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Learning Effectively

Time Management for Coursework

To be successful in a distance-learning environment, you need to manage your time. Students tend to procrastinate and drop out of distance learning at higher levels than in traditional courses. This may be partly due to a lack of time management.

Beginning your course

  • At the beginning of the course, make sure you understand course requirements and expectations in regards to completion of course material, activities and online participation. Estimate how much time per week you will need to spend on the course.
    • Generally students should expect to study about 2 to 3 hours for each credit hour.
  • Schedule yourself, and stick to an assignment schedule, that coincides with the course syllabus deadlines, or that is negotiated with your instructor.
  • Schedule yourself daily/weekly for course communications for
    • Student interaction/peer learning via discussion groups, chat, case studies, etc. Often you will be required to work on group projects or case studies, whether at one location or through Blackboard.
    • Feedback to the instructor: Your feedback to the instructor is critical to the success of your online course experience and to the improvement of the overall quality of the course. Students are encouraged to provide regular feedback to the instructor on course material, assignments, progress or any other issue.

Throughout your course

  • Create a study routine. If at all possible, try to study at the same time each day. Having regular hours at least five days a week will make it easier to habitually follow the schedule and to maintain an active approach to study.
  • Space out your study periods. Fifty to ninety minutes of study at a time for each course works best. Relaxation periods of ten or fifteen minutes should be scheduled between study periods. It is more efficient to study hard for a definite period of time, and then stop for a few minutes, than attempt to study on indefinitely.
  • Plan for weekly reviews. At least one hour each week for each class (distinct from study time) should be scheduled. The weekend is a good time for review.
  • Leave some unscheduled time for flexibility. Students often tend to over-schedule themselves.
  • Leave time for recreation.
  • Do not wait until the last minute to complete assignments- many of these will require research, which is something that cannot be done properly in a short space of time. Set several smaller study goals - if you have been given a task that you find overwhelming, break it down into smaller parts.
  • Make use of small windows of time that appear during your day. For example, an hour between classes is sufficient time to do something useful such as reading a chapter of a book, reviewing notes you have taken in a lecture. Do not be tempted to ALWAYS spend this time having coffee chatting to your friends.
  • Give yourself rewards to keep you motivated.

Scheduling Goals

The following method of organizing time helps students establish long term, intermediate, and short-term time goals.

Long Term Schedule: Construct a schedule of your fixed commitments only. These include only obligations you are required to meet every week, e.g., job hours, classes, church, organization meetings, etc.

Intermediate Schedule - One per week: Now make a short list of MAJOR EVENTS and AMOUNT OF WORK to be accomplished in each subject this week. This may include non-study activities. For example:

  • Elluminate discussion Monday night
  • Paper outline due Tuesday
  • Child's soccer game Wednesday night
  • Finish 150 pages in Informatics by Friday

These events will change from week to week and it is important to make a NEW LIST FOR EACH WEEK. Sunday night may be the most convenient time to do this.

Short Term Schedule - One per day: On a small note card each evening before retiring or early in the morning make out a specific daily schedule. Write down specifically WHAT is to be accomplished. Such a schedule might include:


  • 8:00 - 8:30 Review Informatics
  • 9:30 - 10:30 Preview Methods and prepare for Quiz
  • 4:45 Pick up groceries on way home
  • 7:00 - 10:15 Ch. 5, 6 (Informatics)
  • 10:30 Check email

CARRY THIS CARD WITH YOU and cross out each item as you accomplish it. Writing down things in this manner not only forces you to plan your time but also in effect causes you to make a promise to yourself to do what you have written down.