Online Learning Tip #5: Manage Time Wisely

by Shannon Bicknell | Feb 29, 2016

Manage Time Wisely
As with a face-to-face course or any other important pursuit, it’s important to manage your time wisely. However, this can be a challenge when you likely have other courses and responsibilities to juggle. The first step to take, though, is recognizing that you must invest as much time, if not more time, in an online course than a face-to-face course.


One reason is that you must be largely self-motivated and organized to be successful as an online student—topics discussed in earlier blog posts. Unless you are taking a course that utilizes synchronous sessions (where you meet virtually with your class at a set time), you will be responsible for checking your online course site on a regular basis, tracking your own deadlines, and submitting your work on time. With great flexibility comes great responsibility!

The best way to manage this is to carefully review the course requirements and deadlines at the very beginning of the semester. Then, think long term. Plot out all the deadlines and dates on a calendar or app so that nothing catches you by surprise. This will also help you when you are managing work and social obligations later in the semester as well.

Finding a way to manage your time is a very personal thing, so think about what will work best for you. Here are a few good options:

  • Use the Google calendar associated with your U of I email account. You can activate your Google apps by visiting the Technology Services Google Apps page. You can then use your Google calendar to track all your assignments.
  • Use a time management app. One of the most popular time management apps right now is Trello. You can easily add lists for things like courses and set due dates that are then emailed out to you as reminders. You can even add other people to Trello tasks, which is great for group work.
  • Use a personal planner. While you may be taking a course online, that doesn’t mean you can’t make use of pen and paper if that is what works best for you. Invest in a planner that gives you a lot of space to track weekly work, as this is how most courses are organized.

No matter what kind of calendar or tool you use, there are a couple more best practices for managing your time:

  • Set aside blocks of time to work on your online course. Your online course work will require up to 8-10 hours a week for a 3 credit course. Think ahead and decide how to manage your workload. Then, block those times off on your calendar and treat them as seriously as any other obligation.
  • Communicate with family and friends to let them know that you are not available during those blocks of time. You will be able to stay on track and be less distracted if you communicate your availability with those closest to you.
  • Set your own deadlines and allow buffer time for your course work. Life happens—so build in a day or two of buffer time to make sure you can still complete your work if an emergency comes up. In other words, don’t wait until the last minute to work on your assignments.
  • Color code your courses or different types of responsibilities so that you can see at a quick glance what you need to accomplish for the week.

No matter the specific approach you choose, deciding how to manage your time and using consistent blocks of work time will put you in the best position possible to have a great online learning experience!