For some of us an online college class can be a confusing and overwhelming set of expectations involving reading, assignments including the dreaded discussion boards and writing essays or papers and tests. It can sometimes be difficult to set up a schedule and know where to start. This article offers you some ideas to make online learning a little easier.

Let’s start with organizing our space, time and support for getting things done. It really is true that if you work in a space intended for work you can get into work mode more quickly and stay in work mode longer.

Once you’ve decided on a flat space for your laptop set up a Google calendar if you don’t have one. By putting every deadline from your syllabus onto your Google calendar you force yourself to read it. Set reminders that automatically sync to your phone 24 hours in advance of deadlines.

Next ask a friend to look over your calendar, syllabus and discussion board rules to make sure you didn’t miss anything. Add the discussion board’s required posts to your calendar to create a steady routine. For example, if you are required to post three times per week, put it on your calendar for Monday, Wednesday and Friday every week.

Create a loose schedule for yourself setting aside 2 hour work sessions daily Monday – Friday to complete your work. Give yourself at least an hour of recovery time between work sessions. Most college classes require at least 2 hours per day during the semester and 4 hours per day in two 2 hour sessions for summer school. Spend an hour on Sundays planning exactly how you are going to spend your time during the study sessions. Ask yourself these questions when planning what to do during the 2 hour study sessions:

  • Have I read the material or watched the videos?
  • Have I taken notes on what I’ve read and watched?
  • Have I posted on the discussion boards as required?
  • Have I created a review for tests or started an outline for papers?

Now for support. Having the appropriate amount of support during online classes is the difference between enjoying the learning or having a lonely, boring experience that gets reduced to clerical work.

  • Use your campus resources: professor office hours, study groups and the writing center. These services are included in your tuition and fees and it is usually well worth your time spent to use them.
  • Utilize co-working sessions with fellow classmates, friends or
  • If you are taking a class that you know is going to be academically difficult for you, arrange for tutoring at the same time you sign up for the class. Summer classes move very quickly and if you wait to see if you need it you may not be able to arrange the help you need to master the material.

Lastly and just as important is your mindset. When you limit your study sessions to two hour sessions you can mindfully approach the work by setting an intention to enjoy the work. When you put in the time at the beginning of each week to plan each study session you can start working immediately without spending time administratively figuring out what to do on a daily basis. Working diligently during the week with the goal of taking your weekends off can be very motivating. If you get off track and don’t stick with your schedule, don’t beat yourself up, just get back on track. You can use a couple hours on Sunday to get caught up.

Try all or some of these suggestions and see if your next online class might be one of your better ones. By approaching your learning with an open mind, a little organization and a willingness to ask for help, you will be well on your way to enjoying your learning and being happy with your results.