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"We Have the Honor to Be Your Obedient Servants": Tips and Tricks from Reedley College Tutors

(This article was originally published in the November 2020 issue of Paper Jam: authored by: Iman A., Elizabeth K.C., Zachary D., Hadley C., and Jasmine G.)

This article is themed around the play Hamilton.

"Don't Throw Away Your Shot!"

As school is online this semester, it can be difficult to feel connected to the course, classmates, and instructors. Using the Canvas discussion board is one of the easiest ways to find oneself involved, connected, and motivated in the course. Discussion board posts consist of students responding to a prompt then responding to another student's discussion to mimic an in-class discussion. This gives students the opportunity to engage themselves in a class-like scenario. In some cases, discussing ideas through an online platform can feel more vulnerable to expressing those ideas. Still, there are many tips students can consider when responding to a discussion post.

Although it may seem discussion posts are loose and easy there is more to just responding to the prompt! Students should consider proper discussion post etiquette.

Proper online etiquette, specifically on discussions, makes the online environment feel more accepting. By following the tips below, students will find themselves feeling invited and more knowledgeable throughout this unique semester.

  • Read the prompt and brainstorm the discussion prompt

    • Doing this before writing the final discussion post will allow one to expose all thoughts regarding the prompt before submitting

  • Write out or highlight keywords from the prompt to become engaged in the true question in the prompt

  • Start the discussion post

    • Having the brainstorming done, one can now create the discussion post having in mind proper MLA format and discussion prompt

    • Make sure to have the prompt at hand being positive that the question in the prompt is being answered

  • Revise...then submit

    • Again, make sure to follow the proper guidelines the instructor has posted before submitting the final post.

  • Submit! Feel the satisfaction!

How to Be in "The Room Where It Happens"

Going to the lecture is one of the most important things you can do as a student, especially now, when lectures are all online. Try your best to go to the lecture every week. Instructors often use lectures as a time to explain homework assignments or engage in powerful group discussions. Even though online lectures are not the same as in-person lectures, it is important that you go to lectures to learn directly from your professor. Once you are in your online lecture, you may find yourself struggling to pay attention to all of the talking boxes on your screen. Here are some tips to stay focused during your online lectures:

  • Get a drink and snack before the lecture starts so that you are not tempted to get up during the lecture.

  • If possible, find a quiet place where you can work. A room with a door is nice, especially if you have a loud family or pets. Be mindful of your background as it will appear in your video.

  • Turn on your video! Instructors and other students want to see you and get to know you. If you are distracted by seeing your own face, right-click on your video and select "Hide Self View." This hides your video so that it feels more like a real lecture.

  • Participate! Teachers want to hear what you think. When they ask questions, try to respond. If you don't feel comfortable turning on your mic, try answering in the chat.

  • Ask for help if you need it. If you are uncomfortable asking your question during the lecture, ask the instructor if you can speak to them privately afterward. Arrange a separate Zoom meeting during their office hours, or contact your tutor for help.

  • Technology troubles happen to everyone. Try your best to log back into the Zoom meeting and if you can't, email your professor and explain the situation.

Get the most out of your online lecture! Having trouble? reach out to your instructor or tutor and ask for help. They want you to succeed!

"Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story": Staying Organized and Connected

In a unique and challenging semester such as this one, it is important to know there are various resources available to help students succeed. As students attending Reedley College Online during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to know some simple solutions that could help combat the feeling of discouragement that might arise throughout the semester.

Organization should be at the top of the list when a student is trying to avoid discouragement. A planner can offer the first step of organization. I suggest writing in the planner using different colors of ink to indicate which class the assignments are due for. Throughout your school day, you should continuously refer to the planner to ensure the completion of the assignments. It would be ideal to use the check-off method to indicate which assignments are completed. As an additional benefit to using the check-off method, you should begin to feel a sense of accomplishment as you move throughout the semester.

The second tip for organization is to have a clean and functional workspace. Any place that will allow you to concentrate on your assignments will be adequate. For many students, the functionality of their working environment is limited depending on their living situations, which is understandable but should not be a dictating factor when trying to complete your assignments in a timely matter.

As we are approaching the end of the semester, many of us students are feeling the workload piling upward. To help maintain your sanity while continuously staring into a computer screen, it is important to take breaks. One of the best solutions to this would be to give yourself a fifteen-minute break. I suggest setting a timer for both, so you do not over-work yourself, and you do not over-break yourself. I suggest you use the two: fifteen ratio method, as it will ensure that for every eight hours of completed work-time you will have allotted yourself one full hour of break time. My last piece of advice to fight the discouragement that might arise during the semester is to find a healthy self-care activity. Anything would work if the activity helps with your mental release from the assignments that might seem overwhelming. I have found just simply stepping outside and catching the rays of sunshine on my skin really helps me put school into perspective and allows me an opportunity to clear my thoughts.

Communication is a vital aspect when trying to overcome any discouragement during the semester. It is important for students to communicate to their professors about any clarity they might need regarding the assignments. Remember that your professors are people too, so when you do communicate with them, be respectful of their time. Communication does not need to stop between the student and the professor. It is out to reach out to fellow students in the same course to gather a collective idea about the assignment, or simply to create peer relationships with each other to build comfortability when posting on discussion boards. As a student during these trying times, we are forced to break out of the normalcy of physical contact, but that does not mean we are obligated to experience isolation.

Feeling Helpless in Class? Make a Friend!

One of the best ways to survive your classes is befriending one or two people in each of your classes. Doing this will make you feel less alone because you will have someone to reach out to in times of need. It is often normal to feel very overwhelmed and alone in your classes, but finding one or two people in each of your classes you can keep in contact with helps relieve the pressure.

Once you find that person in each of your classes, you can exchange numbers or emails to keep in touch regarding assignments, projects, essays, etc. This really comes in handy when you are struggling with an assignment or have a quick question when the instructor is unavailable. Additionally, the most beneficial outcome of making a friend in the class is being able to reach out when you are feeling very stressed about the class or about a particular assignment. It is not good to keep everything bottled up, expecting that you will be able to move forward. So, finding that one friend in class also means someone to vent from time to time. Most times, you will be with the same people during your time in college because you are taking the same classes for your desired major. This is a major benefit because you can even plan classes together so you won't be totally alone every semester.

With the switch to a virtual semester, all of this may seem difficult to accomplish - but do not let that stop you from befriending someone in the class! This may take finding someone during a lecture on Zoom and messaging them privately or even constantly engaging with their discussion boards. Do whatever it takes to have someone to reach out to because, given the overwhelming circumstances that we are left in this year, it really helps to make at least one new friend in one of your classes. We may feel like we are surviving the semester all by ourselves, but now it is more important than ever to connect with others.

"What Comes Next?" Additional Resources for Reedley College Students

It is important not to overlook all of the beneficial resources Reedley College has to offer. Even with the bizarre times of 2020, there are still many helpful services available online. For tutoring help, The Learning Center, Math Center, and Reading and Writing Center all have Canvas resource pages available for students to join. These links can be found here: Once enrolled in these Canvas pages, the centers provide links and information as to how to set up tutoring appointments with their respective tutors. The Math Center and the Reading and Writing Center also provide helpful videos, informative handouts, and beneficial links related to each discipline.

Beyond tutoring, Reedley College counselors are still available to assist students on their academic journeys. To access these counselors, please view this link:

This page provides information about the services counselors offer and how to make an online counseling appointment. Currently, the Counseling and Advising department is offering live text-based chat assistance, express counseling calls, regular counseling appointments scheduled through Starfish, and other informative material and contact details relating to academic pathways.

The Library is also providing online services in the forms of "My RC Librarian," a virtual reference desk conducted through Zoom, their Canvas resource page, Library Research Assistance appointments, "Libchat" - a live 24/7 ask a librarian chat, and even Zoom workshops on various topics. Here is the link:

Another notable resource offering online assistance is the Transfer Center. The center offers valuable advice and information for students planning on continuing their education at a four-year university. Appointments with Transfer Center counselors can also be scheduled through Starfish. Here is the link:

All of these resources and more are provided to help make student's academic journeys a little easier and offer answers to numerous questions in a multitude of academic areas. So, remember even in a chaotic year such as this one, there are still many highly qualified people available to make students feel less alone and further their academic careers.

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