Time Management for Coursework
To be successful in a distance learning course, 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. A good recommendation is to set aside some time two to three days per week that you will use to work on your online class, just like if you were going to an on-campus class, but the time that you set aside can be more convenient to you than if you were going to a class on campus. For example, you may choose to set aside Mondays from 3-5, Tuesdays from 5:30 - 6:30, and Saturdays from 7 - 9. Make sure that you use that time for class work every week.
Beginning your course
At the beginning of the course, make sure you read your syllabus thoroughly. Also be 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 (so you should schedule six to 9 hours per week to work on a 3-hour class - this would be comparable to in-class and homework/study time spent on a traditional class).
Schedule yourself, and stick to an assignment schedule, that coincides with the course syllabus deadlines, or that is negotiated with your instructor. Get a planner or calendar and write down all your due dates, so you can be sure to complete all your work on time.
Schedule yourself daily/weekly for course communications for feedback to the instructor
Your feedback to the instructor is critical to the success of your online course. If you don't communicate with your instructor, letting him or her know how you are doing in the class and if you are having any difficulties, he or she cannot effectively help you learn. Students are encouraged to provide regular feedback to the instructor on course material, assignments, progress or any other issue.
Assignment progress and submission
- Progress reports: The instructor will provide feedback to you on your progress throughout the course. If you need updates more often or more detailed explanations than are given by the instructor, request more help! Instructors don't know that what they give you is not meeting your needs unless you tell them.
- Course communication policies: To help your instructor respond quickly to your request and provide timely acknowledgement feedback (assignment reception, response to questions, etc.), you need to keep in mind course communications and policies:
- Submit your assignments from your JDCC email account: email@example.com.
- Check your jdcc.edu e-mail account and the announcements page for your class on Blackboard REGULARLY for important information from your instructor.
- Save all assignments done with a word processing program (i.e. Microsoft Word, Microsoft Works) in Rich Text Format, so that instructors can open them, no matter what program you used to create them.
- VERY IMPORTANT!!! - Send a carbon copy of your assignment emails to yourself and retain the copy until you have received your grade at the end of the semester. Also keep all graded work that your instructor sends you until the end of the semester. Things do sometimes become "lost in space" while sending them over the Internet. If you have kept copies of everything, it will be easy to provide documentation and proof to your instructor that you completed assignments on time, even if he or she did not receive them the first time you sent them.
Throughout your course
Create a study routine. If at all possible, try to study at the same time each day. Having regular hours to work on your class each week will make it easier to habitually follow the schedule and to maintain an active approach to studying.
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. When you stop, do some type of physical activity. Walk down your driveway, stretch, jog around the block. This wakes you up and helps keep your mind alert.
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. This will help you prepare for exams.
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 - If you complete your assignments early and have questions, you can ask your instructor and receive help before turning in the final draft of your homework, paper, project, etc. If you wait until the last minute and have questions, your instructor may not be able to help you or you may not be able to contact him or her in time to get help before the deadline.
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 with your friends.
Give yourself rewards to keep you motivated.
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:
- Quiz Wednesday
- Paper Tuesday
- Ball game Tuesday night
- Finish 150 pages in history 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 history
9:30 - 10:30 Preview math and prepare for Quiz
4:45 Pick up cleaning on way home
7:00 - 10:15 Chpt. 5, 6 (history)
10:30 Phone calls
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 in effect causes you to make a promise to yourself to do what you have written down.
Effective Study Habits
Partially adapted from the audio cassette by Steven Covey, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People; See also http://www.studygs.net for additional information.
You can prepare yourself to succeed in your studies. Try to develop and appreciate the following habits:
Take responsibility for yourself
Responsibility is recognition that in order to succeed you can make decisions about your priorities, your time, and your resources
Center yourself around your values and principles
Don't let friends and acquaintances dictate what you consider important
Put first things first
Follow up on the priorities you have set for yourself, and don't let others, or other interests, distract you from your goals
Discover your key productivity periods and places
Morning, afternoon, evening; study spaces where you can be the most focused and productive. Prioritize these for your most difficult study challenges.
Consider yourself in a win-win situation
You win by doing your best and contributing your best to a class, whether for yourself, or for your instructors. If you are content with your performance, a grade becomes an external check on your performance, which may not coincide with your internally arrived at benefits.
First understand others, then attempt to be understood
When you have an issue with an instructor, for example a questionable grade or an assignment deadline extension, put yourself in the instructor's place. Now ask yourself how you can best make your argument given his/her situation, remembering that instructors have very busy schedules, especially if they are teaching online courses. Often, instructors set deadlines because they have set aside specific time in their schedules to grade your work. Grading course work for many classes has to be well-planned by the instructor, so receiving your work on time is very important to them.
Look for better solutions to problems
For example, if you don't understand the course material, don't just re-read the material. Try something else! Consult with the instructor, a tutor, an academic advisor, or someone else who may be able to help you understand.
The following information was found at University at Buffalo, The State University of New York's Counseling Services webpage:
William Knaus, a psychologist, estimated that 90% of college students procrastinate. Of these students, 25% are chronic procrastinators and they are usually the ones who end up dropping out of college.
What is Procrastination?
Procrastination is the avoidance of doing a task which needs to be accomplished. This can lead to feelings of guilt, inadequacy, depression and self-doubt among students. Procrastination has a high potential for painful consequences. It interferes with the academic and personal success of students.
Why do Students Procrastinate?
- Poor Time Management. Procrastination means not managing time wisely. You may be uncertain of your priorities, goals and objectives. You may also be overwhelmed with the task. As a result, you keep putting off your academic assignments for a later date, or spending a great deal of time with your friends and social activities, or worrying about your upcoming examination, class project and papers rather than completing them.
- Difficulty Concentrating. When you sit at your desk you find yourself daydreaming, staring into space, looking at pictures of your boyfriend/girlfriend, etc., instead of doing the task. Your environment is distracting and noisy. You keep running back and forth for equipment such as pencils, erasers, dictionary, etc. Your desk is cluttered and unorganized and sometimes you sit/lay on your bed to study or do your assignments. You probably notice that all of the examples that you have just read promote time wasting and frustration.
- Fear and Anxiety. You may be overwhelmed with the task and afraid of getting a failing grade. As a result, you spend a great deal of time worrying about your upcoming exams, papers and projects, rather than completing them.
- Negative Beliefs such as; "I cannot succeed in anything" and "I lack the necessary skills to perform the task" may allow you to stop yourself from getting work done.
- Personal problems. For example, financial difficulties, problems with your boyfriend/girlfriend, etc.
- Finding the Task Boring.
- Unrealistic Expectations and Perfectionism. You may believe that you MUST read everything ever written on a subject before you can begin to write your paper. You may think that you haven't done the best you possibly could do, so it's not good enough to hand in.
- Fear of Failure. You may think that if you don't get an 'A', you are failure. Or that if you fail an exam, you, as a person, are a failure, rather than that you are a perfectly ok person who has failed an exam.
How to Overcome Procrastination
- Recognize self-defeating problems such as; fear and anxiety, difficulty concentrating, poor time management, indecisiveness and perfectionism.
- Identify your own goals, strengths and weaknesses, values and priorities.
- Compare your actions with the values you feel you have. Are your values consistent with your actions?
- Discipline yourself to use time wisely: Set priorities.
- Study in small blocks instead of long time periods. For example, you will accomplish more if you study/work in 60 minute blocks and take frequent 10 minute breaks in between, than if you study/work for 2-3 hours straight, with no breaks. Reward yourself after you complete a task.
- Motivate yourself to study: Dwell on success, not on failure. Try to study in small groups. Break large assignments into small tasks. Keep a reminder schedule and checklist.
- Set realistic goals.
- Modify your environment: Eliminate or minimize noise/ distraction. Ensure adequate lighting. Have necessary equipment at hand. Don't waste time going back and forth to get things. Don't get too comfortable when studying. A desk and straight-backed chair is usually best (a bed is no place to study). Be neat! Take a few minutes to straighten your desk. This can help to reduce day-dreaming.