaced Learning (see video) involves learning a topic over multiple spaced sessions.

    • Explanatory Questioning/Elaborating (see video) involves answering “why” questions or explaining/justifying “why” answers or ideas are accurate.

You can also take a look at the strategies highlighted by the Student Learning Center.  After reading and watching videos about these strategies, reflect on how you might apply them to each of your classes.

For more videos and handouts to help you actively engage in your assignments, readings, and note-taking:

Communication with your instructors is critical in the online learning environment. Because you’re not meeting face-to-face, the instructional team might not recognize when you’re struggling – and other students might need the same thing! So when you realize that you need something, don’t hesitate: reach out to your instructor and/or GSI. Attend virtual office hours to obtain help from your instructors, and if you feel intimidated, you could go to office hours with a friend to feel supported. Also, consider attending multiple discussion and lab sections if possible, until you find the instructor that matches your learning style.

In addition to seeking support from your instructors, take advantage of the tutoring offered by SPH and the UC Berkeley Campus:

  • The Student Learning Center Writing Program supports undergraduates with their writing projects at all stages of the writing process. You can schedule a virtual appointment, attend drop-in hours, and workshops.
  • Tutoring and academic advising from the DREAM office is now through Zoom. The DREAM Office provides a variety of tutoring for Public Health 142: Introduction to Biostatistics, Public Health 250A: Introduction to Epidemiology and writing support for papers, capstones, and projects.

Suggestion Box

If you have been experiencing any confusion, challenges, or if you have a suggestion that you think would improve the learning of our community, please submit your anonymous suggestion here.

Our instructional design team as well as staff from the DREAM office will have access to these responses and will be providing instructors with relevant feedback. Faculty and Graduate Student Instructors will not have access to this form to maintain confidentiality.