Online courses are a perfect option for busy people with multiple demands on their time. While the flexibility of distance learning makes it ideal for those with work and family responsibilities, the self-pacing aspect typically requires more initiative on the student’s part. Here, we’ll discuss seven strategies you can adopt to ensure that you meet the challenges of school, no matter how busy your life may be.
1. Think About the Reasons You’re in School
You enrolled in online courses for good reasons: perhaps you want a better job, are preparing for a new career field or want to earn a credential, such as a degree or certificate. How will each course move you closer to fulfilling your goals? You might learn valuable new information that will enhance your career prospects, or learn how to think more critically. You’ll have an easier time staying on track when you remind yourself of how great you’ll feel when you complete the course and move on to the next phase of your life or career.
2. Create Realistic Goals
Setting goals is an important part of being a student. Big, audacious goals are great, but it’s also wise to keep your goals realistic, or you risk disappointment. Set smaller, achievable goals at first, such as completing a chapter of required reading or writing an outline for an assignment. You’ll be more motivated to keep going when you’ve achieved some short-term goals. When setting goals, focus on your strengths and seek support for weaker areas.
3. Visualize the Outcome
Classwork, studying and writing papers can keep you so focused that it’s easy to lose sight of the outcomes of all your hard work. Take time to zoom out and look at the big picture. When you visualize your future, what do you see? A new job that you love? A bigger paycheck that will make your life more comfortable? Just knowing that you completed a big goal can bring a great deal of satisfaction. When you’re struggling or feeling overwhelmed, visualize the positive outcomes and you’ll want to continue on.
4. Create a Sensible Schedule
Keeping your goals realistic and attainable requires a sensible schedule. It might help to make a list of everything you have going on, from online courses and work to family obligations and social time. Online instructor Jarin Eisenberg suggests creating a master schedule for every two months and setting artificial deadlines for your schoolwork. Prioritizing your work by ranking everything from “very important” to “not important,” is also helpful. Remember that online courses allow you to set your own schedule, so avoid the “out of sight, out of mind” situation by logging in on a regular basis.
5. Reward Yourself
Accomplishing a goal or completing a project feels great! That alone is rewarding, but doing something nice for yourself can create even more internal motivation. As Eisenberg advises, “celebrate the little achievements.” For example, if you reach your weekly goal, you might treat yourself to brunch over the weekend. What makes you happy? Give it to yourself to acknowledge your accomplishments!
6. Aim for Balance
Balancing work, school and life can be difficult at times – but it’s important to avoid letting any one area overwhelm you. The self-pacing aspect of online courses makes them ideal for busy working adults, but it’s still possible to get so engrossed in your studies that you neglect your personal life. Taking occasional breaks will help you return to your studies refreshed and ready to focus.
7. Stay Positive!
Feeling overwhelmed or getting behind can cause stress – which is seriously demotivating. While it’s not easy to turn a negative attitude into a positive outlook, it will definitely help you keep going when you want to procrastinate on an assignment or don’t feel like logging in to attend a lecture. If you try to stay positive throughout your online course experience, you’ll find it makes everything a little easier.