Academic success

Students writing a test in a lecture hall

As a UVic student, academics will be a large part of your life. We want you to succeed in your studies and we're willing to bet that you want the same. In order to start your university experience off strong, it can be helpful to understand what to expect in the classroom, the tips and tricks that can help you succeed and how to avoid plagiarism and cheating.

Setting new expectations | Tips for academic success | Academic integrity

Setting new expectations

As you progressed from kindergarten through elementary school and on to high school, you may have noticed that teachers expected more of you, concepts were taught at a faster pace and you were asked to do much more than just write your first name in shaky handwriting.

In the same way that education changed as you progressed to this point, there are also changes and differences between high school and university- and between online and in-person learning. Understanding these differences can help you develop realistic expectations, shift your habits and prepare effectively.

High school University
Most learning takes place within scheduled class time or within school hours. Most learning takes place outside of scheduled class time via course materials (textbooks, handouts, lecture notes).
Many small assignments (tests, quizzes, reports) and lots of opportunities to demonstrate and improve learning. Fewer assignments (midterms, term papers, final exams) and fewer chances to learn from mistakes.
Teachers monitor student progress, offering support when they think it's needed. Support is available to students, but you are expected to seek it out yourself.
Assignments will often be accepted and marked even if it is late. Assignments will have marks deducted if submissions are late.
Emphasis is on knowing the facts and being able to demonstrate that you know them. Emphasis is on deeper, more critical thinking and independent research and analysis.
In-person courses Online courses
Instructors often act as the expert at the front of the room, delivering lecture content while students listen. Instructors often act as more of a guide than an expert at the front of the room. Peer-to-peer and independent learning often become more prevalent.
There is a set time to show up and learn. Lectures are scheduled at the same time every week.  While some courses may have a synchronous class time, others may not. It's up to you to set your own times to show up and learn. 
Classmates are easy to find and meet, as they are sitting beside you in class.  Your classmates are still out there, but it takes more effort to connect and you need to take the initiative yourself to find a time and a way to get together. 
Getting help is often quick and easy, as you can raise your hand in class or chat with your instructor for clarification at the end of a lesson. Help is always available, but you may need a little more patience as you email back-and-forth, set up a time to meet or wait for virtual office hours to arrive.

What's a Syllabus?

During your first class, you'll likely receive a syllabus. The syllabus is a contract between you and your professor and outlines important information such as course objectives, expectations, assignment information, grading policies, important dates and deadlines and resources. Referring to the syllabus throughout the term is critical for being successful in a course.  

Introducing Brightspace

Brightspace is UVic’s online learning management system. Most courses will use Brightpace as a home for course information and materials, class discussion boards, assignment submissions and feedback and online quizzes. Your course sites will typically become available a few days before classes start and require your Netlink ID to access. 


Tips for academic success

Group of students studying in the library

Go to class

Some online classes will have scheduled times where the class will meet virtually. Make sure you show up for those classes! Attending class helps you narrow down what the instructor wants you to focus on and motivates you to keep up with the course.

Schedule your own 'class time'

For classes that don't have scheduled times to meet, schedule your own 'class time' in your calendar and use this time to read, watch and engage with any lecture material provided for the week. 

Introduce yourself to your professor

If you get to know your professor, it’s easier to ask them for help when you need it and they’re more likely to want to see you succeed. If your course has an 'Introduction' forum, be sure to post in it and introduce yourself. Attending office hours is also a great way to get to know your professors. 

Treat university like a full-time job

Each online course you take will likely require 5 - 10 hours a week of work, if you want to do well.  Create a study schedule, map out time constraints for each assignment and set study goals to make the most of your time.

Engage with your courses every day

Whether it’s reviewing notes after class, discussing lectures with friends, studying material a little at a time or prepping an assignment, engaging with the material on a daily basis improves your recall of the information and helps you figure out what concepts you don’t fully understand. This will make your life much easier when you’re studying for midterms and final exams.

Develop a diverse repertoire of strategies

Certain strategies will work better in certain courses than others. When something isn’t working, change it. Try compare-contrast charts, study groups, flash cards or creating practice exams. 

Use SMART strategies

When studying, you should SELECT and focus on what is important, MONITOR your understanding by explaining to a peer what you learned, ASSEMBLE and group ideas, REHEARSE and review, and TRANSLATE what you have learned into your own representations and frameworks.

Understand the material instead of relying solely on memorization

Go beyond memorizing what the professor or textbook is telling you and take the time to understand how and why a concept works. This will allow you to apply the concept to a new scenario if needed.  

Turn off your devices

Constant interruptions make it difficult to learn new information. Put away your phone and close any social media platforms during study sessions and lectures. These may seem like small interruptions, but it can take almost 5 minutes to refocus once distracted. 

Take everything one step at a time

Remember, success at university isn’t solely based on the academics and books. Part of being successful is being happy and healthy. Get involved in activities outside of your coursework and schedule time to just relax and spend time with friends. 

Want to ensure you have the skills to succeed with university classes? Register for Learning Strategies for University Success (ED-D101), a for-credit course, and learn how to read strategically, prepare for exams and make the most of your assignments.

Academic integrity

As a student, you are responsible for treating the scholarly work of others with respect. Everything you hand in must be your own work. You must acknowledge where you received your ideas, whether you are quoting your source directly and when you are paraphrasing someone else's work.

We call this academic integrity, but you probably know it as avoiding plagiarism or not cheating.

Note: While this video mentions TurnItIn, UVic no longer uses that service. 

Dos and Don'ts

Don't quote or paraphrase without proper acknowledgment. When you hand in a paper or assignment, you are indicating that you are the originator of the ideas it contains. Any quotes or paraphrasing of another person's idea must be attributed to the source.

Do ask your friends and family to comment on essays, but make your own changes and corrections. Getting feedback on an assignment is a great way to make it better, but make sure the changes and corrections are coming from you and not from them.

Don't simply list the works you used as references. This is not sufficient in university. While a reference list is required, you must also alert your reader to where you have referenced other scholars' ideas with signal phrases (i.e. As Jones (2008) argues), quotation marks and page references.

Do discuss an assignment with friends, but write separately. Part of the experience of university is discussing ideas with classmates. Don't miss out! Just make sure that when you write your assignment, your words and arguments are your own.

Don't cut and paste from a source then change a couple of words here and there. Instead, read your sources carefully and then put them aside. Paraphrase sources without ever pasting their words into your document and then double check that your paraphrase does not match the source to be sure.

Don't wear a smart watch or take a cell phone into an exam. Leave all such items with your bag or backpack at the front of the exam room with the proctor. Just having such technologies with you in an exam is a form of cheating.

Do respect ownership of course materials. Handouts, powerpoints and other class materials belong to the instructor who created them. Don't post or share them without the instructor's permission.

Do speak up if you need help understanding academic integrity. Consult your professor or visit the Centre for Academic Communication (CAC) in the Learning Commons if you have any questions about academic integrity. It's always best to play it safe.

At UVic, a first incident of plagiarism normally leads to a zero on an assignment and a record on your file. A second instance normally results in a failed course. Be ready to maintain academic integrity at all times. View the Policy on Academic Integrity for more information.