5 Tips for Online Students
Updated: Feb 27
I graduated high school in June 2016 and began my time as a Gator the following fall semester. Because I had to complete two full semesters online before taking campus classes beginning Fall 2017, I decided to live at home for an additional year so I could continue working and saving money (and to spend more time with my family.)
I had planned how the first two semesters would go; which classes I would take, how much money I should save each week and how I should spend my spare time. On paper, my plan was foolproof and I was excited to reach my goals. Unfortunately, this plan lasted for two weeks. My five classes dove headfirst into their curriculum shortly after syllabus week ended. The workload was tolerable at first, but soon after my work hours doubled because I became one of the top performing employees, and it became more difficult to complete tasks and assignments.
Thankfully, I did well during my time as an online student, but I didn’t meet the goals I had originally set for myself. My first semester online was a wake-up call and I now understand the misconceptions and issues with online classes, and I have the tips to help overcome them.
1. Understand that online classes are not as easy as you think.
Many people are under the impression that online students have it easier than students on campus because they don’t have to attend classes in person. In fact, I was spending hours on my laptop each day of the week. From the time I got home from work to almost midnight I was up completing assignments. It wasn’t the difficulty of the work that I struggled with, but the actual amount of the work that had to be done. Online classes are very time consuming.
Before even signing up for classes, realistically plan out what you are capable of doing each week. My mistake was biting off more than I could chew and thinking that I could turn myself into in the Leslie Knope of online education. I did not factor in other events that would take time away from my classes, such as assignments that are more work than they seem or having to take a break every now and then to stay sane.
As a rule of thumb, make sure that you set aside at least three hours of study time for each credit you are taking. For example, because I was taking 18 credits last semester, I should plan to do classes for 54 hours each week of that semester. I would even recommend to give yourself more time than you think. If you didn’t need the extra time, you can now use it for something enjoyable. If you did use the extra time, then at least you didn't have to rearrange your entire schedule to fit in more time for one subject and disregard another.
2. Effectively sort your priorities.
Learn how to manage your time wisely. It is extremely tempting to watch another episode on Netflix or to go out on a Friday night instead of doing homework, but in the end, this decision could cause you to fail a quiz because you didn’t spend enough time studying.
I would become so distracted watching online lectures and would go on other sites while they were playing. By the time the lecture was over, I realized that I hadn’t learned anything and would have to re-watch it, wasting over an hour and a half of my time. As an online student, you must buckle down and stop procrastinating. Remember to stay motivated and to stay focused on your tasks and goals.
Also, buy an agenda (and actually use it)! Creating your own highlighter or pen system and keeping track of deadlines and assignments gives you a calendar view of your workload and helps divide it among the days. I also keep various lists in a journal and notebook, and use sticky notes (literally everywhere). Your phone also has interesting apps and features that aid in organization. Keeping your agenda, workspace, and mind organized allows you to focus better.
3. Know that missing or failing an assignment isn’t the end of the world.
I guarantee you will forget or fail at least one assignment throughout your time in college. As unfortunate and embarrassing as it is, it happens to every student at least once. That being said, try to move on and refocus to prevent it from happening again. Realize what you did wrong, and learn from the experience. Crying or breaking down will only lead you to feel worse about yourself. There are almost always more assignments to complete, and you will have time to be able to bring your grade up. Make sure you do any extra credit assignments your professor offers because that could be the one thing that separates a B+ from an A-.
Things can get hectic and you often wind up turning in assignments hours before their due date, which is also fine. Don’t beat yourself up over it.
4. Reward yourself.
In addition to factoring in extra time to do assignments, make sure set aside time to take a quick break. If you do not take breaks, you wind up wasting more time because you will get distracted while doing your work. Taking a 10-20 minute break every hour or after completing a large task allows you to be as productive as possible without burning out. Taking a break could mean scrolling through Twitter, eating a snack or even taking a shower.
5. Remember to take care of yourself.
This is probably the most important piece of advice. Even though it is important to stay on top of your assignments, you must take care of yourself first. If you feel it is necessary, put a hold on your work to take a bath or a walk around the block. Lie down for a few minutes. Call your best friend.
Getting sufficient sleep is important. Sometimes you have to close your laptop and recharge yourself. Making money is important, but if you have to ask your manager for less hours so you can get back on track, do not feel guilty. Assignments can wait, but your health cannot.
Remember that you are more important than any assignment or grade will ever be.
Sometimes it is hard remembering to do these things. Believe me, I ought take my own advice.
I hope these tips help you out! If you would like to contact me for additional help or have your own advice to share, don’t be afraid to contact me!