Monday, April 22, 2013

Time Management Skills for Online Students

Created by Taya Norlander, Graduate Teaching Assistant at the CTL & Ellie Dailey, TechFellow at the CTL

The pace of life hasn’t slowed down; in fact, it has done the exact opposite.  These days, students attempt to balance school and work among the basic activities of daily living like spending time with friends and doing laundry or grocery shopping.  Each task requires a specific amount of time and energy, and at times it can seem like 24 hours in a day just is not enough.  As a result, traditional and non-traditional students alike are relying more and more on courses that are offered online. Some benefits of online courses include:
  • Teaching life skills such as:
    • Ability to learn in an environment other than a classroom
    • Independence
    • Responsibility
    • Time management
    • Communication
  • Offering a larger array of courses at the student's disposal
Faculty can also help make students who are not used to taking online courses have an easier transition. Certain options include:
  • Scheduling coursework at appropriate intervals
  • Reminder emails and notifications 
  • Setting up a course calendar
  • Outlining important dates in the syllabus
  • Responding to emails in a timely manner
Online courses are more flexible in that they don’t present time and spatial constraints for universities and are self-directed meaning the coursework can be completed at whatever pace you fits within your life. College students today take over one-third of their courses using an online format.  For most that seems like a brilliant idea; for others it can get them in big trouble.  Because the course is self-directed, students often get in the habit of procrastinating and tend not to use their time wisely.  Below we offer some basic skills that will promote time management for students who take their courses online (Sheehy, 2012).

Make a Plan- Review the syllabus and mark important dates on your calendar.

Set Goals- If you have a big assignment due in a few weeks, set smaller goals for yourself and complete little portions of the assignment at a time.  You will feel less overwhelmed and reaching those smaller goals will motivate you.

•Check in Daily- You will feel more organized and will not be caught off guard when/if the schedule changes

•Look Ahead- Look ahead in your calendar/on the syllabus.  If you have a major project due in 6 weeks don’t start it the night before.  This helps you to maximize your time and again, you won’t be caught off guard. 

•Speak Up- If you feel like you are starting to fall behind or are failing all together, speak up.  Reach out to those around you.  Faculty, advisors, and counselors are there to help you and encourage you, they want you to be successful!

•Reward Yourself- Rewarding yourself will motivate you.  When you finish an assignment or reach a goal, reward yourself with something you like to do.

        If [time management] is correctly learned and applied, it can actually save the student time (Rasmussen College, 2012).  Doing the basic skills mentioned above will help you to stay organized. If you are organized, time management skills will virtually fall into place.  Everyone has obligations and responsibilities they need to fulfill aside from the coursework that is expected of them -- that’s life.  Fortunately, online courses offer an alternative to our busy lives.  However, just as you would if you had to attend a face-to-face lecture every week, you have to be dedicated to success and reorganize your life to support a self-directed educational environment.

  1. Kermaida, C.G., (2012). Are undergraduate students ready for online learning? A comparison of online and face-to-face sections of a course. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 31(4) 25-32.
  2. Sheehy, K. (2012). 4 time management tips for online Students. Retrieved from http//
  3. Rasmussen College. (2012). Time management for students. Retrieved from
  4. Flynn, Ann Lee. (2013). Getting Virtual Learning Right. American School Board Journal, 200(3) 28.

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