Photo Credit: Pete Boyle
Photo Credit: Pete Boyle

Now that the term is half over and we are heading into the home stretch, you may find yourself analyzing your performance thus far. You are now beginning to see what is and what isn’t working for you with regards to your academic learning strategy. It is easy to keep doing the things that are working for you, but the challenge is to find more effective ways for things that aren’t working for you.

Successful students are strategic thinkers who have found effective solutions to challenges that they are seeing in their learning strategy. They are able to step back and analyze why it isn’t working for them and then adjust their learning strategy to make it more effective, which allows them to persist.

Persistence vs Tenacity

The words persistence and tenacity are currently being used interchangeably in meaning and application. Those who persist or are tenacious, are finding ways to overcome a task or find a solution to a problem. However, they reflect two different trains of thought and levels of thinking.

One who persists will devise a possible solution to a task or problem and then will strictly follow the process to find the solution, regardless if the process is inefficient or flawed. Persistent learners put their head down and attack the issue at hand and work through the process. They will devise a plan of attack and stick with that plan until completion. They do not concern themselves with the effectiveness or how to improve the plan. These learners are characterized as those who “work harder and not smarter.”

On the contrary, the learners who are tenacious may have created an identical solution, but will constantly assess its effectiveness. They will utilize feedback throughout the process to ensure they are improving upon their strategy to create the most productive and efficient process in solving the task or problem. Strategic thinkers are characterized as those who “work smarter and not harder.”

The successful learner is the tenacious individual or strategic thinker. These learners have the ability to constantly assess their strategy throughout the learning process allowing the learner to create the most effective and efficient plan for success. They are aware of what is or isn’t working for them. They have the ability to develop a learning strategy and assess its effectiveness, which is the sign of a tenacious learner.

TENACIOUS LEARNERS are constantly seeking answers to these questions:

You can’t plan on doing things the same way and expect different results. The key is to continually assess and improve your strategy. Being a tenacious, strategic thinker is your key to being a successful learner. Be sure to continually assess and improve your learning strategy. Work smarter, not harder!

There are ways to putting leftover Halloween candy to good use. Studies have shown eating candy can actually help you become a better student by increasing the effectiveness of your study time. Whether it’s increasing your willpower, enhancing your mood, improving your focus or relieving stress, candy can play a positive role. So, put that leftover candy to good use and grab a handful while studying.

Sugar-Induced Willpowerhalloween-candy1

If you think you’re doing yourself a favor by opting for the sugar-free version of your favorite study time snack, you might be wrong. As it turns out, just a little bit of sugar may go a long way in helping you power through to the end of your coma-inducing reading assignment. In fact, recent studies show that not only will you get to the end with a sugar boost; you’ll have focused better throughout. Now, rejoice and grab that bag of candy you’ve been eyeing. Anything with sugar will do!

Chocolate-Flavored Mood Booster

Ah, chocolate. The taste alone can help brighten even the darkest days, but did you know it contains a chemical called phenylethylamine (PEA) that can actually enhance your mood? In fact, it’s proven to help relieve signs of depression. So, what does that have to do with your study time? You get to enjoy those M&M’s you’ve been dreaming about while writing your next paper, of course! But seriously, think of it this way – if you’re in a better mood, you’ll study longer. If you study longer, you’re bound to get better results on those papers and tests!

Peppermint-Powered Focus

Having trouble focusing on the task at hand? Grab a peppermint! Studies at the University of Cincinnati show that you’ll concentrate better and even become more alert, not to mention the added benefit of having the freshest breath around. If a bag of peppermints isn’t your first choice for a sugary snack, try stopping by Starbuck’s for a peppermint hot chocolate or grabbing a piece of Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark for a mood-brightening bonus!

Gum-Smacking for Stress Relief

For many students, battling stress is an everyday occurrence. If you find yourself battling anxiety, try chewing a piece of gum to ease the pain. The repetitive nature can help release nervous tension, letting you focus on the task at hand. If you’re a little skeptical, check out a little research on the benefits of chewing, then pick up a pack of Wrigley’s Spearmint gum and start reaping the benefits. And don’t forget – none of that sugar-free stuff!


Source: North Central University 

When writing an essay for an exam, pay particular attention to the words that are being used in the exam question. Understanding these words will allow you to provide the information your instructor is looking for as well as how to craft your answer.

Analyze: Break into separate parts and discuss, examine, or interpret each part. Illustrate: Give concrete examples. Explain clearly by using comparisons or examples.


Contrast: Show differences. Set in opposition. Compare: Examine two or more things. Identify similarities and differences. Interpret: Comment upon, give examples, describe relationships. Explain the meaning. Describe, then evaluate.


Criticize: Make judgments. Evaluate comparative worth. Criticism often involves analysis. If any of these terms are still unclear to you, go to an unabridged dictionary. Thorough knowledge of these words helps you give the teacher what he/she is requesting.


Outline: Describe main ideas, characteristics, or events. (Does not necessarily mean to write a Roman Numeral/Letter outline.)


Define: Give the meaning; usually a meaning specific to the course or subject. Explain the exact meaning. Definitions are usually short. Prove: Support with facts (especially facts presented in class or in the text.)
Describe: Give a detailed account. Make a picture with words. List characteristics, qualities, and parts.


Relate: Show the connections between ideas or events. Provide a larger context.


Discuss: Consider and debate or argue about the pros and cons of an issue. Write about any conflict. Compare and contrast.


State: Explain precisely.


Enumerate: List several ideas, aspects, events, things, qualities, reasons, etc.


Summarize: Give a brief, condensed account. Include conclusions. Avoid unnecessary details.


Evaluate: Give your opinion or cite the opinion of an expert. Include evidence to support the evaluation.


Trace: Show the order of events or progress of a subject or event.


Explain: Make an idea clear. Show logically how a concept is developed. Give the reason for an event.


Ellis, D. (1998). Becoming a Master Student. Houghton Mifflin: Boston

Everyone should feel some level of anxiety on test day. However, anxiety becomes a problem when it interferes with your ability to think and recall information. Test anxiety can create both physical and mental symptoms. Below are some strategies in managing test anxiety on the day of an exam.


Negative Self-Talk Positive Self-Talk
“I’ll never get finished.” “Just take it one step at a time.”
“If I miss this, I’ve really blown it.” “Some tension is inevitable; no need to worry about it.”
“Why am I so nervous? I hate feeling like this. I know I’m going to fail.” “I studied and I am confident I will do my best.”
“Everyone else is doing better than me.” “I’m doing fine. I am only concerned about myself.”
“If I fail this test, my life will fall apart.” “Even if I don’t do as well as I’d like, it’s not the end of the world.”
“Oh no! I studied this one but my mind is just going blank!” “I’ll skip this question and go on to some easier ones. I’ll come back to it later.”
“I know I missed the last answer. I should have gotten it!” “Even if I miss a few questions, that doesn’t bother me. I can still get a good grade.”



Deep breathing is one of the simplest techniques you can use to reduce anxiety before, during, and after a test. Breathing provides you with the oxygen necessary to think clearly and releases physical tension at the same time.

  1. Close your eyes.
  2. Breath through your nose. Breathe in deeply into your abdomen. Pause before you exhale.
  3. Breathe out from your abdomen slowly.
  4. Use each inhalation as a moment to become aware of any tension in your body. Use each exhalation as an opportunity to let go of tension.
  5. Repeat once, then return to the test.



  • Let yourself stay with that scene for a few moments
  • Once you feel relaxed, imagine going in for your test.
  • Imagine yourself calmly sitting down, waiting to begin test. As you begin the test, you say to yourself “I am prepared. Relax. Concentrate.” You start the test and read the directions, planning your time carefully. You read and answer the first question…


  • Think about something melting when you want to relax. “Melting” evokes many images:
  • snow melting in the sun
  • a flame melting candle wax
  • marshmallow melting in hot chocolate
  • butter melting in a pan
  • chocolate chips melting in cookies


The relaxation procedure involves systematically tensing and then relaxing different groups of muscles in your body:

  • Begin the procedure by either sitting in a comfortable chair or lying down. Move your arms toward the center of your body and bend both arms at the elbow. Tighten your hands into fists and simultaneously tense the muscles in your upper arms and shoulders. Hold for ten seconds and then relax for fifteen to twenty seconds.
  • Tense your face muscles by wrinkling your forehead and cheek muscles. Hold for ten seconds then relax.
  • Tense the muscles in your chest for fifteen seconds and then relax. Repeat this procedure for all the different parts of your body while telling yourself that you are becoming more and more relaxed. Pay particular attention to the muscles in your neck and back since these muscles become tense easily.


Avoid people or situations that create anxiety.

  • Pay attention to the time allotted for the test, but avoid excessive clock–watching
  • Be sure you are settled in and relaxed prior to your test.
  • Avoid food or drinks that are stimulants and increase “jitters.”
  • Avoid talking about your test grade with others if this increases your anxiety. If you feel uncomfortable with being asked “How did you do”, respond with “I did as well as I expected.” or “I’d rather not talk about my grades.”
Butte College Center for Academic Success
Utah State University Academic Success Center
University of Alabama Center for Academic Success

Looking for additional resources for a math or science course you are currently enrolled in, or need to review to get yourself prepared for the next course in a sequence? Below are some helpful online tutorials.

MATH (Links to an external site.) (free course, organized to be completed in 7 weeks)
• (Links to an external site.) (calculus help for visual learners; many links) (Links to an external site.) (select topics from menu)  (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.) (Computational Knowledge Engine) (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.)

CHEMISTRY (Links to an external site.) (select topics from menu) (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.)

PHYSICS (Links to an external site.) (select topics from menu) (Links to an external site.) to an external site.) (search for ‘mechanical universe’)

STATISTICS (Links to an external site.) (select topics from menu) (Links to an external site.) (ctrl+f and enter ‘statistics’ in search box to find entries on page) (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.)

OrganizeThe first step in being a successful online learner is becoming organized. Successful students plan and organize their study environment, their academic environment, and their time.

Organizing your study environment includes a variety of aspects that allow you to maximize your performance as you concentrate on your coursework. Being mindful of the following questions will allow you to create a foundation for your online learning success.

  • When Will You Study: When are you the most productive? Is it best to do your coursework in the morning or night? What other regularly scheduled commitments do you have? Although ideal, a set time to study during the day can be a challenge, especially for those who work full-time. Many students will take advantage of any break they can find throughout the day to work on their studies. By creating a weekly calendar you can provide the necessary structure that will allow you to effectively manage your time and priorities.
  • Where Will You Study: Have you carved out a specific location where you can study? Do you have other locations where you can be free of distractions? When considering studying away from your primary location, is WiFi available and are electrical outlets accessible are just a few things to consider when creating your location. Many times you are never too far from a McDonald’s or Starbucks, both of which can provide free WiFi and electricity! If you venture outside of the home to study, make sure you have all of your power cords with you. Wherever you decide to study make sure you carry plenty of pens, paper, highlighters and any other study aids you may need readily available.
  • What Will You Study: Have you read through your syllabus? When are your assignments due and will they overlap with other assignments? Be sure to have read your syllabus so you are familiar with your assignments and dues dates. Being able to create a term at a glance calendar will allow you to see potential conflicts and allow you to adjust your study plan.
  • How Will You Study: Are you aware of the differences between a visual, kinesthetic or auditory learner? Are you aware of your learning preference?
    • Kinesthetic learners typically learn best by physically doing. These types of learners excel at physical activities, such as athletics and dance or hands-on methods. These learners tend to incorporate real world examples or look up case studies to help them remember abstract concepts. They ask friends to quiz them out loud, or perform the material themselves in front of a mirror. They get out and explore the possibility of field trips, hands on labs, or exhibits on the topic.
    • Auditory learners typically learn best by listening and talking out loud. They using the Cornell Note Taking Method and focus on self-quizzing aloud, which has proven to be an effective strategy. Reading their notes or textbooks aloud has also proven to be beneficial. They create flashcards and quiz themselves aloud. Remember, out loud repetition will be most important for an auditory learner, so they will need to find a time and place where they can comfortably talk aloud as they study.
    • Visual learners learn best from what they see in pictures, diagrams, flow charts, time lines, films, and demonstrations. They get more out of written words in conjunction with spoken explanations that allows them to visualize the concept. They often learn best when information is presented both visually and verbally. They rewrite notes replacing words with as many symbols, pictures, or drawings as possible.  Creating visual study aids with multiple colors has also proven to be an effective technique.

These are just a few things to keep in mind as you begin to organize yourself as an online learner.

General Purpose Apps

For note-taking, research, creating to-dos, lists and attaching images, and PDF’s. Instantly synchronizes from computer to smartphone, tablet and the web. iOS and Android compatible.
Dropbox Free service that lets you store your photos, docs, and videos in the cloud and share them easily. Synchronizes from computer to smartphone, tablet and the web. iOS and Android compatible.
Awesome Note Note-taking application and to-do manager that allow you to combine notes with to-do flexibility. iOS and GalaxyNote compatible.
Checklist to full-blown project management. A task manager app that lets you focus on what’s important. iOS and Android compatible.
Task manager app modeled after the GTD (“Get Things Done”) method of project management. iOS and Android compatible.
myHomework Digital student planner that lets you easily track your classes, homework, tests and projects. myHomework is available on multiple platforms, so you can always know what’s due wherever you are. You can find the myHomework app on the iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows 8, Kindle Fire and the Web.

Apps by Various Topics

Magical Pad Note-Taking and Task Manager app that enables you to quickly take notes, capture ideas, doodle and manage lists and to-dos. iOS compatibility only.
Inspiration App for mind maps and graphic organizers to help you: brainstorm and visualize ideas with maps and diagrams; organize thoughts and information; make sense of complex concepts and projects. iOS compatibility only.
SimpleMind Mind mapping tool that turns your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch into a brainstorming, idea collection and thought structuring device. iOS compatibility only.

Mapping tool allows users several advanced features to diagram information and use it for collaborative aspects project management, report writing, and just brainstorming.
Handwritten Notes    
Pennultimate Handwriting app for iPad that combines the natural experience of pen and paper with the flexibility and syncing of Evernote. Take notes, keep sketches, or share your ideas from anywhere. iOS compatibility only.
Note-Taking app that allows you to jot down whatever comes to mind, just like an ordinary pen and paper. Write with finger, stylus or smart pen. Easily allows for exporting to Evernote, Dropbox, Twitter and Facebook. iOS compatibility only.
Notesplus Note-Taking app that allows you to type, draw or record notes. Import and annotate and highlight on PDF’s. Easily allows for exporting to various outlets. iOS compatibility only.
Notability Note-Taking app that allows you to create, illustrate, outline, annotate, record, capture photos. Automatic cloud synchronizing to iPhone and iPad. iOS compatibility only.
Annotations & Readers
iAnnotate PDF PDF document reader that allows for reading, annotating and sharing PDF documents, Word/PowerPoint files and images. iOS and Android compatible.
GoodReader Document reader that allows you to read virtually anything, anywhere: books, movies, pictures. Easily annotate, manage, transfer, and sync files. iOS compatibility only.
Adobe Acrobat Reader PDF document reader app that allows for reading and annotating PDF’s across various platforms. iOS and Android compatible.
PDF Expert PDF Expert is a professional PDF viewer and annotation tool for iPhone/iPod Touch. Read and annotate PDF documents, highlight text, and annotate. Sync with Dropbox. Copy files from Mac and PC. PDF Expert is a professional PDF viewer and annotation tool for iPhone/iPod Touch. iOS compatibility only.
Browzine A tablet application that allows you to browse, read and monitor many of the library’s scholarly journals in a format optimized for iPad and Android tablets. The selected articles can be can easily be synced with Zotero, Dropbox, RefWorks.

Note: Browzine is available for free through Penn Libraries to all current students, faculty, and staff. Works on Tablet devices: iPad, Android.

Apps for for Managing Articles, References and Digital Annotations

Mendeley A digital manager that organizes references, research, and enables collaborative discovery of the latest research. Compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux.
ProQuest Allows users to create personal bibliographic citation database using this web-based bibliographic management tool.
Zotero Allows users to organize online resources, bibliographies, blog posts and PDFs. This way, users can organize all the searched web content in one place and keep track of what information has been located, and then, find it again easily.
Compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux.

Apps for STEM courses

Wolfram Alpha A free open source tool, allows users to submit mathematical and computation queries through a text field. Wolfram Alpha computes answers to user queries and displays relevant visualizations that make the answers easy to comprehend and apply to other problems of similar nature.
Khan Academy A free educational resource that offers video tutorials on a wide range of subjects including: mathematics, history, physics, general and organic chemistry, micro and macroeconomics. Khan Academy allows users to develop a personalized dashboard to tag favorites and most commonly used tutorials.
Molecular Workbench A free open source portal that allows users to launch and customize concepts at atomic and molecular levels in physics, chemistry, biotechnology and nanotechnology.

If you have found an app that works best for you, please share it and we will add it to our collection.

I recently came across an article from that discussed the the habits and common traits of successful individuals and wanted to share it in the Student Success blog. Although many of the examples are from the corporate world, there is a direct correlation to Student Success.

According to Casey Imafidon, here are 10 things successful people do daily…

1. They strive for consistency. 

Successful people are focused on meeting their objectives and this is why they have a consistent schedule. According to Rameet Chawla, founder of Fueled, having a consistent schedule aids prioritization and allows you to keep the important tasks at the top of your list.

2. They set daily goals.

Kenneth Chenault, CEO of American Express, has a detailed plan for his day by writing down three things he wants to accomplish the next day. Successful people are clear about their goals and having a list to propel them to meeting these goals sets them apart.

3. They nurture the right relationships.

In his book Tribes, Seth Godin explains there are tribes everywhere hungry for connection, meaning and change. Successful people look for support and find people they can connect with intellectually. Find your tribe and collaborate, play off each other’s strengths and watch everyone grow. Jim Rohn says you are the average of your five closest friends. Who are yours?

4. They display high emotional intelligence.

Emotionally intelligent people constantly look for ways to add value and contribute to their environment. They use their emotional awareness to think progressively and find answers to problems. This quality helps them to inspire others to be successful, too. According to Steve Jobs, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it; they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.”

5. They take action.

Successful people take action. Nothing is solved when you let the feeling of overwhelm set you back. Through actions you can attain results and discover a path toward your goals.

6. They practice positive self-talk.

When you use phrases like, Today is going to be a great day or I am successful, you boost your intellectual ability and improve your chances of attaining your goals for the day.

7. They stay healthy.

President Barack Obama exercises 45 minutes per day, six days a week. A healthy mind and body is the first step to success. Your body is a vehicle to everything you achieve. Such physical activity doesn’t only keep the body physically healthy; it also improves one’s mental state.

8. They meditate.

Meditation allows you to focus and be more productive. Oprah Winfrey speaks about the great benefits of meditation and how the results have included better relationships and being more creative.

9. They act on small improvements toward their major goals.

According to Henry Ford, “Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small pieces.” Successful people apply the domino effect toward their ambitions by making small and continuous improvements every day.

10. They wake up early.

From Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, to Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, waking up early seems to be the tradition of successful people. So much can be done within those wee hours of the day that is much harder to accomplish when distractions, meetings and environmental noise are added.

In the end, it takes consistent practice to be successful. Success doesn’t happen by accident, but because you have committed yourself to certain activities, that will help you reach your goals.

By Bethany Ulman, Ecampus success counselor

Summer is the time for hot weather and fun in the sun. It can also be a stMaintaining-your-cool-Ecampus-newsrestful time for students balancing work and school, plus wanting to spend time with friends and family who might have more free time over the summer. Below are a few tips for keeping your cool while maintaining your work-life balance over the summer.

  1. Plan time to spend with kids, family and friends – Summer is the time when kids are out of school and families are able to take vacations. Make it a priority to spend time with friends and family, just make sure you plan ahead! Planning out vacation time and weekend trips before starting the summer term will help you manage your time. “When planning your vacation, check the internet connection at your destination,” Ecampus Success Counselor Amy Riley recommends. “Also, it’s a good idea to bring hard copies of syllabi, assignment instructions and online readings, just in case.” Planning ahead will reduce stress and allow you to enjoy your vacation.
  1. Set limits – While you are arranging a vacation, take an extra step and plan out your study, work and family time. Set limits on each so that you can be fully present in the moment. Having a weekly schedule can help you make sure you are dedicating the necessary time to studying, but also to your family and friends.
  1. Learn to kindly say “no” – Summer barbecues, parties and outdoor activities may compete with your study schedule. In order to maintain your balance, it is perfectly acceptable to politely say “no.” Others will be impressed by your ability to be honest and intentional about your time. Prioritize activities that are meaningful and rejuvenating for you. By respectively saying “no,” you are allowing yourself to enjoy and focus on what truly matters.
  1. Build your support system – Summer is a great time to reconnect with old friends or make new connections. It is also a perfect time to build up your support system to help you keep your momentum going into fall term. Reach out to a fellow student, start a class Facebook group or set up an appointment to meet with an instructor you would like to get to know better or who might be helpful throughout your program. As a distance student, creating strong connections can enhance your overall experience and enable you to get the most out of your learning. It will also make finishing your degree that much easier.
  1. Summer goes by quickly; now is the time to gear up for fall – Whether you are taking courses or not, summer will fly by. Now is the time to start preparing for fall term. Kyle Whitehouse, the Ecampus assistant director of learner services, recommends these steps to help you achieve a powerful start:
  • If you need to do so, make an additional appointment with your advisor to map out a plan for the upcoming year.
  • Secure your class schedule early, and add your name to wait lists, if necessary.
  • Be sure to check your email regularly for any changes or notices related to fall term.
  • Purchase required texts and materials as soon as possible so there is no delay in being prepared.
  • Set a calendar reminder to prompt you to familiarize yourself with your fall course sites on Canvas, and review your syllabi as early as the week before the new term.

Summer is a great time to refresh. Look back on all that you have accomplished over the past year – in your career, in school and in your personal life. Give yourself a pat on the back. Use those strategies that helped you this past year and figure out where you can improve in the future.

If you’d like more strategies or help with planning for the summer or fall, let us know. The Ecampus success team is here to help! You can set up an appointment, check out our blog or browse our Pinterest page for more tips. You can also connect with other Ecampus students on the new Student Group LinkedIn page.