Carnegie Mellon University

Student Academic Success Center

Office of the Vice Provost for Education

Preparing to learn online

Whether you’re on campus or learning remotely, complete the Computing Services Tech Quick Start before classes begin.

Some of the most common tools our students use to engage with their courses:

  1. Canvas: the tool you'll use to access assignments and coursework for your classes.
  2. Zoom: web conferencing software that you'll use to attend live classes online.
  3. Google for Education: core applications for collaboration, file sharing, group chats and more.

Need help? Contact the Computing Services Help Center for assistance.

Creating a physical space where you can do your work is essential. For some people, this will be dedicated space like an office or a desk in the corner of a room. For others, this means figuring out a way to make your bedroom, living room, dining table, or kitchen counter double as a work space.

  • Essential elements: To the greatest extent possible, you will want to create a space that includes each of these elements. 
    • Comfort
    • Distraction-free
    • Amenities (lighting, supplies)
  • Visit Make Your Connection Stronger in the Tech Quick Start for tips on improving your wireless signal by positioning your router and more.

  • Negotiating shared space: If you have roommates or family members who share your space, and you don’t have a physical space of your own, try these strategies:
    • Consider working on staggered schedules
    • Headphones are your friend! Instrumental music, white/brown/pink noise
    • Set up ground rules on when you can interrupt someone who is working
    • Block off, or tape off, an area to provide a signal when you are in the “work zone” and should not be disturbed
  • For less isolation: If you find it difficult to work without other people around, or if you’re feeling isolated, try these strategies:
    • Keep the TV on in the background on a non-distracting channel (cooking shows, history, etc). NOT your favorite show
    • Try virtual co-working. Use Zoom or Google Meet to set up a meeting to connect with classmates or friends. If you don’t have a particular person in mind, or if you prefer co-working with people you don’t know, consider using focusmate.com

Take some time now to write down the people and resources that you’ll lean on when you need some encouragement or a gentle nudge. Having a success partner can greatly improve your ability to reach the goals you set for yourself. Research has shown that committing your goals to another person makes you 65% more likely to follow through. This person doesn’t have to be an expert in your discipline or even someone who knows anything about Carnegie Mellon. You can use a friend, family member, classmate, or mentor as your success partner, in addition to the many CMU-specific resources that are available to all students, whether you’re living on-campus, in Pittsburgh, or elsewhere.

On-campus resources

Not sure where to start?

line drawing of monthly calendarSchedule a consultation with a staff member in the Student Academic Success Center! We’ll talk things through with you and help you get set up and connected.