Online learning has opened educational doors that were previously closed. Now students can learn from the world’s greatest minds on a given subject regardless of their location.

Online students can learn and work a full-time job and balance a family at the same time. In addition to flexibility, online learning is cost-effective.

Often the cost of an entire online course is less than the cost of a single textbook for an in-person class. Online learning can take a variety of forms. Some courses will provide students with all of the materials up front and allow them to move at their own pace.

Other courses will have weekly assignments. Synchronous learning means students meet with the teacher and classmates online at scheduled times throughout the course in a virtual classroom. Some of the students may even be in person.

No matter the learning management system, online students should treat their studies with the same care and seriousness as if they were in person. Take a little time to prepare, and students can expect online learning success and a valuable experience.

Given the flexibility and cost effectiveness, it is no surprise that online classes are gaining popularity.

Fueled by gains in information technology and widespread internet access it is clear that online learning will continue to grow in the coming years.

Online education does require good time management skills and discipline. Some students feel overwhelmed by the technology and the unknown aspects they may have to deal with.

Here are 10 tips and strategies to strengthen time management skills and prepare for online learning success.


Step 1: Keep an Open Mind

Set Aside Preconceived Notions about Online Learning

In spite of the recent growth in online learning, there are still many stigmas surrounding the quality of an online education. While some subpar programs exist, not all deserve this reputation. There are preconceived notions that online classes may not be as difficult or as effective as in person classes.

This is simply not true. In fact, the US Department of Education conducted a study that concluded online students perform modestly better than their in person peers. Many online courses are offered by reputable institutions with widely recognized accreditations.

The students should research the many options available and select the best fit for their specific needs. However, they have to be very careful while considering different options as there are a number of aspects to keep in mind while deciding that ‘yes, this is what exactly you are looking for’. One can say that they need to learn how to form their online learning strategies to be successful.

Welcome New Experiences

Online students should be prepared to work hard in classes and make the most of the experience. Online classes will consume as much or more time as in-person classes.

Here point to consider is that students need to learn how to make the best use of their time. In online courses, students might be asked to try something new or to learn in a different way. Conventional learners are supposed to encounter online students and instructors with a different point of view.

Keep an open mind and you might find out something new about yourself and your learning style. In general, online students should treat their courses with the seriousness and dedication they would show in-person classes. The instructors and fellow students deserve your full attention and effort. Do not go into online learning expecting it to be easy.

Certainly, it is going to be challenging but not something impossible. One can bet that even students, who are used to study in a conventional classrooms, will get adapted to it very quickly if they can learn to form flawless online learning strategies.


Step 2: Review the Class Syllabus

A syllabus is the instructors’ way of communicating class responsibilities and expectations. It will act as the student’s roadmap for the online course.

The syllabus will set the student up for online learning success. It typically contains information technology requirements, class expectations, contact information and an assignment timeline.

Within the syllabus the instructor is telling the online student what they need to do, and when, in order to have a successful learning experience. Read it carefully and follow its instructions.


Step 3: Prepare a Designated Learning Area to Optimize Study Time

Finding The Best Online Learning Environment for the Student


Online Learning Environment


One of the many benefits of online learning is comfort. Online students can choose the learning environment that is the most comfortable for them.

Taking an online course from a student’s home rather than a classroom can reduce stress and increase confidence. Their online learning success very much depends on how much they pay attention to the tips and strategies given by their online class teacher.

The students, who are taking an online courses, should take into consideration their personal learning style while developing their online learning strategies.

Do they learn better in absolute quiet or with some background noise? Do they like to settle in for long periods of study time or take frequent breaks? The ideal online learning environment will be different for each student.

Customizing the Learning Area for the Online Student

Ideally, the learning area during the online class should be a place that is quiet and free of distractions. The student should talk to family members or roommates and let them know not to disturb them while they are participating in online courses.

Online students may not have the luxury of a dedicated office. In those cases, try to pick a spare bedroom or corner of the house that allows you to shut the door on household noises while taking an online class. Preferably choose a spot far away from the TV, bed and other distractions that could interfere with your online learning success.

Online students need to have a comfortable chair, desk and good lighting. While tempting, completing online classes from the comfort of the bed in pajamas is a recipe for disaster. Students need to protect their back, neck and eyes from strain. So do consider all these aspects while you develop your online learning strategies.

The Learning Environment’s Effect on Online Learning Success

Reduce clutter and gather any necessary supplies to help maintain focus during the study time. Water, healthy snacks, pen and paper are recommended at a minimum.

This will keep students from getting up and getting distracted when it is time for online class. Having a dedicated place to learn will help the student’s brain switch into learning mode. It creates a trigger that will help students maintain the habit of studying. This makes the student less reliant on will power and motivation and more likely to achieve online learning success.


Step 4: Technical Preparations for Online Learning

Students are responsible for making sure the coursework will run on their computers when online learning. Check the course information for the required versions of software and hardware. In most cases, the typical home computer will be sufficient for online classes. Do consider the technicalities you may have to handle while you take an online course while you draw around your online learning strategies.

Internet Connectivity

Test internet connectivity from the selected learning area before you get into an online class. Internet connectivity from the basement might be very different than that from the kitchen. Coffee shops can be a good online learning environment for some students. Coffee shops have become psychologically associated with work and learning for many people.

They might even offer faster and more reliable internet access than some students have at home. However, online students should have a backup plan in case the shop is busy, loses internet or is unexpectedly closed. As an alternative, libraries offer free internet access and can provide a quiet space that should contribute to your online learning success.

Losing the internet connection in the middle of an online class is frustrating and can cause you to lose valuable time and information. Therefore, it is important that students must have online learning strategies in place to ensure continuous internet access.

Useful Computer Peripherals for Online Education

Some online courses will require a webcam. While most laptops have one built-in, not all do. Online students should make sure that one is available if needed.

Headphones with built in microphones, like those used by computer gamers, will help online students tune out distractions and easily communicate with teachers and classmates.

The headphones should be comfortable to wear for hours if necessary because at times, online courses may take considerable time from your every day routine.

Webcams and headphones can be purchased to take an online class at major box stores and can cost anywhere from $20 to $100. Basic models will work for online classes. Installation of these items is as simple as plugging them in.


Step 5: Schedule Study Time

The ability to set your own schedule with online classes is appealing to many. Online students can fit classes in around a busy schedule. But the flexibility can also be detrimental if the student does not have good time management skills. 

Create a weekly study time schedule and stick to it! Scheduling study time is very important for online courses that give students the freedom to move at their own pace.

Procrastination is the enemy of online learning success. Students will not retain information nor do their best work if trying to cram a semester of learning into one week while taking an online course.


Study Time


Effective Time Management Skills

The time blocking method of time management is effective for online students. Time blocking involves planning out your day in half or full hour blocks.

Divide a piece of paper into two columns. On the left write down the hours in the day. On the right, block in the tasks and their expected duration in an online class.

Allow flex time between tasks for the unexpected as your tutor for the online course may ask you to practice something that you have not been expecting. So all this and much more has to be a part of your online learning strategies.

While ‘time blocking’ might seem extreme for an online course, it has been proven to be highly productive. Many successful business people, such as Elon Musk, practice time blocking. If it seems too intimidating to block out your entire day from morning to night, try blocking out just your study time.

Simply making a commitment to online classes at a specific time on specific days can increase your chances of online learning success.

Use a Calendar to Track Online Course Requirements

Online students should plan out milestones for the length of the online course. Refer to the online course syllabus and mark the dates of major tests or assignments on a calendar. Compare that to your personal and work schedule.

Then pencil in the appropriate study time to complete the work. Successful online learning takes a certain amount of discipline. Setting a schedule and sticking to it makes online learning part of a routine rather than something the student has to find the motivation to do each day. It takes the guesswork out of time management.


Step 6: Plan and Prepare Study Breaks

Research has shown that a quick 10 to 15 minute break can actually improve your concentration. In order to make sure study breaks don’t turn into distractions, plan them out.  

Good breaks help clear the mind and prepare students to continue working. In general, video games and tv do not make good study breaks. Online students need to get away from the screen to clear the mind and make the most of their study time.

Effective Study Breaks

An effective study break takes the online student away from their learning environment and gets them moving. Try to take an energizing break every 90 minutes during the online class. An appropriate break would be a walk around the block, a game of cards with a friend or a healthy snack.

Try taking a quick shower or tidying up for an effective break. Meditation can be a wonderful break from online learning. There are many free apps and YouTube videos that will lead you through a ten minute meditation.

Mediation has been shown to lower stress levels and increase concentration, two things needed by the online student. Avoid breaks that make it hard to return to study time. Examples are eating a large meal or taking a nap. Those activities can make it harder for a student to focus immediately after.


Step 7: Turn Your Webcam On

Odysseus lashed himself to the mast of his ship so that he would not be lured by the siren’s call. While online students should not chain themselves to their desks, there are some easier ways to police distractions.

It is so very tempting to look at the phone or search the web while the teaching is lecturing in an online class. Eliminate that temptation by turning the computer video camera on. Just knowing that the teacher can see the online student, will help maintain focus on studies and eliminate distractions.

Likewise, close all programs and internet tabs except for the ones needed for online learning. Another tip is to put your phone in a desk drawer or another room.


Step 8: Take Notes During Online Classes


Taking Notes During Online Classes


There are many ways in which note taking is beneficial to learning. And yet, many online students skip this important step. Note-taking can help retention and provide valuable study materials for tests and quizzes.

It is easier to write an article or essay for an online class from notes than from trying to find that same information in a video. Written notes are as important for online classes as they are for in-person classes. Create a paper or online notebook for each class and take notes. This tip can save online students hours of effort and improve grades.


Step 9: Form Study Groups

A study group of like-minded peers can be an invaluable part of your online learning success. Set boundaries and regular meeting times to make sure your group is an asset and not a distraction.  Scheduled study groups can be the cure for procrastination because they force the online student to prepare to contribute to the group.

Try to find at least two other classmates who are willing to discuss homework and study for tests together. Every student has different strengths and weaknesses. Working in a group will help fill in gaps in the student’s understanding and gain a new perspective on the online class materials. Studying alone can get boring, especially when taking online classes. Working in a group can break up that monotony and be very motivating.


Step 10: Stay Engaged

There are many ways to stay engaged in online learning. But for the most successful online learning experience, students need to go beyond watching videos and turning in assignments.

Participate in Online Discussions

Most online classes have a discussion component. It is crucial to the student’s success to participate in these discussions. The teacher may require online students to comment on each other’s assignments or to post questions. Think and reflect before typing out a response.

Students may feel very vulnerable in discussions. Keep comments supporting and constructive. When reading responses to your assignments listen to what your classmates have to say. Don’t be defensive. Learning how to accept and incorporate feedback is a valuable life skill that has applications well beyond online education.

Check in frequently to stay on top of your assignments. Online students who engage with their classmates tend to be the most successful learners.

Ask for Help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The instructor of your online class wants the students to learn and understand the material. Most instructors feel a passion for their subject matter and are happy to discuss it with their students. The instructor should provide you with information on how best to reach them in their syllabus.

Online students should use the instructor’s preferred method and be as polite and detailed as possible. For example, you might write to your instructor while using the provided learning management system, “I am having trouble understanding week 2 video 3 where around the 5-minute mark you say . . . Can you please elaborate?” This will set you up for successful communication with your instructor and ultimately online learning success.


Final Thoughts

Online learning can help students further their education and career in a cost effective manner and with great flexibility. It can also be an opportunity to practice and fine tune many life lessons such as time management and self-discipline.

Online learning gives the student an opportunity to interact with students around the world and broaden their perspectives. Don’t let fear of information technology or the unknown get in the way of a quality education and personal growth.

The most important aspect to bear in mind is that, success of the learning process very much depends on the triangle which is made by online student, teacher and parents. Teachers and parents work as facilitators.

Parents must offer the most appropriate environment at home so that the student, their son / daughter, can take the online course from the comfort of their bedroom with peace of mind. They need to ensure that there must be no distractions for the student while taking the online class.

On the other hand, teachers must be capable to facilitate the learning process without any flaws. They must be ready to give explanations, answer queries and help them clear the difficult concepts with relevant and contextual examples.

The success of the online student relies less on the mode of education and more on the efforts of the student, parents and instructor. Following the tips and strategies in this post will help the student transition from in-person to online learning successfully.

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Rebekah Pierce

Rebekah Pierce is a writer with a B.A. in English from St. Lawrence University and a Master’s in Special Education from SUNY Plattsburgh. She has worked both as a college admissions counselor as well as a high school English teacher and has also written extensively on topics related to educational technology and the college selection process.

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