Elevating Your Academics

Elevating Your Academics has been designed specifically for you by the Division of Academic Enhancement as part of the University of Georgia's active planning to equip you with the resources and strategies needed for success as you begin or continue your collegiate career. This material draws on the research regarding student learning and development theory.

This material is designed for two learning outcomes. First, we seek to acquaint all UGA students with the numerous resources they should utilize for their success in a new learning environment. We are here to help

Second, we hope to equip you with knowledge and skills of the numerous campus resources and academic learning strategies to set you up for success.


Staying Organized

Bear in mind that in college you are expected to split your time between the learning you do inside the classroom and the learning you do outside the classroom. Taking classes throughout the day means you will have pockets of time between classes that you will want to identify how and where you are spending that time. If you plan to use your place of residency (dorm, apartment, rental, etc.) as a study space, then that can be challenging to stay focused on your academic work with the increased temptations and distractions you may have at home.

One of the best ways to be successful with your coursework is giving yourself the space, mentally and physically, to focus on learning. Take some time before you dive into your academics outside of class (i.e., homework, studying, etc,) to think about how to establish and maintain a workspace that will be productive for you, especially as courses may differ in how content is delivered. In this module, you will learn some tips that will help you get set up for success in your academics.

Strategies to Staying Organized

Students typically try to allocate two to three hours outside of class for every hour in class. However, for a given course or a given week in the semester, you will likely want to dedicate more time on that respective material in order to ensure your mastery of that course content and/or in preparation for an assessment.

There are some excellent Time Management strategies listed in the Academic Success at Georgia resource.  Please pay special attention to the 8-8-8 rule when you are trying to establish a balance or harmony between your academic commitments and your personal/social commitments. Be sure to prioritize your sleep first, as the other aspects of your life will be dependent on a good night's sleep.

As you set up your workspace, be sure to keep it organized and clean. This will help you stay on task and reduce visual distractions and temptations.

Routine is an important part of academic success. Having a dedicated space you can repeatedly come back to will help you focus and develop a sense of focus. This will be vital for you to be successful in your coursework, especially during exams.

Studying on campus - find a designated study location that will support your learning. This may be one of the libraries or a reserved study/quiet space on campus within your college/school. It would probably be a good idea to identify a few spaces on campus that will support or aid in your focus, as the demand for study space increases around exams and finals.

Studying off campus - if you plan to study at your place of residence or the coffee shop that you love to go to, bear in mind that tempations and distractions can be much higher. You will want to be very intentional about the study spaces you select and work to ensure that you do stay on task while working towards completing the goals you have set for yourself.

Be sure you are getting up at least every 50 to 75 minutes to move around. This will help with circulation and avoiding fatigue. Even if you spend only 5-10 minutes every hour moving around, that activity can help you stay focused on the mentally taxing coursework you are addressing.

You can also look at these breaks as a moment to reward yourself for the hard work you had just put into your academics. If you were good not to get distracted browsing your phone turing your time of study, then use the break to catch up on what you may have been missing out on. But, be sure to regulate yourself here. Taking a break to get on your phone should not be a long, drawn out experience. Breaks are meant to be short and rejuvenating.

Don’t kid yourself that you can multitask when doing your academic work. Stay focused on the task at hand and wait to catch up on Netflix/YouTube/social media/etc. till after you have completed your academic work. We recommend that you set a time for social media, entertainment, and personal breaks – if you don’t have a designated time for those things, they can creep into your schedule and derail your productivity.

Managing Your Time

Being present in your learning will help you get more out of your classes, and better prepare you for the rigor of the semester. 

Establishing a regular routine that supports learning will help you be an engaged learner during your classes and avoid the danger of blending in among the crowd. For example, making a schedule of when you’ll wake up, when you’ll check for communication from peers or faculty, when you’ll go for a walk, and so on will help limit distractions. Telling others what your days will look like will also help keep you accountable. You may have to silence your phone for regular periods of time to focus and be present, but sometimes that is easier said than done.

Once you’ve established a routine and made set deadlines for yourself, make sure to stick to it! Keeping your routine will be key in staying on course and making the progress you want to make, especially when you’re in a new learning environment. This module will guide you through some best practices in establishing a routine for deeper learning.

Time Management Strategies

Set a (flexible) plan for checking in with your professor, and ask others, such as your family or classmates, to help you stay accountable.

There will be frustrations in a college learning environment, as more responsibility is placed on you. Communication may be slower than you'd like; you may feel isolated from your peers; deadlines may feel back-to-back or extremely spaced out - making it difficult to be motivated to complete them; and, technology might not work as you hope or plan. It’s vital to make a plan for yourself, but it’s just as vital to have some flexibility for when things don’t work out perfectly. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help or admitting you’re unsure of what to do.

It can provide enormous flexibility and convenience when completing assignments, tasks and group work, but at the same time, online tools can provide unique frustrations. Flexible planning is key to your success here. Have a plan for how you will communicate with your instructor when/if technology fails you, and make sure you have back ups of all your assignments.

Although at times it may feel that you have all the time in the world, don't let assignments pill up. College classes move at an accelerated pace. Do all you can to stay on top of projects and communicate with your instructor if you feel you are falling behind.

Start your homework as soon as it is assigned. You are not being asked here to finish the work immediately, but if you at least start the work as it is assigned, you will have a better awareness of what you are being asked to do, can budget how much time it may take you to complete, and what resources you may need to seek out to support you in completing said work. If you wait till the last minute to start that work, you likely do not have the necessary time or resources to do that work to the best of your ability.

Being an Engaged Learner

The day-to-day process of remote learning will most likely look different from how you've imagined your college courses. It is important to be aware of what learning looks and feels like in order to be successful in it. This includes familiarizing yourself with new online tools, as well as developing new versions of old habits.

In this module you will learn about different software and resources commonly used in classes, as well as how to effectively use those resources to be an engaged part of the classroom and a courteous classmate. Explore these resources and learn how to use the ones being used by your instructors.

The number one thing to keep in mind is to stay on top of your material and stay in contact with your instructors in order to be successful.

Engaged Learner Strategies

You may feel that you do a great job of taking notes during face-to-face lectures, but everyone's note-taking skills can be improved, especially in an online class. Taking effective notes can be difficult, but there are some simple steps you can take to make sure your notes will help you learn the material. Effective notes will help you understand the concepts, retain the information, and potentially reduce stress during exam preparation. If you feel you need help with taking good notes, explore DAE's Academic Success at Georgia Note-Taking Skills for a deeper dive.

Remaining focused on the information in a learning environment is not easy - you are surrounded by distractions far more than you may realize! Make sure you are giving the material the attention it requires, not just zoning out until the class session is over.

Location, location, location. Think about where you sit in the class and how that location supports your learning. If you are sitting at the back of the class or along the far edges, are you as engaged in the learning process as if you were closer to the front and center of the room. This is particularly important for large lecture hall rooms. The further you are from the instructor cna sometimes lead to the further you are from engaging in the course material. Additionally, when you are in the back of the room, you may be more distracted by all the other students in the room that are now in your line of sight or in your periphery. 

You will most likely be responsible for doing more work on your own now, and will have access to a lot of different sources. Make sure you are being responsible about which sources you use for your schoolwork, and considering where you are getting your information. Is the source reliable? Are there other sources that will support or cooraborate this information? How have you vetted this information to know if it is appropriate to use in this respective context?

With the developing technology around Generative Artificial Intelligence, it is important for you to know if these types of resources are allowed in your course. If you are not sure, ask your instructor.

Remember you have access to trusted sources like UGA Libraries Finding Reliable Sources and the DAE's Peer-tutoring Writing Resources.

Don’t forget that you’re a part of the UGA community now - you have a whole University full of people who want to help you succeed. Stay in frequent contact with your instructors. Reach out to the Libraries staff if you need help conducting research, or set up remote study groups with your classmates. Take advantage of the resources around you, and you’ll be much more successful in your classes.

To further support you in being engaged in the learning environment, check out these resources:

  • Take notes on an exciting Note-Taking Video at DAE's Academic Success at Georgia
    • While watching this video, practice taking notes on the key points and strategies described in it. 
    • Pause the video every minute or so to review your notes, fill in important content you missed, reflect on understanding, and then proceed to the next segment.
  • Use the UGA Libraries Fact-Checking Sites page to practice assessing the appropriateness of sources.
    • Watch this video on how to Practice Critical Thinking.
    • Utilize one of the trusted sites (e.g. FactCheck.org) to locate one article that reports on false and misleading claims and the original article that includes the false or misleading statements.
    • Consider the information being given with these questions: who is behind the information and what are their credentials? What is the evidence; is it subjective (a matter of interpretation); is it empirical (observable, verifiable)? What do other sources say? 

Speaking With Your Professor

One of the easiest ways to be successful in your college courses, whether they are online or in person, is staying in contact with your instructors. Asking questions about class logistics or materials, checking online platforms, and sharing your needs with instructors as appropriate will improve your learning no matter what environment it takes place in. Communicating clearly and openly - as best you can and as appropriate for you - can help your instructor know what's going on in terms of your learning.

It is equally important to realize that an online classroom is, in fact, still a classroom. Certain behaviors are expected when you communicate with your instructors, graduate teaching assistants, and peers.

Strategies for Communication

Be sure to look for an answer to your question before you ask. Sometimes the answer to your question is already posted in eLC or the syllabus. If you look but don’t find it, then say to your professions “Can you help me with this? I looked in the syllabus but didn’t find the information in there.” This way your instructor knows you are doing your part, and are not simply asking them to look the answer up for you.

Some instructors will answer emails very quickly, and for others it may take a day (or even a few days). Check the syllabus to see if there are any instructions for communication (e.g., “I typically respond to student emails at 6:00 a.m. each business day.”) and use that as a guide. If there is no extra information available, assume your professor checks their email at least once every business day, and give them at least two business days before following up with a request for a reply.

If you’re not sure about something, ask! It’s always better to have answers instead of questions, and the best way to do that is to ask for help. You can use time right before or after class, ask during class (if it’s relevant to what’s being talked about!), or send your professor an email. Check your syllabus to see if the instructor has said anything specific about how and where to ask questions, but most of all, assume they want to help you.

Chances are that your instructors’ inboxes are a lot more crowded than yours. If you have a question, get right to the point so that they can give you a clear and specific answer. Give appropriate context where needed, but overall you don’t need to draft an email like an essay with an introduction and conclusion. If their response doesn’t adequately answer your question, it’s fine to send a polite follow up for clarification. It’s also a good idea to include your class’s CRN number or meeting time in the subject line so it’s easier for the instructor to keep track of.

Always use your instructors' proper title: Dr. or Prof. <Last Name> or, if you're in doubt, simply use Instructor <Last Name>. Take your cue from how your instructors list their names on the syllabus or in their emails to you. Even if you feel comfortable with your instructors, you should still be respectful of their position and not address them as you might your friends.

Teaching Assistants are typically graduate students who are assigned to work with a specific class to help the instructor and students. If your class has a TA, then you may be encouraged to seek help and answers from them before seeking help from the instructor. Be sure to apply all the same practices of respect to the TA as you would the instructor. This may be difficult to remember at times because the TA could be closer in age/life stage to you compared to the instructor and the interactions you have with the TA may feel less formal.

If you are concerned over your performance in the class (on an assignment, an exam, or in general), then you will want to speak with your instructor as soon as possible. Don't delay the conversation, it is best to speak with your instructor early so the necessary changes can be made (if appropriate) and your performance doesn't suffer. If you are seeking clarification on a grade, how an assignment was to be done, or to manage expectations in the class moving forward, remember to be polite and respectful when reaching out to the instructor.

In any given semester there may be obstacles, challenges, or struggles that you face related to your classes, or external to your academics, that can impact your performance. You may feel that if the problems or challenges you are facing are not related to that specific class, then you cannot share with your instructor. But, your instructor will want to know if there is something that could negatively affect your work. This doesn't mean to have to disclose everything, but share what you are comfortable with as this will help provide context for your instructor to know what you are dealing with. Especially in light of this pandemic, we are all facing new and difficult situations that can "throw us off our game". Open communication and dialogue can help to foster realistic expectations and manageable goals for the semester. 

If you’d like some more guidance, watch How Miscommunication Happens (and how to avoid it) by TED-ed.

Additional resources on this subject can be found at the following: Talking with Your Professor and How to Talk to a Professor.

Staying Honest

The University of Georgia seeks to promote and ensure academic honesty and personal integrity among students and other members of the university community. A Culture of Honesty, UGA's academic honesty policy and procedures, serves these goals. All members of the academic community are responsible for knowing the policy and procedures on academic honesty.

It is important to maintain academic integrity as a member of this campus community, especially in times of change and/or in new learning environments. When you were admitted to UGA, you promised to be academically honest in all of your classes. In this module, you will learn tips to keep you and your academic work honest as you begin your college career.

Strategies to Staying Honest

Review how the University defines academic (dis)honesty. Remember that sharing work or lifting content, ideas, or materials without attribution or citation from other sources (online or elsewhere) is academic dishonesty. 

Don’t copy other students’ homework. Don’t cut and paste from the web and don’t buy papers from the web; you're a student at the University of Georgia, your instructors want to know what you think!

This is always the case, but especially now. Your instructors have most likely had to tweak their syllabi to fit an online environment, so it’s extra important to familiarize yourself with the logistics of all your classes. Look for information on the syllabus about what your instructors think is dishonest in their course.

It’s important to stay in touch with your instructors, especially if you aren’t sure of the requirements for an assignment. And as we discussed previously, it’s important to question your online sources: is this credible? Refer back to the UGA Libraries Writing and Citing and the DAE's Writing Tutoring.

Don’t allow others to use your work, even if it’s work you completed a previous term. And, especially now, be careful when you share a computer - password protect your work or place current and past assignments in a secure folder. If someone is academically dishonest using your work, you could be equally culpable. 

As a UGA student, you agreed upon admission to the University's Honor Code that you would "be academically honest in all of my academic work and will not tolerate academic dishonesty of others." Just because it’s possible to cheat on an online test does not mean that it’s acceptable.

The Academic Honesty Policy - enforced by students' agreement to the Honor Code - states: "No student shall perform, attempt to perform, or assist another in performing any act of dishonesty on academic work to be submitted for academic credit or advancement. A student does not have to intend to violate the honesty policy to be found in violation."

If you’d like more guidance, you can review definitions of common actions that constitute academically dishonest behavior at Examples of Academic Dishonesty and other tips from the Office of Academic Honesty's Commit to Integrity video.