The last 30 seconds of class are crucial. Students start clicking their pens, closing their laptops and zipping up their bags. As the clock is about to strike the minute, everyone listens to the professor give the most important information of the day: homework.
In an online course, these convenient homework reminders don’t exist. It’s just you and the syllabus.
As I started my online course, I realized how much I was missing these reminders. Without the professor’s warning of upcoming assignments, it would slip past my mind, and I was forced to do assignments last minute.
I quickly realized I couldn’t approach my online course like my regular courses. If I didn’t develop a time-management system, I would fall into procrastination and play catch-up throughout the semester.
The first few weeks of your online course don’t have to be this way. In five steps, you can manage time in your online course.
1. Put all of the critical dates into your calendar.
This includes your exams, projects and essays. As soon as you receive your syllabus, put all of the exam dates, and project and essay due dates into a calendar. This way, none of these will come as a surprise.
If you work better with a physical calendar, that’s fine. But I recommend using an electronic calendar that can send reminders to your smart phone. If you’re a Windows user, I recommend Google Calendar. If you’re a Mac user, the Calendar app, which syncs well with the iPhone and iPad, will probably work best.
Most often, it’s not the major tasks, but the little assignments that sneak up on you. To avoid this, every weekend, look at your syllabus and put the week’s homework on a to-do list with its due date.
Again, if a classic sheet of paper works best for you, that’s good. But as with the calendar, I would recommend you use an electronic to-do list that can send you reminders.
Though there are high-priced task apps you could use, I’m assuming you’re a college student with a tight budget. In that case, the Wunderlist app could be right for you. It’s free. It’s easy to use. It works. And that’s all you need.
Most people stop at the to-do list. They tell themselves what they need to do, but they don’t decide when they’re going to do it. When that happens, homework gets pushed aside for going to the basketball game, playing video games and checking Facebook.
Avoid this by deciding how long each task will take. Parkinson’s Law says that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. In other words, a task will generally take however long you give yourself to do it. If you don’t define how long a task will take, a simple 45-minute assignment can take hours.
Next to each task on your to-do list, write approximately how long each task will take. A good rule is to add 10 minutes to however long you think it’ll take. It’s much better to get ahead in your schedule than to have to catch up.
After you’ve decided how long each task will take, decide when you’re going to do each task. You can block off the exact time you need in your calendar.
This all may sound like over-planning, but when you take these steps, you don’t have to give homework more time than it deserves. This will free you up to do other things you enjoy.
5. Get to work!
There’s no way around it. This system is no good if you don’t do what you planned to do. When the time comes to do your task, stop what you’re doing and get it done!