5 Ways to Stay Organized When Taking an Online Course

By Christine Ascher on January 16, 2018

The opportunity to take an online course is one major benefit of technology when it comes to education. Online courses offer you more flexibility in terms of when and where you can complete your coursework than a traditional classroom-style course, and they allow you to learn about different websites or apps that can be helpful in academia.

However, there are also some downsides that can come with participating in an online course: most notably the fact that, because you’ll be a bit more independent, it can be more difficult to stay on top of everything. Taking an online course may require more self-motivation and self-scheduling than you’re accustomed to, but if you know this going into the course and figure out some strategies to cope, you’ll be right on track. If you’re afraid of becoming disorganized and getting behind when you start that online course, try following some of these tips to stay on top of your game and ensure your success.

Online, laptop, phone, working

Image via https://pixabay.com

1. Start Your Work Early

Depending on the way your course is structured, you may have some flexibility in terms of when you need to review material, do your readings, and complete assignments. While that may seem like a great thing at first, all too often the extra flexibility that comes with an online course leads students to procrastinate and ultimately scramble to study or get their work completed.

The best way to avoid falling into this trap is to stay on top of everything right from the get-go. Instead of putting off your work and imagining that you’ll have plenty of time to complete it later, start early. By beginning earlier, you’ll find yourself starting to get ahead as the course moves forward, rather than falling behind. The more organized and motivated you are at the beginning of your course, the better your chances are of staying that way when the class starts to pick up steam.

2. Plan Ahead
Because you won’t necessarily have a professor reminding you in-person about when you have big assignments or exams coming up, it’s particularly important to your success in an online course that you review your syllabus early in the semester and take note of important dates. Write these dates down in your calendar right away, then jot down some reminders for yourself that you’ll see as the big day approaches.

It’s much easier to get caught off-guard with due dates in an online course, where you tend to be more responsible for your own progress, so make sure you’re aware of them from the beginning and that you keep all of the important dates for your course in mind as you work your way through the semester.

3. Set Up a Schedule for Yourself

When you’re taking a class online, scheduling your time is essential. Without a designated lecture time, you may find yourself going over lessons at the last minute and getting mixed up in terms of what you need to complete and when. The best way to stay organized in this respect is by creating a schedule for yourself that tells you when you’re going to take the time to go over your lessons and when you need to have your assignments completed by.

When drawing up a schedule, make sure that it’s realistic and that you record it somewhere, whether in a physical planner or on your computer’s calendar. That way, you’ll be more likely to stick to it. In an article for Illinois Online, Jason Mock suggests that when it comes to your designated “class time” let your friends and family—in other words, anyone who may be likely to distract you—know that you’re going to be working at that time and won’t be available. The less temptation you have to stray from your schedule, the better.

4. Keep an Organized Study Space

Oftentimes, our surroundings can have a bigger impact on our mental state than we initially realize. Because you won’t be spending your time in an actual classroom when you’re enrolled in an online course, it’s important that you have an organized study space where you can go over your lessons and complete your assignments.

If that’s in your bedroom, then your desk should be clean, organized, and free of distractions. If it’s the library, make sure that you don’t have any extra items set out in front of you (such as your phone or some books for another class). If your surroundings are neat and organized, then you’ll have a better chance of thinking clearly when you’re working and can avoid having your attention taken away from the task at hand.

5. Keep a Dedicated Notebook and Folder

Even in the case of an online course, it’s essential to keep all of your class materials organized and in one place. Whether you’re old-fashioned and still like to take notes on paper or are embracing technology fully by taking notes on your computer and keeping only digital copies of course materials, make sure that you have everything together.

You can waste a lot of time if you’re constantly searching for notes and papers, and you’ll be more at risk of misplacing items if you don’t keep them together. Save yourself the time and hassle by having everything you need for your online course kept in one notebook, or in one folder on your computer. That way, when you’re ready to study, you know exactly where everything is and can get straight to work.

Online courses can provide you with a great opportunity to be self-sufficient and to hone your organizational skills for your own sake, rather than having someone pester you to do so. However, in order to succeed, you’ll have to be prepared to put in the extra effort that comes with straying from the traditional, in-person classes that you’re probably accustomed to. Fortunately, as long as you stay organized from the beginning and keep it up as you progress through the course, you’ll see the rewards. 

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