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Effective Time Management in Online Learning

written by: Mary White•edited by: Laurie Patsalides•updated: 4/18/2011

Online learning is a convenient way for many to receive an education. However, it's greatest benefit can also be the greatest drawback as the convenience makes it easy to put off or forget about. Effectively managing your time becomes crucial to succeeding in online learning.

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    While being able to complete your studies via a flexible schedule in an online format can be very beneficial, it also poses unique challenges from an effective time management perspective. Just because you have the ability to complete your work at any time in nearly any location doesn't mean that it's going to be easy to make room for it without making it a priority.

    Be Realistic

    Many people who enroll in an online degree program assume that it's going to be easy to finish their coursework without a set class schedule to follow. However, the reality is that online courses are just as time consuming as classes that are delivered in a traditional classroom format. Allow yourself a realistic amount of time to complete all the needed assignments. This may mean you have to free up your schedule in order to complete everything. Make this a priority in your life right now and figure out which non-essential commitments you may be able to give up in order to give your education the time it deserves.

    Set up a Study Schedule

    As an online student, it's essential that you are prepared for the unique challenges you will face. Without a structured class schedule to guide you, it's up to you to be disciplined when it comes to managing your time effectively. Set up a study schedule for yourself -- and stick to it. Make it as much as a priority as going to work every morning.

    To make sure you devote a sufficient amount of time to your studies, set aside specific times each week that you will devote to coursework. Think about the times of day that you are most likely to be able to devote your time and energy to your studies and plan time to take care of your coursework then. Record your scheduled study times in your calendar and honor the appointments you have made with yourself with the same level of commitment you'd need to use if they were job interviews or client appointments.

    Make Sure Friends & Family Respect Your Schedule

    It's also important to prepare your friends and family members for the fact that you will be setting aside certain times for school work. If you don't discuss your plans with the people in your life ahead of time, they'll naturally think that you're available to them because you are at home. Make it clear that your home is serving as your classroom during certain times and that you will not be available for non-emergency situations while you are taking care of your online coursework. This may mean you commit to turning off your phone or not checking email or Facebook during your scheduled study hours.

    By taking these steps, you'll be on your way to laying the groundwork for success in your online degree program. Effective time management  in online learning isn't the only challenge faced by students, but getting your schedule under control is one of the first things that every online learner needs to do to prepare to excel in his or her classes.

    Information provided is from author's own experience.