How to Keep Learning in a Pandemic

The most important thing about learning in a pandemic is that you pay attention to your questions, rather than pretending nothing is different. Maybe it seems like differential equations, semiotics, or organic chemistry are not the most pressing thing on your mind right now. But how can you relate the courses you are taking to the crisis facing you now? Where do the skills and approaches you are learning take you in terms of the topics you’re discussing? Bring examples from news and other media to the class, discuss them with your instructor. Part of your job as a student right now is to find and make those connections—you are in the best place to see them!

UCSC created a resource-packed website for the move to remote learning for Spring 2020: As soon as you can, check your classes to make sure you have what you need to get online and access course materials and assignments. Connect to Canvas to find the sites for the courses you’re enrolled in. If you are having trouble accessing your courses, reach out to your faculty, ITS, or Oakes advisers.

Most instructors understand that retooling our entire quarter to online instruction is stressful, and that you may have challenges participating in class, which you wouldn’t have otherwise encountered. If you are facing challenges, communicate with your instructors. Let them know if you can’t access course material they’ve said would be posted.


UCSC has just launched a special program to help students who need to borrow a computer in order to continue taking their classes. If you need a computer, please get in touch as soon as possible. The division of Student Success has developed several resources that can help you keep learning through this time. For graduate and undergraduate students:

  • Needing assistance with basic needs, housing and food insecurity as well as access to a laptop computer for instruction, please contact Slug Support.

  • CAPS is committed to meeting our registered students’ needs and will continue to provide services, primarily remotely through phone or video. Get more information about online services and remote appointments.

  • DRC is operating remotely. For students needing accommodations, please set up an appointment.

Additional resources can be found on the UC Santa Cruz website.


Many faculty will be using Canvas, Zoom, and other platforms to teach. Make sure you’re familiar with these tools before the quarter starts!

To start you off, here are some things to remember when using Zoom:

  • Make sure your microphone is on mute when you join a session, and check in with people in your environment before you start to make sure they know you are in class and your whole class will be able to hear whatever they are doing when you are not on mute.

  • If your background is distracting, consider using a custom background in Zoom. You can also turn off video if you need to leave for a moment or do something distracting.

  • Wear headphones if possible. It minimizes the noise cancelling features of the microphone, especially if you are trying to talk over a sound playing.

  • If your instructor is playing sound such as a song or video clip, mute your microphone. If you don’t, and you talk during playback, no one else will be able to hear the sound and your voice will be loud and clear!

  • Respect your class by not sharing your screen unless you have explicit permission from your instructor to do so. Your instructor will likely not enable your screen sharing capability, unless they ask you to share. 

  • Similarly, respect the chat room by making sure your comments are relevant to the topic being discussed.

  • In the “Participants” tab, Zoom allows you to raise your hand. This feature is the easiest way for your instructor to see if you have a question or comment.