Distance Learning | Marcia Amsterdam Kean | Part 2

We’ve already discussed the ‘big picture’ of online learning. 

Now, some specific tips.

When you encounter a problem, ask yourself who is best suited to address it. 

For example, if your password doesn’t bring you into Moodle, it may be a Tech problem.  Email the IT folks (but please first read the info on the Moodle homepage to avoid wasting their time.)  If you can’t open an article in your module that is labelled ‘online’, ask others in the forum if they can or if perhaps it’s a system problem (If the latter, your instructor may address it.  If the former, maybe another student can PDF it and email to you.) If a reading is only available in book form and the library is closed due to pandemic or you live too far away anyway, try the chat function at the library website and ask if the librarian can digitize it for you (not sure if that will work at Roehampton right now, but it still does at the universities near me).  If your problem can’t be solved by any of the above, email the instructor directly, and explain your dilemma.

You don’t have to navigate Moodle like a pro.  As you see from my requests for input, there are some things I never quite mastered.  Amazingly, I’m in my last semester anyway, with every expectation of being awarded my degree. Good enough is good enough with Moodle.

The course materials, such as slide shows, don’t always “open” when you click on them.  I find that first they download, and I have to go to the downloads section on my computer, and from there drag them over to my desktop folders, and then open them. (If there’s a better way, write me at keanm@roehampton.ac.uk).   

Sometimes the reading lists are so long that you believe you are drowning and/or failing.

I have found that it’s difficult to read everything on the lists…but if I read those designated as ESSENTIAL, and as many as possible of the other suggested chapters, I can usually keep up with the email forums, and do a creditable job on the Assessments.  I also print out the Reading Lists for future use – in another course or for another degree.  The instructors have worked hard to provide them, so use to maximum advantage.

Don’t panic if you submit an Assessment document to Turnitin, and then wake up and realize there were mistakes in it. Well, the little secret of Turnitin is that – UP UNTIL THE DEADLINE – you can resubmit a fresh draft(s) easily, and the former draft just vanishes from the system.  Don’t forget to print out your receipt, though.  (Ya nevah know, do ya?)

Take shortcuts.  Have your computer remember your passwords, so you can enter Moodle, the Library catalogue, and the student portal with just one click.  Bookmark those key sites.  Use the Dashboard feature to see all your courses (look to the right – you’ll see messages.) Write down the email addresses of your instructors once and for all.  Put all your Roehampton passwords in one place that’s easy to find.  The fewer clicks and the less running in circles, the better.

Set up a system of organization, both digital and print.  For each of my courses, I put all hard copies of Assessment drafts, printed articles, and emails from the instructor into a cardboard box, labelled with course name and instructor.  Trust me, you will want to look back at some point, and this makes it way easier. 

For digital, I’ve got a folder on my desktop: inside, folders for each course; inside those, the downloaded readings, any guidance documents, and my final-as-submitted Assessment essays.  This is not obsession, it’s a time-and-sanity-saving device. (If you tend to buy your books, set up your own system on your home shelves.  I have no shelves, but my boxes of books are well labelled by category.  Another time-saver!)

Keep a file called “Enduring themes and authors”.  Along the way, you’ll discover that some writers really resonate with you, and if you’ve kept their quotes, etc., you can refer back to them in various settings.  Michel Foucault is the philosopher for me.  And Paul Ricoeur.  But that’s just me.  Who are your favorites?

Ideas that seemed brilliant at 3:00 am, may embarrass you the next day.  When I am ‘struck’ by genius in the middle of a sleepless night, I write my thoughts as a draft email, and save it.  If they still seem rational the next day, I click SEND. Or delete….

Try not to apologize all the time in your emails.  As in “I realize this is an idiotic question, but…”  I can’t help myself sometimes, so I’m guilty too.  But too much of this stuff in the Forums can be tiresome for your fellow students. Be confident, you’re smart!

Finally, remember that distance/online learning is a great opportunity.  In fact, a great privilege.  So seize the (asynchronous) day!

Stay well,


The University of Roehampton changes lives by helping our students to develop the confidence, knowledge and values they need for a successful and fulfilling life. We produce world-class research that helps us understand the world and change it for the better.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.