Whether you’re attending a brick and mortar college or working to obtain a degree from an online university, there are certain things you must possess: discipline, organization and an understanding of how best to manage your time.
These are universal qualities that all students either have innately or must learn in order to be successful.
Time management is especially crucial for online students. Many, if not most, also have work and family responsibilities that must be taken into consideration, and which may determine when the student can focus on classwork.
Learning how to better structure your time can mean the difference between reaching a desired grade point or failing to realize your goal of receiving a degree.
Here are some tips for online students to keep in mind when trying to best manage their time:
Create a plan: It’s a simple concept, but one that’s often overlooked. By using a calendar to plot out the due dates for assignments, labs and tests, students can be better assured they will never miss a deadline or fail to log-in for a scheduled session.
Understand what’s required: Reading takes time. Writing takes time. Research takes time. By understanding how much time you need to devote to each task, you can avoid feeling rushed. Calendars also can be used to block out specific times for study, writing and research so that those critical needs won’t interfere with other life responsibilities.
Set daily goals: Online learning is dependent on the Internet, and it can be easy to push off doing classwork or checking course assignments because you’re not sitting in front of a computer. However, with mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets readily available, students can easily access course curricula on a daily basis, meaning you never get caught by surprise. Making time to work every day on an upcoming assignment also means you won’t feel overwhelmed right before it’s due.
Be vocal: If you feel like you are falling behind, don’t hesitate to email your professor or ask to set up a chat or Skype session to talk. Many professors are willing to work with students who show the dedication and desire to not fall behind but who also may be dealing with an unexpected issue in their lives.
Be comfortable: Studying from home is not like being in a classroom. You can better control your environment and minimize distractions by creating the best possible space to be productive.
Take advantage of resources: Many online schools offer support services such as tutoring, or helping you better utilize the online classroom portal. Learning more about those resources is as easy as sending an email or making a call.
Eliminate distractions/set reminders: Studying takes focus, and focus is sometimes hard to find if you’re constantly checking your phone or feeling rundown after a long day’s work. Try silencing your phone during study periods to avoid hearing when text messages or calls come through. Also, use a timer to establish a dedicated period for reading and/or writing. Creating a solid half-hour or hour block to completely focus can spur productivity.
Ask for help: Just like a traditional classroom, students can rely on one another to assist with specific assignments. If you don’t feel like you’re going in the right direction on a project or paper, talk to a classmate to see if they have good advice.
Don’t get frustrated: Even the best laid plans can sometimes fall apart. If you set aside two hours to study one night and you find yourself fading, take a break or stop until the next morning. Earning a degree is not a sprint to the finish. It is a long process that requires stamina and perseverance to realize a goal.
Don’t be afraid to reward yourself: It’s important to recognize milestones. If you feel particularly good about a paper or you score better than expected on a test, take time to reward yourself for doing a good job. Plan a nice dinner or schedule time with friends. Go see a concert or movie. Showing yourself the recognition you deserve can go a long way toward helping you maintain your schedule and not feel burned out.