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Time Management Tips for Online College Students

Updated on November 20, 2012
Get organized so you can stay focused on scheduling time for lesson material and taking notes.
Get organized so you can stay focused on scheduling time for lesson material and taking notes. | Source

Taking college courses online or through a distance learning program can be a smart choice for people that require a flexible school schedule or prefer self-paced lesson plans. Not only does this option offer freedom from the mundane, day-to-day task of going to class, but it allows mature students to manage their own time which can be a valuable skill outside of college. Contrary to what some people may believe, online courses are just as challenging, if not more so than traditional college classes to account for the lack of classroom interaction. For this reason, time management skills should be developed and improved upon continuously if one expects to receive high grades without adding extra stress to an already hectic schedule. Use these guidelines to maintain control over deadlines, group assignments, and final exams.

  • Print course information – one of the first mistakes people make when attempting online learning is falling under the assumption that there is no need for pen and paper. The course syllabus as well as the course schedule should be printed so it can be written on, highlighted, crossed out, checked off, or whatever method works best to keep up with the assignments. You will save yourself valuable time each week rather than searching for lesson material online.

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  • Highlight all due dates – whether you choose to invest in a personal daily planner or a desk calendar for the office, notate important due dates such as exams or group projects. These should be bold enough and in a position to offer a constant reminder of the dates. If neither of these options seems efficient, set up email reminders or a virtual calendar to manage deadlines.

  • Visualize weekly assignments – with a printed copy of the course schedule and syllabus, as well as the due dates highlighted, the semester should be a bit more organized. Unless someone has a significant amount of free time, it isn’t necessary to map out each course’s lesson material and assignments. However, at the beginning of each week, look at a calendar and visualize each day of the week – in your head or on paper – and what needs to be done to complete each task on time. Do this on a regular basis to develop consistency!

  • Schedule time for reading – while many online courses allow students to progress at their own pace, most people get hung up on the specific due date or deadlines. Expect a significant amount of time to be appropriated in order to complete the lesson material. Lesson material can include required readings, lectures, short videos, and even movies, so allot time for these activities in addition to the time required for the assignments.

  • Take efficient notes – one of the most valuable skills a student can develop is how to listen and read critically while taking notes that are both time efficient and descriptive enough in nature to be effective study guides. Some students prefer to jot one-liners from lectures or reading material, while others take a more structured approach and write out an outline. Try out different methods to see which works best.

"Do-It-Yourself" Home Office

Perfect Timing - Turner 2013 Texas Longhorns Desk Calendar, 22 x 17 Inches (8061164)
Perfect Timing - Turner 2013 Texas Longhorns Desk Calendar, 22 x 17 Inches (8061164)

A large desk calendar is perfect for keeping track of important due dates and other deadlines.

  • Use a web-based file hosting service – successfully completing online coursework requires access to all assignments at any time, from anywhere. How frustrating would it be to drop a laptop and lose every assignment in progress, as well as completed work? Use a file-hosting service, such as Dropbox, to store assignments, notes, and schedules so that can be accessed from any computer with an Internet connection and Dropbox installed.

  • Create a personal office space – an office “space” is essential and this cannot be stressed enough! While it is not going to be feasible for each student to have a private, dedicated room, it is important to set aside a personal space for any school-related documents or books, and at the very least a time of day completely isolated from others. You are at home, but don’t underestimate the potential for other people to cause distractions unintentionally.

  • Practice effective communication skills - the most successful online learners achieve their degrees by learning and practicing communication skills. Many courses offered online require written assignments, group projects, and discussion forum posts. It is important to pay attention to deadlines and communicate with your instructor if any issues arise. Classmates will also appreciate timely responses and well-written content in group or discussion work.

There are a multitude of other techniques and tricks a person can use to enhance their time management skills – these are simple guidelines that will allow you to develop a unique strategy to be improved upon over the course of your education and career. Choosing an online university may appear daunting, but don’t let the lack of weekly interaction hinder the possibilities. With a little bit of persistence and dedication anyone can undertake this exciting endeavor and succeed.


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    • Miranda Birt profile imageAUTHOR

      Miranda Birt 

      3 years ago from Austin, Texas

      I am glad you enjoyed this! Taking courses online is much more difficult than a lot of people anticipate; I've now completed 90+ credit hours online, and will graduate with my BA in May. I would not have made it this far while working a full-time job if it weren't for my time management skills! Good luck with your courses in the future!

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I've struggled so much with online courses. I really enjoyed reading this. It helped a lot it; it has given me some great idea!!!


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