Study Tools and Strategies

Our learning specialists have developed a number of resources to support students in their learning. We would also be more than happy to discuss these resources with you through a learning consultation.

Study Group Support

Every level of postsecondary and postgraduate education is challenging, and course expectations can be overwhelming if students attempt everything on their own. Consequently, students who gather together consistently to review the week’s lectures, readings, and assignments (in accordance with the code of academic integrity) may be more on top of their coursework and better able to internalize the material.

Exam Analysis

Learning Resources collaborates with students and faculty members to offer exam analysis as part of learning instruction at the Weingarten Center. Exam analysis allows students, in consultation with learning specialist, to enhance their performance on upcoming assessments by analyzing their performance on recent exams. These sessions focus on exam preparation and exam-taking strategies, rather than content knowledge, which should be addressed with faculty.

Proactive Time Management Modules

Additionally, we have developed a learning strategies module specifically tailored for students taking online classes or learning remotely. Preview our video on Flexibility and then check out our full module on Proactive Time Management for Learning Online.

Our Favorite Handouts

Utilize this fillable PDF calendar for semester planning as you manage large projects and effectively allocate your study time for each course.

Set up your week. Plan study time, but also breaks, meals, and sleep.

When approaching a large assignment or exam, consider how you’ll get started and the smaller tasks that will move you toward your goal.

Adapted from Covey (2015), this matrix can help you figure out which tasks are most important.

Whether you use this handout or another method, it’s a great idea to set clear intentions for each day.

Our weekly goals handout is all about setting clear intentions, particularly how you’ll practice self-care.

Assess and reassess your project plan.

Overwhelmed? Off-track? Consider these questions and adapt your approach.

Use this inventory to create a plan for resolving incomplete assignments and coursework.

Strategies for Online Learning

Our learning specialists have collaborated with the Online Learning Initiative and the Center for Teaching and Learning to develop effective strategies in the context of online coursework. Syllabus Analysis for Online Learning [pdf] and Quick Tips for Online Learning [pdf] will be particularly helpful for students who are just getting started with online learning.


In order to make the best of your online experience this semester, consider the strategies below:

Create a Flexible Schedule

Read your syllabi carefully for professors’ expectations, reoccurring deadlines, and all meeting times. Add office hours and their meeting links to your calendar.

Schedule consistent blocks of time for online work to create a routine, even if you’re just watching a video.

Designate time on your calendar for specific study tasks such as homework, reading, research, and review. Include buffer time in case tasks take longer than expected.

Work backwards from due dates to plan long-term projects and schedule checkpoints for getting feedback on your work.

Be sure to include time for self-care in your schedule (e.g., exercise, spend time in nature, watch a funny movie, journal, connect with friends).

Participate Actively

Determine what participation looks like in synchronous and asynchronous sessions. Be ready to post comments and participate in breakout rooms.

If feasible, leave your camera on during synchronous sessions. Instructors appreciate seeing students’ reactions and you’ll feel more actively engaged.

Stay active while watching videos by taking notes. Hit pause to solve problems, talk out the material, or draw pictures, diagrams, and graphs.

Be proactive about forming connections with others in your learning community. Attend virtual office hours, study groups, and tutoring sessions with a few questions in mind.

Schedule frequent check-ins with learning specialists at the Weingarten Center to discuss study strategies and approaches to online coursework.

Manage Distractions

Designate a workspace and let those you live with know what times you need to focus.

Work on your most difficult tasks during the time of day when you are most productive and able to focus.

Alternate your subjects
(don’t spend all day on one thing).

Break down assignments into manageable 1-hour tasks.

Take short screen breaks that have a natural start/end time (e.g., walking the dog, fixing a snack, taking a shower).

Study and Work off the Screen

Identify 1 or 2 tasks that you can complete each day without a digital screen to avoid screen fatigue.

Quiz yourself on what you remember from class by writing, concept mapping, or recording yourself. This will help you discover gaps in your understanding.

Acquire physical copies of some course materials (check out Books by Mail and Pickup@Penn through Penn Libraries).

Talk to someone about a recent lecture for 5-10 minutes
(audio call if using your phone).

Take notes and solve problems by hand. Use Adobe Scan or Office Lens to create a digital copy for storage.

The Weingarten Blog also continues to offer unique and personalized insights into study strategies, organization and productivity, and a variety of tools and resources that can help you meet your goals and find fulfillment in your work.

Useful Software

Well-designed software can support many aspects of our remote study, work, and communication. Below, you’ll find helpful software for working in teams, mapping course content and ideas, note-taking, managing references and citations, and expanding knowledge in STEM subjects.

We also strongly recommend consulting the more comprehensive Penn Libraries Software Search for additional resources as well as utilizing Penn’s access to LinkedIn Learning for all students, faculty, and staff for hundreds of courses and tutorials.

Essentials for Online Learning

Canvas is the centrally-provided and supported learning management system at Penn. Easy to access via a web browser, but also has a great app.

BlueJeans is a cloud-based cross-platform video conferencing service. You’ll use BlueJeans when connecting with a learning specialist in our office for virtual consultations or workshops. Also integrates nicely with the Outlook calendar.

Zoom is video conferencing software that several schools are using for synchronous instruction. The Penn Libraries guide is very helpful.

Panopto is a video creation and storage platform that integrates with Canvas. Consult the Penn Libraries guide to become an expert.


Coggle allows users to diagram information that may be helpful for collaboration, project management, report writing, or just brainstorming.

SimpleMind turns your device into a brainstorming, idea-collection, and thought structuring tool.


OneNote is web-based, collaborative software for gathering notes, drawings, screen clips, and audio. Offers excellent features for organizing and reviewing notes. Check out the immersive reader function for focused review. Available to all Penn students, faculty, and staff through PennO365.

 Notability allows you to create, illustrate, outline, annotate, record, and capture photos. Great functionality with tablets.

Resources for Reference Management and Citation

Before selecting a reference manager, we recommend consulting the Penn Libraries Overview of Citation Management Tools.

Mendeley organizes references, research, and enables collaborative discovery of the latest research. Great integration with Microsoft Word for cite-as-you-write features and bibliography/reference list generation.

RefWorks allows users to create a personal bibliographic citation database using this web-based bibliographic management tool.

Zotero helps you organize online resources, bibliographies, blog posts, PDFs, and other web content in one place.

Resources for Reference Management and Citation

Wolfram Alpha is 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 is 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 the most commonly used tutorials.

Khan Academy is 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 the most commonly used tutorials.

Molecular Workbench is a free open source portal that allows users to launch and customize concepts at atomic and molecular levels in physics, chemistry, biotechnology and nanotechnology.

Scanning Apps for Uploading Problem Solutions and Converting Notes/Documents

Office Lens is a great option for O365 users. The app trims, enhances, and makes pictures of whiteboards and documents readable. Office Lens converts images to PDF, Word, and PowerPoint files, and you can save images to OneNote or OneDrive. This is particularly helpful for students who need to make high-quality scans of handwritten solutions for problem sets.

Adobe Scan allows you to easily capture and convert documents, whiteboards, and handwritten solutions for problem sets into high-quality Adobe PDFs.