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.

Learning takes place in class and 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. Potentially 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
Instruction can be a mix of lecture and active learning with students actively listening and actively doing. Instructors will use a mix of instructional strategies suitable for online learning. 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. >> Learn how to read your syllabus 

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. >> Learn more about Brightspace


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.

Get the most out of your classes

Go to class prepared by reading all of the materials or completing learning tasks and arriving on time. During class, stay present (no distractions), listen actively, and ask questions. When listening, take notes about what the professor is emphasizing and you may want to follow an effective note taking strategy called the Cornell method. If for unforeseen circumstances you miss class, let your professor know and inform them of your plan to seek out notes from a trusted peer and visit office hours to ensure that you do not miss anything.

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. You can also get support through the Centre for Academic Communication.

Academic integrity

What is academic integrity?

Academic integrity is a code of ethics that guides your studies and ensures honest and moral practices in all academic endeavours. Academic integrity rests on a set of universal values: honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility. As a student, you are responsible for acting according to this code, knowing what is expected of you and treating the work of others with respect. You are contributing to a culture of academic integrity across the university, and you are also protecting your own intellectual credibility.

Why is academic integrity important?

Academic integrity is fundamental to your learning. It helps you develop as a student and show what you have learned. Not following the principles of integrity compromises your learning, as well as the value of your own work and that of others, not only during your studies but even after you leave university.

How can you maintain and promote academic integrity?

There are many different types of assignments you will have to complete and different methods that your instructors will use to assess your academic progress. During your studies, everything you hand in must be your own work. Even when you are working with other students for a group project, you are responsible for making your own contribution. You must acknowledge where you received your ideas from, and whether you are quoting your source directly or paraphrasing someone else’s work (including your own from previous coursework).

What happens when someone cheats?

When someone violates academic integrity by, for example, plagiarizing (copying something and claiming it as your own), submitting work twice without permission, or using a website to buy answers, the university takes this seriously. There are consequences, including receiving a failing grade for the submitted work, failing the course, disciplinary notations on your transcript, and more. UVic's policy on academic integrity lays out how such cases are treated. The main principle of the policy is fairness, and it describes your rights and responsibilities, as well as those of the university and its members.

Contract cheating

We often talk about plagiarism, but there are other forms of cheating. Sometimes students use a third party (usually an online business) to gain access to study solutions and ready-made assignments. This is not acceptable; you should not purchase, copy or download work to use as your own and you should not upload your own work on such websites, either. These third parties not only provide support for profit, but students may get caught in the process. Students are vulnerable to such businesses ‘harvesting’ and exploiting their own work and personal details without having any control over this. Students can also be negatively affected financially.

Who can you talk to if you need support?

There are many supports to help you understand and practise academic integrity. If you are unsure about academic integrity, are late for an assignment, or have no idea what to do, reach out to your professor (you can also approach a TA). They will clarify what they expect of you. There are also many online and in-person resources available through the UVic Libraries, the Centre for Academic Communication and Learn Anywhere. You should, in addition, enrol in Integrity Matters, a self-paced tutorial on academic integrity. Whatever the issue, remember there are always people you can ask and resources you can access.