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California State University, Fullerton "Committed to guiding, supporting, and empowering faculty in creating quality online instruction."

Tips for Becoming a Successful Online Learner

Manage Your Time

Almost every successful graduate would tell you that managing your time wisely is the key factor in becoming a successful learner. Being an online learner requires an even greater degree of time management and task prioritization.

Here are some time management tips for online learners:

Create a daily/weekly study schedule. Since many online courses don't have specific weekly meeting times to keep up the momentum of a study schedule, you, as an online learner, will need to create a weekly/daily schedule for study. Browse through the course content during the first week and design a reasonable study schedule that will allow you to finish all of the readings, assignments, projects, etc. without having to try to cram them all in at the last moment. Creating and sticking to a study schedule can be a great reliever of stress and anxiety.

Set aside specific time blocks for studying during your "up" time. Everyone has different time periods during the day when they are more alert and energetic than other times. Use those times as study time. You can study when you are at your sharpest which will greatly facilitate your performance within the course.

Use a timer and set study goals. Use a timer to help keep yourself on task for the time period that you set as your goal. For example, 15 minutes on task, then 5 minutes break followed by 15 minutes on task, then 5 minutes break. Your incremental study steps could include the amount of time you study or the specific task you want to accomplish within a specific time. Be reasonable about what you can accomplish within the time frame you set.

Keep a notepad at hand for random, non-topic ideas, tasks, etc. that come to mind while you are scheduled to study. It is better to put these concerns on paper with the loss of a few seconds time than to have them bumping around inside your head frequently distracting you from concentrating on your studies. When your break time comes around, you can take care of whatever concerns came to mind that you jotted down on your notepad.

Prioritize your tasks to avoid procrastinating. "Effective time management includes making choices every day: Will I start my day writing that paper due next week or will I watch that television show?" (CSUF Women's Center and Human Services Dept on Time Management). Use tools like to-do lists, a project planner, and a daily planner to determine what needs to be done and when.

Keep up your level of motivation. Staying motivated to study and participate in an online course can be difficult, but a good instructor will strive to help you stay involved with discussions, chats, wikis, group activities, etc. However, being a successful online learner requires a great deal of self-motivation and discipline.

Make good use of "down" or "wasted" time. Standing in line, waiting at the doctor's office, waiting for the bus, or riding the metro can all be time periods that can become effective study moments. Review vocabulary flash cards or update a notebook containing a to-do list while waiting for those 10 or 15 minutes.

Make room in your schedule for physical activity, relaxation, and mental diversion. Being a successful student can be quite a strain on anyone. In order to help deal with that strain and to relieve the stress and pressures of studying, you should include physical exercise or activity, relaxation time (casual time with friends), and mental diversion time (such as movies and TV) in your schedule. These activities need to be done in moderation to maintain good health and to allow sufficient time and energy to accomplish the learning objectives of your online course.

Schedule time for sufficient sleep and healthy food. Research continues to show that a lack of sleep and/or poor eating habits can affect mental performance.