Here’s how you can improve your academic experience in 2021

January 28, 2021
Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

This is an article done by Student Success Centre. It was not produced by The Silhouette

A letter from the Student Success Centre in response to the Fall Experience Survey  

Let's start 2021 with some positivity and productivity.  

If anything about the saying, "practice makes perfect," is true, then we can hope for improved online learning and working environments in 2021. (Maybe not perfect, but improved.) 

The MacPherson Institute's McMaster Fall Experience Survey Report combines 2,796 student and 384 instructor responses to reveal common challenges associated with online learning in Fall 2020. Students also reflected on ways they could improve their learning experience in 2021. 

We love the goal-setting, and we’re here to remind you that we’re committed to your success. 

Based on some common responses to the Fall Survey Report, here are our top tips to help you get started, courtesy of the SSC academic skills team’s experience and expertise. We recommend you bookmark this article for reference as you develop your academic skills throughout the semester. 

"I'm not sure what I can do to improve." 

The SSC website is a great place to start discovering support. We recommend you explore and favourite the following academic pages (find the heart icon at the top of each page): 

"I want to try new time-management strategies." 

  • Plan, plan, plan your classes, readings, assignments and tests. 
  • Use tools such as to-do lists and weekly and four-month calendars. 
  • Include synchronous and asynchronous blocks into your weekly calendars. 
  • Dedicate smaller amounts of time to start or complete tasks. 
  • Avoid distractions and time-wasters. 
  • Attend a Mastering Time Management workshop. Check OSCARplus > Student Success Centre > Events for dates/times. 

Depending on where you are in the world, you may be studying in a different time zone.  

  • Share your schedule with those in the house to accommodate your schedule. 
  • Find study group members in the same time zone. 
  • Schedule time to watch recorded lectures in your weekly schedule. 

LibGuides: Managing Time 

"I want to change my study habits." 

  • Use active study strategies that include testing yourself and teaching others. 
  • Focus on what you don't already know. 
  • Make new meaning by connecting course content. 
  • Use shorter amounts of time over multiple days for short bursts of studying. 
  • For group projects, keep groups small to accommodate everyone's schedule, and meet regularly. 
  • Attend a workshop or virtual study session. Check OSCARplus > Student Success Centre > Events for dates/times. 

When it comes to staying focused and motivated, we recommend you: 

  • Turn off device notifications. 
  • Transition to study mode; review previous lectures, move to a table and have all the materials you need. 
  • Participate in chats and discussion posts to help retain information. 
  • Ask yourself, "what are the reasons for doing this task?" 
  • Seek support when you need it. 
  • Think of the consequences of not completing the task. 
  • Reward yourself. 

LibGuides: Learning Online, Reading and Note-Taking, Studying and Taking Exams, Writing 

"I want to access additional support." 

Remember, everyone can benefit from additional help and skills development — it's not just for "struggling" students! 

  • Academic coaching: Using the Appreciative Advising model, SSC academic coaches can help you develop the skills you need to succeed in university. 
  • Writing support: The Writing Centre is the go-to place to improve your writing skills. Writing advisors can support you during any part of the writing process. 
  • Peer tutoring: Through the Undergrad Peer Tutoring Network (UPTN), you have access to affordable, course-specific tutoring from trained undergrads who've completed and earned at least an A- or a 10 grade in the course you're taking. 
  • Workshops: Browse academic skills workshops on OSCARplus > Student Success Centre > Events. 
  • Academic tip sheets: Access all the SSC academic skills tip sheets on the Library's LibGuides database. 
  • Wellness support: The Student Wellness Centre (SWC) offers various counselling options, medical services and wellness programs. 
  • Technology assistance: University Technology Services (UTS) can support you with the tools and technology you need to succeed. 

"I want to socialize more and feel more sense of community." 

  • Ask instructors to create social threads on Avenue to Learn (A2L) or other platforms like Microsoft Teams. 
  • Create virtual study groups and meet often. 
  • Join a McMaster Students Union (MSU) club — there are more than 300 to choose from! 
  • Make time to socialize and check in with friends and family. Your support network is closer than you think. 
  • Attend an SSC event! We host various annual, signature and pop-up events throughout the year. 
  • Follow @MacSSC on Instagram for fun games, activities and ways to connect. 

Do you have questions? Try the live chat feature on the SSC website, available Monday–Friday, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Or, send the academic skills team an email at We're here to support you, and we're happy to help. 


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