Time management: skills and resources
Online courses give you the freedom to learn at your own pace and take extra time in challenging areas. Therefore, the number one skill needed for taking an online class is time management. Online courses run on the same schedule as face-to-face courses and require the same time commitment.
Make a plan
Structure is helpful for online success and creating a plan for yourself will help you manage your time effectively. Using a study calendar and adding syllabus deadlines to it can help you stay on track. Also, keeping a weekly schedule of designated times for your classwork can assure you have the time needed to complete the work.
Check in daily
Log-in to your courses daily to make sure you stay up-to-date on new deadlines and student discussions. By visiting your course every day you are able to break down the work into more manageable chunks. This can prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and keep your coursework in the front of your mind.
Stay aware of your course deadlines and assignments by looking ahead. Don’t wait until the day an assignment is due to start – if you have any questions it might be too late to ask your instructor! Starting assignments early helps you gauge how much time the assignment will take and leave room for adjusting your schedule if necessary.
As soon as you notice yourself falling behind let your professor know. They can help you plan your time accordingly, or if necessary, work with you on deadlines. However, if you have not stuck with your plan, checked in daily, and stayed aware of your deadlines it might be too late for the professor to help you.
Write Down Due Dates
Write down the key due dates from the syllabus in one or more additional places that you will refer to regularly. Check those dates before you agree to any work, social, or personal commitments that could conflict with your school demands.
Create your own “mini” due dates that will help you to better monitor your own progress. For example, if you have a term paper due by the 3rd week of class:
- By what date will you pick your term paper topic?
- How about having a date for finishing up the research for your paper?
- The first draft?
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
However, few can do it alone. Heather, for instance, admits that her husband is a big help in the evening with their daughter Annie. She explains: “I rely on my husband a lot to watch Annie in the evenings so I can get classwork done. His support is very important.”
Roz is going to school full time online in addition to raising 5 children who range in age from 3½ to 14, taking care of a disabled husband, and working full time as an administrative assistant, so time management is a priority.
As Roz notes: “I am fortunate enough to have enough downtime and a very understanding boss whom I have worked with for almost twelve years now that I am able to complete the majority of my class work while I am at work.”
If you don’t have a spouse to take over when you need to study, or an understanding boss who will let you do your readings on the job so you can have some uninterrupted study time, if you have dependent children, consider hiring a competent babysitter, or asking a trusted extended family member or friend for help.
There’s also healthy take-out food you can bring home so you don’t have to worry about what you’ll prepare for dinner that night.
Self-pacing Is Key to Online Learning
Studying for too long a period of time can wear you down, but not studying long enough can leave you ill-prepared. Take efficiency breaks every twenty minutes or so. It will replenish you so you can read, write, or study more.
Back Everything Up
Make sure you have backed up your work in multiple ways. If you use a computer, back up to an external disk, a CD-ROM, memory stick, or a second computer. Printing out hard copy may seem old-fashioned, but if you lose your electronic version of your work, with a hard copy you can always scan it or make another copy.
Getting Your Work Done in a Timely Fashion Has Other Rewards
Most of all, there is a calm that you will begin to feel as you become more focused and efficient, so you get more done in less time.
With greater efficiency and planning, you will be less tempted to skimp on sleep, instead getting the hours that you need to replenish so you can work, study, and enjoy your leisure time (however brief it might be) in an alert rather than an exhausted state.