How to Manage Your Time When Taking an Online Class

By L. Roberts on October 13, 2019

More and more often, college students are choosing to take their classes online rather than in-person. With “distance learning” programs, students are able to enroll at schools that aren’t exactly nearby, giving them unlimited options for furthering their education. There are good and bad aspects of taking a class online, with one of the downsides being time management. 

When you don’t have to get out of bed to go to campus and sit in class, it’s easy to let yourself get behind. It’s easy to let your assignments stack up, and eventually, it’ll get out of control. You won’t be able to catch up, no matter how many hours you spend on it!

Taking an online class might seem really convenient when you’re registering for classes, but there are definitely things that need to be taken into consideration before you finalize your schedule:

  • Do you have decent time management skills?
  • Can you handle making your own schedule and staying on top of your assignments without someone else holding you accountable?
  • Do you have time to invest in an online class?
  • Do you have the self-discipline that it takes to keep up with what’s due?

If you’re jumping into taking an online class, make sure you know how to manage your time. Here are seven tips you can follow to be sure you’re successful when taking an online class:


1. Make your own schedule.

Since your online class doesn’t have a set meeting time, one of the best ways to make sure you’re dedicating enough time to your studies is to set aside time every week to work on your online class. You might be able to get away with spending half as much time on it as a normal in-person course, but you won’t be able to keep up with the course if you don’t designate a time to sit down and study. It’s hard to take an online class for this reason. Many people let their assignments get away from them and they end up failing at the end of the semester.

If there’s one thing that’s true about taking an online class, it’s that you have to have an enormous amount of self-discipline.

2. Set your own deadlines.

There are two ways your online class could be set up. Either your professor is going to set very strict deadlines for each assignment, or they’re going to tell you to have everything turned in by the end of the semester. There are pros and cons to both types of online classes, but regardless of what you get stuck with, the biggest piece of advice I can give you is to set your own deadlines.

You might be thinking that you can handle keeping up with your assignments without writing every little thing down. But the truth of the matter is that life gets busy, you’re going to get distracted, your other classes are going to take over your life, and it’s going to be easy to forget about the fact that you’re enrolled in an online class. If you set your own deadlines that are ahead of the course’s deadlines, you can always guarantee that you won’t fall behind on your assignments.  

3. Find an accountability partner!

One of the best things you can do for yourself when you take an online class is to talk one of your friends into taking it with you! If both of you are in it together, you’re more likely to spend the necessary amount of time on it in order to pass. Plus, you’ll be able to hang out with your friends while you study!

4. Set dates to “check-in” with yourself.

You should have a planner, for starters. And in that planner, you should be sure you set dates to “check-in” with yourself. A great way to do this is to start with the middle of the semester. Make a note for yourself to evaluate your progress in your online class at the halfway point. Then set check-in dates with yourself at each quarter. By ensuring that every few weeks you’re evaluating your progress, there’s no way that you’ll get behind in your assignments.

5. Reach out to your professor.

The downside to online classes is that your professor doesn’t know who you are – they can’t put a face with a name. The fact of the matter is that grading is subjective. If your professor knows who you are — they’ve at least heard from you a few times during the semester — and you’re borderline A/B at the end of the semester, you have a better chance of getting that bump to an “A” if you’ve reached out to them a few times. Whether it’s an email at the beginning of the semester introducing yourself or stopping by their office hours when you can, you should reach out to your professor to make sure that they know who you are.


6. Don’t overload yourself.

If you’re already taking 15 or 18 hours, it’s unlikely that you’re going to be successful by adding another class (even if it is online). If you’re working a full-time job, you have a family, or you’re married, you might need to prioritize and put off taking an online class until next semester. Sometimes college students get in the habit of thinking online classes are easy, but in reality, they can be much harder than in-person courses.

7. Be reasonable about your class load.

I catch myself trying to get all my classes done in a hurry. I want to take as many hours as I can so I can get them over with and be done with my degree. But when it comes to sacrificing your GPA for time… is it really worth it? If you need to keep going to school for one more semester in order to get another couple of classes done, so what? Be careful when registering for classes. Make sure your class load is reasonable.

Taking an online class isn’t as easy as you might think it is. Before you register for your classes, you should think about what your schedule looks like. Do you have time to dedicate to an online class? Do you have the self-discipline to dedicate your Saturday mornings to an online class? What do your other classes look like? How demanding is your personal life?

If you decide to enroll in an online class, you must make sure that you have the time management skills and self-discipline to be successful. Otherwise, you’re just going to end up wasting tuition money on a class that you won’t pass.

In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her pup at the dog park and binge watching Netflix with endless cups of Hot Cocoa.

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