Setting Up

A few steps can help set you up for success in online learning. Spending time on these early can really pay off later, when deadlines are looming.

Set Up A Study Space | Prep Your Tech | Know Your Resources | Understand Academic Integrity | Ask for Academic Accommodations

Set Up A Study Space

Creating a dedicated study space can help you focus and improve your productivity, even if it’s just a corner of a room or spot at a kitchen table. It also separates when you should mentally be at school versus at home. This distinction can be important in boosting mood and performance.

Make a personal classroom

  • Pick a spot for studying and try to make coursework the main or only thing you do there. This spot could be a separate room or a specific part of a smaller space, such as a desk in a dorm room. Ideally it’s quiet and distraction-free; if not, try headphones to block out the noise.
  • Create a setup that you can comfortably sit or stand at for a few hours. Use the UBC ergonomics guide for working from home to make practical adjustments with common household items like books, pillows, and cutting boards.
  • Let friends, family members, or classmates know when you will be “going to class” in this space. Communicating these times creates accountability for yourself and lets others know not to disrupt you. If you share your home with other people, ask for their help in supporting a calmer environment during study times.
  • Silence unnecessary notifications on your devices to increase your focus when you’re in this space. If you’re not using your phone for coursework, consider turning it off or putting it in a harder-to-reach place.
  • Use apps to make studying easier. To minimize procrastinating, install browser apps that block or limit time on websites you know distract you. To reduce eye strain, use device settings like “Night Light” / “Night Shift” or download a blue light filter. To improve focus, try a white noise app or one that mimics nature or coffee shop sounds.

Tip #1:
Add inspiration to your space. Place an item or image nearby that makes you smile or reminds you of your long-term goals. Have special snacks or music playlists you only use for studying.

Tip #2:
Choose a cue to help you mentally transition into your space, such as making a cup of coffee/tea or doing a stretching routine.

The Chapman Learning Commons has more ways of developing great habits for studying at home » and UBC Recreation has additional practical suggestions for studying at home »

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Prep Your Tech

Online learning naturally comes with technical requirements, which may vary by course. As a starting point, try to meet the following requirements as best you can.

Meet technical requirements

  • Computer: A desktop or laptop computer will be easier to complete your work on than a mobile device or tablet. Smaller devices have less screen real estate for viewing and interacting with your online course content. And not all UBC learning technologies work on tablets and mobile devices.
  • Audio: Many computers come with a built-in speaker and microphone. But a headset with a microphone that you plug into your computer will provide the best audio experience.
  • Video: If your computer does not have a built-in camera, it’s best to get a webcam you can attach. You can still participate in web-conferencing lectures and meetings without one, but online exams may require it.
  • Web Browser: Each technology may have different requirements of which browsers they work with best. As a starting point, install the latest version of at least one of these browsers: Chrome, Edge, or Firefox.
  • Software: All active UBC students can download Microsoft Office 365 software (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook) for free. Other teaching and learning software is available through the same link, including Camtasia for video editing, Snagit for screen capturing, and VideoScribe for animations.

Tip #1:
Protect your data online by following the key ways to keep cybersafe » from the UBC Privacy Matters website and using UBC-recommended antivirus software »

Tip #2:
If you need to upgrade, take a look at the technology discounts for UBC students » on laptops, internet plans, and more.

Tip #3:
If you are short on computer storage, you can use Microsoft OneDrive » to store up to 1TB of files securely online. The files can be accessed from any connected device.

Tech-savvy folks may be interested to know that UBC Learning Technology Hub recommends a computer with a minimum Intel i5 or equivalent processor, 8GB memory, 256GB drive, and the latest Windows or Mac operating system.

Connect to the Internet

  • Wired or Wireless: It’s best to use a wired or wireless connection, if you can. Many courses deliver content in a variety of multimedia, including video streaming for lectures. So the higher the speed, the better. Generally, a minimum 5.0 Mbps download and 1.0 Mbps upload speed will handle most UBC learning technologies.
  • Mobile Hotspots: If you are in cellular range and have a data plan for your phone, you may be able to use your phone to connect your computer. Read about using mobile hotspots for Apple or using mobile hotspots for Android, and check with your phone provider to understand how this use may impact data and billing.

Tip #1:
Internet speed can be improved by closing unused applications and browser windows or tabs, as well as turning off any video sharing.

Tip #2:
If you have issues accessing learning technologies from your location, try using the UBC myVPN (Virtual Private Network) »

ResNet » internet in all UBC student residences exceeds the recommendations.

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Know Your Resources

UBC Library and the Chapman Learning Commons are among the valuable campus resources you can access online when working through your courses. Many high-quality open educational resources are available, too. Use them!

Access UBC Library services online

  • You can access licensed electronic resources from the library websites (items not available to the public at large) such as ebooks, journal articles, databases, and multimedia with your UBC CWL from the UBC Vancouver Library home page or UBC Okanagan Library home page.
  • You can chat live with a library staff member most weekday working hours (and some weekends) during the term. Go to and click the “Ask Us” orange button on the top right.
  • You can access licensed resources that have been reserved for your courses using the UBC Library Online Course Reserves (LOCR). In most courses, you will access LOCR from Canvas. See UBC’s LOCR student guide for more information.

To get the most out of Library services, check out the UBC Library Skills Tutorial »

If you don’t already know, your UBC CWL (Campus-Wide Login) is the UBC username and password you use to log in to most online campus services.

Bookmark UBC resources for learning

  • Chapman Learning Commons: The Chapman Learning Commons website is an evolving collection of student-curated learning resources, including a weekly blog, that support academic success and wellness.
  • Centre for Writing and Scholarly Communication: The Centre for Writing and Scholarly Communication offers evidence-based writing consultations, workshops, and resources for UBC Vancouver community members with varying levels of academic English proficiency.
  • UBCO Student Learning Hub: The Student Learning Hub provides access to UBCO support from peers and professionals that include tutoring in math, sciences, languages, and writing, as well as help with study skills and learning strategies.

The main UBC website » will always have the latest official university communication regarding campus closures.

Visit open education resources

Many resources available to the public at large can assist with your studies.

  • General resource sites like the Khan Academy have hundreds of educational videos covering many subjects, with an emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).
  • Interactive simulations such as Phet Science Simulations host interactive physics and chemistry simulations.
  • Open courses on platforms like Open Learn, edX, and Coursera offer free online courses.

Tip #1:
Find more high-quality, vetted open resources using Open Education Resource Repositories (OERR). UBC Library has a list of good OERRs » to get you started.

Tip #2:
Explore more open academic resources » compiled by the UBCO Student Learning Hub for help with writing, math, and science.

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Understand Academic Integrity

Academic integrity means being an honest and responsible scholar by crediting when the work you do incorporates work others have done. It is just all the more important online, since you have the world at your fingertips!

Get familiar with online integrity pledges

  • In online courses, you may be asked to take an integrity pledge. This pledge is a reminder to continue being an honest and responsible member of the UBC community, even when you have access to extra tools and resources online. By agreeing, you promise your work will honestly reflect your learning and not anyone else’s—which is really in everyone’s best interest!
  • Read the example language, so you are prepared to take this agreement seriously:

A key part of academic integrity is keeping track of references. Free reference management tools are available online, such as Zotero » and Mendeley »

Go deeper on this subject with the Chapman Learning Commons Understand Academic Integrity toolkit »

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Ask for Academic Accommodations

UBC is committed to creating an accessible learning environment in which all students can meet the essential requirements of their courses, including when learning online. Academic accommodations are available if you have a disability or ongoing medical condition which impacts your access to or engagement with activities.

Request assistance

  • The UBC Vancouver Centre for Accessibility works to create accessible, inclusive, and welcoming environments for learning, living, and working. The Centre fosters the full and self-directed participation of students with disabilities in all facets of university life. UBCV students can contact the Centre for Accessibility to discuss their needs.
  • The UBC Okanagan Disability Resource Centre offers programs and services to foster an accessible and welcoming campus. The Centre provides access to accommodations for students to overcome disability-related challenges that impede academic success. UBCO students contact the Disability Resource Centre to discuss their needs.

Depending on your needs, academic accommodations at UBC can arrange a variety of services for you. These services include helping you receive course materials in alternative formats, view closed captioning or sign-language interpretation of course content, access assistive technology, or coordinate alternate exam arrangements.

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Online Learning Tips