Time Management Tips for Distance Learning

a man working on a computer

This content was adapted from Miami University eLearning materials.

Many college students have other obligations beyond school such as work, athletics, and sometimes family responsibilities as well. This can be stressful and can lead to challenges with finding time for coursework. Learning online has many benefits, such as providing students with flexible schedules, however, many students fall behind or give up before finishing the class. When taking blended or online classes, you’re even more responsible for “showing up,” getting work done, participating in-class activities and discussions, and being responsible for your own learning.

It is especially important to approach your online class as you would a traditional class: Schedule time each week to log into your online class and work on assignments, just as you would schedule time to attend a class in a physical space.

5 Steps to Managing Your Time

If you have difficulty managing your time, read and apply the tips below to help you stay on task relatively stress-free.

  1. Develop a schedule and stick to it
    Take a moment to think about how you spend your time. The thing to remember about your online classes is that you will need to train yourself to work every day on your courses. Develop a regular time each day to study and work on assignments. Online classes are not self-paced; you have due dates for assignments and trying to do everything at the last minute will only create more stress in your life and not help you learn. Plus, others in your online learning community are depending on you and your contributions to the course each week.  Waiting until the last minute may prevent other students in your course from meeting course expectations.
  2. Keep a calendar 
    It is important to stay on task and be productive. In your calendar, enter in all your due dates. Estimate how much time you will need to complete your assignments and put some start dates in the calendar as well. From this, create a “to-do” list of your online coursework. Keep in mind you can add your own events and reminders to your Canvas Calendar to help you stay organized.  
  3. Determine work order
    When you have a lot to do, it can often seem overwhelming to decide what you should be working on. Consider prioritizing tasks in the following way to help:
    1. High priority
      Projects and assignments that are due within the next day or two. Topics and work that are most difficult for you. Do the work in this category first while you are the most mentally focused.
    2. Medium priority
      This includes work that is due later and larger research projects. Divide large projects into smaller chunks and schedule that work evenly over time so it’s completed by the due date.
    3. Low priority
      This includes work that is not in the above categories and work that you find easy to complete. Save these items for last so you can still concentrate on them when you are less focused.
  4. Use short focused bursts of work followed by a break
    Rather than multi-tasking, spend a focused amount of time on one task (25-40 minutes)  followed by a break. The idea is that frequent breaks help to improve mental agility and allow your work-time to be more focused. 
  5. Automate what you can
    Between school, work, and other sports and hobbies, it may be tough to find time to get anything else done. But there are other things that still need to get done. Use Google Calendar to schedule and remind you of your activities. You can import your Canvas Calendar to your Google Calendar to keep all of your academic and personal obligations in one spot. 

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