Online Student Time Management Tips
Tips for Online Students
- Make sure prior to the beginning of the course that you can meet the minimum technology, connectivity and skills requirements for the course. Check before the course begins that you can connect with the course site.
- Know how to access on-line help and helpers.
- Make sure your Internet browser has the necessary features to receive all course materials. Know who to call if there is a problem.
- Get and maintain an e-mail account. Learn how to transfer and receive files and documents between your computer and your email system.
- Become Internet savvy; spend time exploring on your own.
- Learn the policies, goals and objectives of the course. Ask if something seems uncertain or unclear to you.
- Understand and use the rules of ‘netiquette*1’. Realize that interacting online in text is different than face-to-face interaction along several dimensions, including the lack of body language to assist in the interpretation of meaning. Communication must be clear and explicit to minimize misunderstandings.
- Be proactive in your contributions to the course, especially to course discussions. To be silent online is to be invisible.
- Expect to learn via dialogue with your teacher and other students.
- Contact your teachers immediately if you feel you are falling behind or not understanding the course content.
- Learn to ‘ask questions*2’ – Online courses can be more interactive than in-person courses. Ask lots of questions. It is one of the best learning tools ever and online you can ask more questions than you can ever hope to in an in-person class.
- Realize that on-line classes require the same or a greater time investment than a face-to-face course, and be prepared to make that time investment on a regular basis. Set aside a specific time during the day to participate in the course.
Tips for Online Students
Netiquette ( ‘netiquette*1’ )
Interacting with others online requires some specific communications behaviours – conventions that have come to be called “netiquette”.
- Keep messages short. People don’t like to read long email or forum messages. If you have a lot to say, break up your ideas into multiple postings.
- Don’t use CAPITAL LETTERS extensively in messages (especially not the dreaded all-caps message). Capitals are the online equivalent of shouting – something we don’t normally do a lot of in polite conversation. Use them only when you want to really emphasize something.
- When responding to an email message or discussion posting, it is nice to begin by summarizing in your first sentence what you are responding to (“I don’t agree with John D’s comments about …”) so that context for the message is clear.
- When you refer to a website, always give the URL so people can check it out themselves. It is nice to put the URL in executable form (including the http://) so the link can be selected directly.
- Avoid sarcasm in messages because it is easily misinterpreted. Online messages don’t carry the tone of voice and facial cues that indicate a remark is meant to be humorous, so it is likely to be taken as an earnest comment.
- Be wary of “flaming” – getting involved in an online argument by making thoughtless or nasty remarks in a message. Because they are written and context-free, negative comments tend to be amplified, which means that minor insults or criticisms seem much harsher. You need to be careful when formulating online messages – it is not the same as in-person or telephone interaction.
Tips for Online Students
Asking Questions ( ‘ask questions*2’ )
Learn how to ask questions online. Here are some tips:
- There are no stupid questions.
- Questions are indications you know something, not that you don’t know something. Smart people ask questions. Those who know less don’t ask questions.
- Use your computer or pen and paper to phrase you question. Give it a rough draft.
- Ask only one question at a time.
- Ask your most important question first, or the question that preceded your others. “Start at the beginning.”
- Thank the person for answering your question.
- Don’t be afraid to try to restate, summarize or rephrase the person’s answer to confirm you understand the answer. “Let me see if I have this straight…” “So what you are saying is that…” “To put it another way…”
More Tips & Information:
There’s a certain appeal to taking classes in your pajamas, while petting your dog, and getting to hit pause if somebody knocks on your door.
I took online classes during my time in college and it was great to be able to watch lectures when it fit into my schedule. But there was also a learning curve. It’s still a new learning avenue in the education world.
I spoke with some Extension School students who are taking online classes this spring. They offered some helpful tips on navigating your way through the distance education world, while also pointing out some great perks.
1. Choose what you enjoy
With the flexibility to watch weekly lectures videos when and where you choose, you do have to be careful not to put things off and risk falling behind on assignments. All students I talked to had one common motivator: picking subjects they were passionate about.
“I choose courses that are intrinsically interesting to me, so I want to listen to the lectures and do the assignments,” said Debbie Van Heest, an Extension Student who already has a master’s degree and is now taking classes for fun. “I love it when the professor organizes the lectures around specific topics, in organized, thoughtful ways, with occasional visuals. When lectures are fascinating and thought-provoking, my motivation is high.”
Monika Lutz, a Bachelor of Liberal Arts candidate, sums it up pretty well. “I like to make time for something every day that makes me happy,” she said. Her online courses do just that.
Tip: if you are a degree candidate, you can log into online services to read past course evaluations to get a sense of the topics, teaching staff, and online experience.
2. Make it a priority
All the students I spoke to have their own way of ensuring class was a significant part of their routine.
“Mini-deadlines really do help,” Van Heest said. I find these often work for me as well. Breaking up an assignment or paper into several smaller tasks makes it much more manageable.
Interactions with the teaching assistants also help Van Heest stay on top of her work, “One TA would somehow manage to grade all papers within one to three days, and her encouraging, helpful comments made me feel as though I were accomplishing something.”
With everything on Lutz’s plate, she has to plan accordingly. “I intern, travel frequently, and am an executive on two Harvard Extension School clubs, while also taking courses,” she says. “For me, it’s all about setting priorities.”
Vincent Cho, who is taking literature courses at the Extension School, learned from his past mistakes. “I make it important,” he says. “I’ve paid money to do this, so the idea is get the most out of it as possible. I kind of wasted away my undergraduate years, so in a way, this is sort of penance for me.”
3. Take advantage of the flexibility
A common piece of advice each student shared was to take advantage of the fact that you can study when and where you want. You’re not stuck to a class time for many of the online courses offered through the Extension School.
Flexibility was a big part of why Lutz decided to take an online class. “While working in Singapore at the beginning of this year, I worked six to seven daily and spent every weekend in a new country,” she said. Lutz was able to fit the online lectures into her hectic schedule, even when she was jet setting from country to country. “That’s flexibility,” she said.
Cho said, “There is a degree of freedom that comes with being a distance student. I am able to balance the rest of my life along with class.”
Van Heest said, “I work full time, so the ability to work at my own pace in the class is important.”
“The ability to have professional experiences on the other side of the world that relate to my classwork, while earning my degree, is a great advantage,” Lutz says. “Coursework comes to life when I know I will be applying the principles in my internship on Monday morning.”
Massive Open Online Courses:
In the age of MOOCs, degrees which give you the option to take some classes ‘distance’, and other programs that are all-online, many people are considering the pros and cons of taking classes on the internet.
If you’ve never taken a class online before, the concept might seem too good to be true – no worrying about getting to class on time, being called on to speak about a topic you’re not really comfortable with, or sitting in an uncomfortable chair for way too long.
You might imagine sitting in your comfiest chair, relaxing your class time away at a time that is completely convenient for you. But as with any fantasy, reality is hiding just behind the corner, and it’s important to take a good look before you jump right in.
So if you’re up in the air about it, take a page from some folks who have been successful in their online classes. Here is a short list of tips to get you thinking about if online learning is right for you.
Have the Right Technology
It seems obvious, but you have to have access to technology that works in order to be successful in an online class. An internet connection that goes in-and-out (and not like the burgers!) isn’t going to help you get through the class. Similarly, if you’ve been writing up your papers and doing research on a clunky old computer, investing in a new one can help ensure you can work as quickly and efficiently as possible. If you’re constantly arguing with your technology, you won’t be able to focus as much on the learning aspect.
Know What Kind of Learner You Are
Depending on the type of class you’re taking, much of online learning happens in a lecture-based format. If you don’t already know, find out what type of learner you are, and supplement your lecture accordingly with visual or hands on practice. You might want to find a local interest group for the subject you’re working on – for example, a weekly Spanish conversation group or lunch table might be a great supplement to your online Spanish class.
This should go without saying, but when there’s no one else around, you need to police your own class and study habits. First, set aside a specific time to ‘take’ your class. If you’re trying to fit it in with laundry, child care, or other work, you either won’t get it done or it won’t have your undivided attention. Once you’ve made the time, actually spend the time attending to the class work. If you wouldn’t get up twelve times and miss a few minutes of class each time during an in-person class, then don’t do it when you’re home alone watching class from your computer, either!
You Need to be Able to Work Alone
Sometimes, when I feel particularly lazy as I head out for my run, I make sure to run on a well trafficked route so that I’ll be too embarrassed to stop and walk – I’m not ashamed to use the other people around me as motivation! If you’re someone who really needs other people around them to stay motivated, learning at home (alone) might not be the best for you. While some online classes incorporate group work, not all do, so if that’s your cup of tea, check first.
Let Yourself Take Breaks!
Don’t be your own slave driver! Time management is important to make sure you don’t burn out. As mentioned before, scheduling a time that is just for your online class(es) is important, but make sure to schedule time for other things, too. Don’t aim to get half your work done in one day – parceling it out will make it less stressful, and help you retain what you’re learning more effectively.