How to Make an Effective Study Plan for Online Courses

By Kaitlin Hurtado on April 27, 2017

Between your regular classes, work/internships, extracurriculars, and social plans, it’s easy to forget about any of your online classes until the day before a big deadline as you don’t need to be physically present for the majority, if not all, of the class.

However, to make it easier on yourself and to avoid stressing out right before a big deadline, make and commit to a study plan for your online courses just as you would for a regular class with the following steps.

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1) List out all of your responsibilities 

This step seems unnecessary, but actually writing down every activity you have committed to, whether it’s school-related or a social plan, will help you realize how much time you have, or how little time you have.

Try to be as specific as possible and break down each of your commitments with major deadlines and events associated with your responsibilities (such as club fundraiser nights) that aren’t necessarily part of your regular schedule that you will need to put even more time aside for.

Writing down a list of all of your time commitments will save you time later on when you have to think of your responsibilities off the top of your head and will provide a guide to make scheduling simpler when you can refer back to the list to double check that you aren’t leaving anything out.

2) Figure out and write down all of the due dates for assignments and exam dates for each online class

Depending on the class you are taking and the instructor assigned to it, you may get constant reminders of due dates — from small discussion posts to term papers — or you may get none at all.

Look through the syllabus to collect all of your deadlines that you will need to factor into your scheduling so they can be added to the list you have already made with your other time commitments.

3) Pick what you are going to use to keep your study plan concrete and organized

For many, physical planners help them stay organized, even with a busy lifestyle. It is always great to be able to look back at what you had originally planned and written down when your mind gets overwhelmed with due dates. With so many due dates and a lot of stress, there’s definitely a greater chance of a small deadline for an online course slipping from your mind.

Avoid a jumbled mind and forgotten due dates by physically writing out your study plans. If you can, try to get a planner that breaks your days down into the hours (or make your own planner with a personal bullet journal) so that you can break your study plan down into the smallest details. With an hourly breakdown, you can input each class, study session, deadline, work shift, and club meeting, and be able to refer to it when making new plans or figuring out your plans for the day.

If you tend to lose things easily and don’t want to rely on a physical planner, try going digital. Try something like Google Calendar, which allows you to access your calendar on any device where you are able to access the website/app. With something like Google Calendar, you can schedule events and studying down to the location and even set reminders to keep you on track with your studying.

4) Plan your online coursework around things you need to be present for

Your schedule may seem packed as is but look for the random gaps between your other time commitments to schedule some time to work on your online courses and study for them. Instead of going back to your dorms for a nap during an awkward two-hour gap between classes, find your way to the library or your favorite study place to study for an online quiz or do some readings for the class.

Because you don’t need to be present to complete your online work, it gives you more flexibility to schedule your studying around your other time commitments and decide what works best for you, whether it’s waking up an hour earlier than you usually would for class or heading to the library after class to complete an online assignment.

5) Stick to the study plan as best you can, but don’t let it define your life — adjust it accordingly. 

A plan is a plan, and it should be followed to the best of your ability. Set up reminders of your studying goals in the form of post-it notes on your desk or notifications on your phone to follow your study plan instead of ditching it to binge on the latest Netflix release. Realize that the plan is designed by you and that you should have designed it to help you find time to study for your online course and effectively study, instead of trying to cram on the commute to and from campus.

However, remember you can always adjust your schedule as long as you remember what needs to be done and when it needs to be done by. If you push studying back a day, remember to make time for it in the coming days instead of pushing it back indefinitely and putting yourself further back in your studying plans and making your schedule ineffective.

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