Tips for new students registering in our faculty’s courses

Are you getting ready to start your first year in UVic Engineering or UVic Computer Science this September? With registration for classes now open, our Academic Advisors want to provide a few tips and suggestions to help set you on a path for success.

Once you’ve reviewed them, if you still have questions, send an email to Engineering Advising or Computer Science Advising. We’re really looking forward to having you join our amazing faculty this fall!

Acknowledge that secondary school learning and university learning are different.

  • In high school, new concepts and learning objectives are typically covered in class. There, the purpose of homework is usually to reinforce concepts already learned in the classroom. In university, a lot of learning is done independently by students outside of class hours. Readings and assignments are as important as the material covered in lectures. For a more in-depth look at the differences between high school and university, we encourage you to read UVic’s page on Academic Success for new students.

Develop a study plan.

  • Be clear on which of your courses are synchronous (live classes that happen in real time) or asynchronous (pre-recorded, which you can watch at any time).
  • Normally, university students attend courses that include at least 3 hours of lectures per week. Labs and tutorials are in addition to this time commitment. It’s important to develop a daily study schedule that takes into consideration the time for each course component (lectures, labs and tutorials), as well as allocating up to two to three times the amount spent in lectures for studying. So, for example: 3 hours of class time + 3 to 6 hours of studying = 6 to 12 hours per week per class.
  • Remember that the length of each term is only 13 weeks, followed by final exams. The pace is fast!
  • You are responsible for adjusting your schedule to allow for any time-zone differences, especially with synchronous delivery. So, if you are studying in another province or country, you’ll need to adjust your schedule to align with Pacific Standard Time (PST).

Allocate time outside of class.

  • Attending actual classes is only partof what you need to do to be successful in your courses. You need to factor in the time it takes: to read the course materials (textbooks, supplementary reading, support materials provided by your instructor, etc.); write and review your course notes; research and then actually do assignments; and prepare for team meetings and study groups, etc.

Consider reducing your course load.

  • As you can see, managing your time is so important. Adjusting to university-level learning and expectations, navigating course support software, taking breaks away from the computer, getting physical activity, completing course work, and participating in study groups and other activities all take time. Our experience tells us that many students benefit enormously from a reduced course load and we accommodate these requests at any time. Check out some examples of common reduced course loads taken by first-year engineering and computer science students.
  • If you're still not sure how many courses to take, don’t worry. Even after classes have started, you can still reduce your course load throughout the term. However, keep in mind that there are important deadlines for making these changes to your registration. See UVic’s Academic Calendar for these important dates, such as the 100% tuition reduction deadline, the 50% tuition reduction deadline and the academic drop deadline.

Schedule in breaks.

  • Now, more than ever, it will be important for you to schedule in breaks because so much of what you’ll be doing will be online. Schedule time to take breaks away from your computer screen, to get up and move your body, to get outdoors and eat healthy food.

Set up your dedicated learning space.

  • Under normal circumstances, you might have moved away from home to attend university. If you live locally, at the very least you would have left your house every day to come to campus. With online learning, of course, this is not the case. Have you developed a place in your home as dedicated learning space away from distractions? Your workstation should be located away from the high activity areas of your home, away from your entertainment centre and away from the dining room table and bedroom, if possible.

Reach out to your classmates and mentorship group.

  • In your online courses, some of your instructors will likely develop breakout groups to encourage smaller group discussion. This is a great opportunity to start to get to know your classmates. Look for other opportunities to engage with your peers, such as starting or joining a study group within your course. Use virtual learning tools such as Zoom or Teams to meet with your group. You can learn how to use these platforms through the UVic Technology Guide for Students.
  • UVic is also introducing a peer support program, which will link new students with senior-level UVic students. These more experienced students can help you as you acclimate to your new environment. Get more information by emailing getconnected@uvic.ca.
  • Another way to meet other students is by getting to know our faculty’s many student teams and clubs. Most of these groups continue to collaborate online, and almost all of them welcome new students from any year or discipline.

Familiarize yourself with the principles of “academic integrity.”

  • It’s critical that the work that you submit to your instructor is your work. Passing off someone else’s work as your own can be met with stiff penalties, such as failing an assignment or even a course. For more information on academic integrity, see the Learning Strategies section of the UVic’s Learn Anywhere site.

Reach out to the Centre for Accessible Learning.

  • UVic’s Centre for Accessible Learning (CAL) is a resource office for accessibility and accommodation for students. If you required accommodations for learning in a previous educational setting and now need to arrange for accommodations at UVic, be sure to register with CAL. For more information, please see the CAL website.