How To IMSA: Virtual Learning

IMSA has been able to implement online learning for Fall 2020. | Source:

Fall semester 2020 may look a bit different this year, so we’re here to offer you some tips to make your transition as smooth as possible. IMSA students gave their advice on having a successful virtual learning semester, which we would like to share.

Teacher Communication 

Be sure to be patient with teachers, as they are figuring out technological problems just like all students, so it may take a while for them to respond to your messages or emails. If you ever need to miss a class or need extra guidance on a lesson, definitely email and contact your teacher for help. A teacher won’t know that you’re struggling unless you make them aware of the situation. Although talking one-on-one with your teacher over Zoom may be awkward at first, think of it as physically walking into office hours. When on the Zoom call, don’t hesitate to make conversation to form a better bond with your teachers. 

Here’s some more advice from students:

  • Your teachers will most likely be more flexible than you think. Just ask! Let them know your situation and be reasonable. They will be too.”
  • “Check each teacher’s preferred method of communication (i.e. messaging on google hangouts) because they’ll likely respond the fastest on that platform.”
  • “If you’re sending emails, send them as soon as possible, as teachers might not respond immediately.”
  • “The earlier you contact them about an issue, the better! Even if you’re only slightly confused, still reach out, because it can help you a lot later on.”
  • “Don’t be afraid to reach out to your teachers! They’re here to help you and are an awesome resource, especially if you want extra help on a certain topic.”

Time Management 

Trying to balance online school and responsibilities at home will be a challenge for sure, so your time management skills will be useful this semester. One tip is to set aside specific hours in the day to accomplish certain tasks. For example, set aside certain hours dedicated to completing homework, club work, instrument practices, and family time. You should also note approximately how long you believe it will take to finish individual assignments so that you can ensure all tasks are completed. However, one bonus to having virtual learning this semester is increased family time, which will increase as your productivity and time management increases.

Here’s some more advice from students:

  • Get some sort of planner. It doesn’t have to be a paper/book one, an online app like Notion, Google Keep, or even just the notes app on your phone will work”
  • “Keep your phone in a separate room when you are doing homework, go in a place with a lot of natural light, temporarily block sites that you know are going to distract you”
  • “Switch up your work vibe so you don’t get fatigue from working in one space for too long”
  • “Keep on top of things and try to stay motivated. It’s easy to let deadlines slip if you lose sight of why you’re working.”
  • “Plan out your study time before you start and hold yourself accountable for that plan.”

Zoom Use

While we hope many of you are already familiar with Zoom, teachers have expectations that students are required to meet at IMSA. Most importantly, be respectful! If a teacher asks you to turn on your camera or engage in a discussion, do so! Teachers grade tough on participation, so you must do your best to remain active in a virtual classroom. Try to be 2-3 minutes early to your classes, on-timeliness is expected. We suggest finding a quiet space to attend classes, hopefully away from your family. Try your best to find a blank background, or create your own through Zoom. 

Here’s some more advice from students:

  • “Let your family know your schedule, so they don’t interrupt.”
  • “Have a specific space for Zoom classes and make sure anyone else in the house knows not to interrupt you when you are in that space!”
  • “Always show up to the class, camera on shows that you are paying attention, use the chat.”
  • “Zoom has many useful features, so make sure to utilize them when necessary. Familiarize yourself with the whiteboard, screenshare, remote control, raise hand, ask for help, etc. functions.”
  • “Don’t be late and please don’t forget to mute your mic when appropriate.”

Group Work 

During virtual learning, group work on projects or assignments is heavily used. Teachers will often assign break out rooms for small group discussions or you will be required to work on an assignment with a group/partner outside of class time. Since we are not together, communication is the most important part of group work! You must do your best to compromise and find times for your group to meet. It’s a wonderful way to build relationships with others, as well. 

Here’s some more advice from students:

  • “Make deadlines ahead of time and stick to them like your life depends on it. Plan group meetings at least a day in advance because people might not always be available at home or might use impromptu scheduling as an excuse for missing it.”
  • “Respond and participate in group chats made for group projects/work!”
  • “Have a way to get in contact with each other during/after class without the hassle of using Zoom chat.”
  • “Delegate tasks and figure out meeting times early on, since everyone’s personal schedules are crazy right now and it’s a lot harder to find a time to meet with everyone last-minute.”
  • “Make a messenger group chat and make sure everyone is on the same page. If necessary, meet up yourselves on zoom to discuss things and work together.”
  • “Make sure you take into account other people’s different time schedules and work on terms that work for everyone.”


We hope that this article has helped to set expectations for virtual learning and relieve some of the stress you might be feeling. These may be tough times, but your teachers, classmates, and upperclassmen are here to help you with anything! Work hard to do well in your classes, even if it’s through a screen.

About the Author

Elizabeth Alcala
Elizabeth, or Liz, Alcala was the 2021-2022 Co-Editor-in-Chief. She lived in 06 all three years and 06B her last year. Liz was also involved with Exodus and Active Minds and is a proud guitar player and film buff. She plans to study Chemistry at Northwestern University onwards.

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