I encourage students to branch away from the default pencil tool early in the class. I even banned HB and 2B pencils in my on-ground class. Online I just encourage it. Here's an example in the online discussion.
Did you know that some of the earliest drawings were charcoal on cave walls and ochre on bodies?
Graphite and particularly graphite wrapped in wood is a relatively modern invention.
In the 20th and now 21st century we grew up in a school system in which we drew with a limited number of art supplies, pencils being the most common. You probably also used crayons, chalk, tempera paint, finger paint, and as teenagers ball point pens.
But now you are training to be professionals and it is important for you to start to use professional tools.
Try out all the art supplies that interest you.
One experiment is to look at all the Photoshop filters and see the kinds of techniques that are actually coded into your graphic programs! Wow! Lots of exciting things to try.
So leave your "normal pencil" in the pencil box and try out new tools and techniques.
You will get good grades for trying even if the experiment seems to fail in your eyes in terms of the quality of the drawing.
I respect and add points for learning, not being too safe.
When you are experimenting, write a paragraph about your experience drawing with new tools and you will also earn participation points.
Off to the art supply store!