The Road to Success

This guide provides advice on how to succeed in school, especially with distance studies. Although the text is specifically geared toward Cégep à distance students, the advice is beneficial for anyone who is taking classes.


The first thing to do when you get your course materials is to check whether you have everything mentioned in the checklist. Then take note of your tutor’s name and contact information. Please don’t hesitate to contact this resource person. Your tutor is there to help you. Part of the tutor’s job is to give you any extra information you need and answer your questions about the subject matter of your course.

The maximum time you have to complete your course is six months. You have three months after the grade for your final assignment is recorded to take the examination. You may, under exceptional circumstances, be granted an extension if you apply in writing to the Cégep à distance and justify your request.

The fact that you are taking a distance course does not mean you have less work to do. You will have assignments to turn in to your tutor and, at the end, an invigilated final exam covering all of the course content. You have to earn at least 50% on this exam to pass the course.

Introduction and Instructions

It is your responsibility to read the Introduction and Instructions guide, which provides the information you need to succeed with your distance education courses.

1. Getting help to succeed

The main challenge of distance education is related to organization. Here are a few ways organization – or a lack thereof – can create problems:

  • Trouble meeting assignment deadlines
  • Trouble creating a study schedule that fits into a work schedule
  • Trouble reading effectively enough to grasp the essential elements of a text
  • Trouble taking notes while reading
  • Trouble studying for the exam

There are also other kinds of problems related to concentration, motivation and stress around the exams.

Getting help to succeed really means getting help to learn. The Cégep à distance academic advisors can help you pinpoint the exact kind of problems you are having and give you concrete suggestions for solving them.

2. The art of mastering your time

It is essential that you arrange your schedule to allow time for your studies. Establishing a schedule means managing your time. If you manage your time, you will be more effective because you will have a work method that suits your specific situation. All of your activities will be planned to be fully efficient.

It is far better to develop a realistic schedule that suits your needs than to end up giving up because you’ve created a schedule that’s impossible to follow.

3. Time management

There are several ways to plan a schedule. We suggest that you read the Time Management Guide to get suggestions that will help you choose the method that suits you best.

Don’t forget that managing your time is not a miserable drudgery but an intelligent method that has been proven effective for work as well as studies. When you manage your time, you can achieve your goals within set deadlines, avoid last-minute panic, be more productive and, by definition, save time.

Watch out for overly restrictive or overly lenient schedules that just serve to discourage you altogether or allow you to procrastinate. Be flexible as you set up your schedule. It is a tool that you can change when necessary to adapt to an unusual “workload” that has to take precedence over your “study load.” And as exams approach, you may need to put in extra time on the “study” side. It’s up to you to set a schedule that meets your needs.

4. Sending in assignments

You have to submit your assignments one at a time, and we strongly recommend that you submit the first one within three weeks of registering for your course. At this pace, you will be sure to complete your course within the required time limits.
It is very important for you to read and understand your tutor’s comments and corrections on your  assignments. This additional information will help you advance your understanding of the subject matter. Not bothering with your tutor’s comments is like not bothering with the advice and remarks of your professor.

5. Your objective: Attaining a goal

At the beginning of the week, set out the goals you intend to achieve. Don’t forget that these goals are priorities that you set in time. Describe your goals clearly and set a realistic time line. A specific goal with a clear deadline pushes you to work and allows you to gauge your progress. For example, finish assignment 1 by Friday, read chapters 2 and 4 over the weekend, and so on.

6. Reading: How to make it count

There you are at your desk with all your distance learning materials in front of you. You can see that you will have a fair bit of reading to do for your course(s). But how do you set about reading a book effectively?

There are lots of practical tips to help you read effectively and maintain your concentration and attention. Writing a short summary of each section you read may help you retain the main ideas. Using a highlighter to mark important points is another good strategy for making your reading more effective.

7. Better note taking

Taking notes helps highlight or summarize important points in what you are learning. It is also a great memory booster for distance learning. Taking notes, with your course materials in front of you, helps you start preparing for your assignments and your exam. Taking notes will also help you develop your memory and maintain concentration and attention. But how exactly should you go about it? You can use the margins of your text book and documents, or try post-it notes. Just remember that taking notes allows you to better integrate and internalize the subject matter.

8. Motivation: Keeping the flame alive

Motivation is what pushes you to make choices and take action. It’s what gives you the energy you need to achieve your goals.

You may lose motivation for any number of reasons:

  • Your actions may seem pointless and uninteresting.
  • You may feel isolated because you are studying alone and you have trouble understanding the subject matter.
  • The satisfaction and reward you are pursuing may seem too distant.
  • You may have the impression that you have a huge mountain to climb before you achieve your goal.
  • You may be allowing work or other activities to take up all your time and energy.

If you find yourself losing motivation during your distance studies, look back at all the ground you have already covered.

Refine your work method using the advice offered above. If despite all your efforts you still can’t seem to get remotivated, contact an academic advisor at the Cégep à distance to get some tips on building your motivation and reducing the chances of dropping out.

9. Memory – Or the art of not forgetting

We were talking earlier about developing your powers of memory and concentration. It’s important to know that there is a link between stress, memory and concentration. The more stressed you are, the more likely there’ll be gaps in your memory and the less likely you will be able to concentrate.

Memory is the function of recording, storing and reusing information, just like on a computer hard drive. Concentration is the ability to set your attention on a subject or a task for a long period of time without being distracted. Effective concentration is an active and dynamic function: it requires effort and training.

10. Preparing for your final exam

Here it is time to study for exams already. To prepare well, you should ask yourself these questions:

  • Is the exam on a topic I am having trouble with or something I understand fairly well?
  • Are there parts of the subject matter that are particularly important and that I should spend extra time on?
  • Is the exam soon or still fairly long away?

Your answers to these questions will help you structure your study time to minimize stress and avoid all-nighters…

To check whether you have retained what you have read, redo your exercises and assignments without using your course materials. If you run into difficulties, review the course text. Don’t forget that at the exam you might not be allowed to use your course materials. Even if you do, you need to be very familiar with it in order to search productively during the exam.

11. The final exam

The time has come – you’re about to write your exam. It’s normal to feel anxious before, during and even after the exam, because your knowledge is being evaluated, judged and criticized. But stress does have a positive side. Stress can be motivating: it can push you to expend more energy on your exam, and it can galvanize your attention.

Stress can also become negative, however, once you pass your tolerance level. Then you may have symptoms running from insomnia and memory gaps to digestive problems… To reduce your exam-related stress, you need to find out just where your negative stress is coming from. Simple but effective strategies can help you improve your exam performance.

Farther along the road to success

If you want to explore any of the topics in this guide a little further, or you want to find out about the other success tools prepared for you by Cégep à distance, please visit Student Success Tools.

To contact us

Has this guide raised some questions you’d like to have answered? Is there something you’d like us to clarify? Are you having trouble with your studies? Please feel free to contact us.

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