Keys to Success

Getting Started

Learning by distance can be a great way to accomplish your educational goals. There are a few things you need to know before you get started. We’re sure that this will help you to get things off to a smooth start.

  • Make contact with your instructor via telephone or email in the first two weeks of the course to introduce yourself and ask any questions you have.
  • If your course is on-line, you will need to have a Campus Wide Login (CWL) and your courses will be accessible through your MyUBC page or the e- learning website. If you don’t have a CWL, set one up at
  • Review the requirements for your course (found in the course manual or on the course website) and set up a study schedule. You’ll find some links to practical study tips on this site or on the LEAP website.
  • Obtain your UBCcard for Library Access. Directions for obtaining the card are on their website. Register for services through Extension Library. They can assist in your research and mail you library material for free. To access full text on line journals set up a Virtual Private Network.
  • Follow the schedule for submitting assignments. Assignments given in the course manual or posted on the course website must be completed in the assigned order and submitted as outlined. Instructors can refuse to grade assignments submitted in a batch. Late, batched assignment submissions too close to the exam date will jeopardize your ability to write the final exam and may result in a failed standing in the course. Please consult with your instructor if you are having trouble keeping to a schedule with your assignments.
  • Keep a copy of the assignments you submit. If an assignment gets lost or damaged en route, you will be required to re-submit it. You should allow at least two weeks for assignments to be received, graded and returned to you.
  • Contact your instructor if you are concerned with your progress. Ensure that you do this before the mid-point of the course. You may need some advice regarding your best course of action. Delaying this discussion may result in academic penalties.
  • Keep track of your examination date. Your exam schedule will be made available to you via the Student Service Centre (SSC) or you can review UBC scheduled exams here. All assignments must be completed and submitted before you take the examination.
  • Apply to write your exam.. All students must apply to write exams for distance courses. For more information consult the Distance Education exams page.
  • If you have questions or concerns related to distance education in general, please contact your Learner Support Staff. They are available to help you reach your goals.

The Learning Process

Successful learners use a variety of strategies in the process of learning regardless of the format (in class, online or in print). Researchers often refer to these strategies as cognitive (related to processing information to generate meaning) and metacognitive (related to planning, evaluating and reflecting on the process of learning). The strategies you choose will be linked to your learning goals. Your goals may be motivated by external forces like a desire to achieve a good grade or by internal forces like the desire to master a particular challenge. Following are some keys to success that highlight these learning strategies.


  • Prepare yourself for learning. The suggestions in Keys to Success: Getting Started will help you in preparing yourself for learning. In addition, look through your course materials, the introduction, learning objectives and assignment schedules. This orientation will help you to determine your goals and make decisions about the amount of time and effort you are prepared to invest.
  • Assess your progress and your understanding of the material you are studying. In assessing your learning progress, you will want to check your comprehension, adapt your strategies if they are not working, seek clarification, discuss with others and reflect on your understanding of the concepts as they relate to past learning or experiences. You’ll also want to check your own pace of learning in relation to the course schedule and intended learning outcomes or course objectives. Participation in online discussion (if your course is online) is important.
  • Evaluate your learning. Self-evaluation can be a useful tool. Strategies here include self-testing and review of the content, reflection on and revision of your own learning goals and the strategies you are using to accomplish them.


  • Identify relevant information and concepts. Focus on the learning objectives identified in the course or unit introduction, the key terms and concepts that are identified and your own interest and experience to identify content that is valuable to your learning experience.
  • Read, review and test your understanding of key concepts. This may include highlighting relevant passages or key terms and copying these in note form for later review. Some learners also like to read aloud so they can hear what they are reading. Using as many modalities as possible may assist in the recall of information (eg. Reading, writing, hearing, doing).
  • Organize the ideas presented. This is most effective if it is logical – according to “theme, main ideas, relationships among ideas and supporting details or examples.” (Olgren, 1998 in Gibson, 1998). Some learners use concept mapping techniques here – others prefer standard note-taking approaches.
  • Build connections with your prior experience. Here learners may summarize, associate new learning with examples, consider analogies or metaphors, reflect, discuss, develop further questions, explain and use new learning to solve problems. This process is referred to as knowledge construction and is critical for the transformation of information into meaningful knowledge.

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