Create Success through Organization
Online universities lack the same structure of traditional universities, which can be a daunting thought for those used to stricter management. Completing coursework on time requires students to develop discipline and preparation skills not often needed by those in traditional universities.
This level of motivation and discipline doesn’t come naturally for most people, however. You must dedicate yourself to becoming as organized and prepared as possible in order to succeed academically in an online degree program.
If you’re like most people, you’ll need to make some organizational changes to ensure you don’t feel overwhelmed in your degree program. Introducing a full course load to an already busy life without improving your organizational skills sets yourself up for difficulty and struggle managing your new responsibilities down the road.
By reading this article, you’re already on the right path to becoming a more prepared, organized individual. With proper preparation and planning, you’ll be able to tackle your goals and live a more stress-free lifestyle. Learn to organize your schedule and workplace in a way that ensures future success in online education.
Making the most of your space
Your first step toward becoming a more effective student might be the hardest to start. Cleaning.
It’s difficult to expect that you’ll make the most of your work area if you must first dig through papers, trash, or other distractions to simply reach your computer. Managing an uncluttered work environment will be essential to your future success as an online learner.
Before beginning work, you should take care to clear away all unneeded papers, food, drinks, and other materials. Creating a clean, easy-to-use work area provides open space that will increase productivity and limit the potential to become distracted.
With a clear work area, you should turn your attention to organization. While you may have thrown away old papers and trash, there are likely some essential materials still on your desk that you’ll need for class. If you haven’t already done so, you should now begin to think about how to organize these materials.
To maintain your clean work area, you might want to consider purchasing some desk shelves or organizers to keep track of any printed material. While most of your classes will take place over the internet, some students prefer to print and view reading assignments as physical copies. A system of shelves and folders will help you keep track of these materials.
You may want to consider organizing your shelves and folders by different sections. For example, one folder might be designated “handouts” and another may be labeled “course requirements.”
It’s estimated that on average, people can waste between one and two hours a day searching for misplaced items, and you don’t want to spend time searching when you could be studying.
While it won’t be essential for your success, creating an aesthetically pleasing work area will make it much easier to complete work. Make sure the lighting in your work area is ample, and that your desk is comfortable enough to sit at for long periods of time.
After clearing and organizing your physical workplace, you should move on to the device you’ll be using the most during your degree program: your computer.
Preparing your computer space
Look at your computer’s desktop. Is it an organized, sorted collection of files and folders, or a huge mess of documents and programs strewn about without rhyme or reason?
If you’re enrolled in an online degree program, having a dedicated system for file organization on your computer is just as important as keeping a well-managed physical work area. Think of your computer as an extension of your work space – you want all of your files and documents sorted in an easy-to-find manner.
The first stage is organizing your desktop’s folders and files into “keep” and “delete” piles.
Take the time to get rid of old files and unnecessary programs, and create new folders that will be designated for school work. For example, create different folders for the various documents you’ll download and save throughout your education. You may have one folder for completed work, one for general assignments, and another for study guides.
You should also take the time to ensure all of your software is up to date, and that you meet hardware requirements as designated by your specific degree program. This will prevent software errors conflicting with your ability to complete coursework.
Throughout your online program, you’ll need to keep a well-managed e-mail system to sort through the various e-mails and forms you’ll receive from your instructors. Through your preferred e-mail program, there should be options to create various folders and designated areas to store important e-mails. You should take the time to set up class folders to easily organize the many emails you’ll receive.
With a clean workspace and organized computer, you’re ready to start thinking about how you’ll manage time and work.
Setting your priorities
As a new student of online education, it might be hard to imagine adding hours of coursework to your already full day. If you’re used to finishing work and sitting down to watch television for a few hours, you’ll certainly need to do some re-prioritizing to ensure you’ll have time in your day to study.
It might seem like an overly simple solution, but often, developing a “to-do list” is one of the most helpful steps you can take toward success. Introducing more responsibilities in your life requires you to budget your time more carefully.
For an entire week, try writing down everything you do, organized in an hour-by-hour basis. Track all of your activities and write them down or log them on your computer.
If you spend two hours watching TV between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., make sure you track it. If you spend an hour driving to work, track that too. You essentially need to find all of the free time periods in your day where you may complete school work and attend courses.
Organizing a to-do list not only allows you to view all of the tasks you must complete in a given day, but also provides a sense of accomplishment as you cross items off that list. As an added benefit, sometimes seeing physical evidence of your completed work helps motivate you to move on to the next task more quickly.
If you don’t already use a calendar, you’ll find keeping a regular one will help to alleviate stress and prevents you from procrastinating too much. You’ll have many deadlines to meet in your online classes, and it’s easy to confuse or miss them without a calendar.
Many people have access to smart phones that provide great calendar and scheduling options. If you don’t feel like keeping a physical calendar, entering appointments and deadlines into your phone might be the best option for you.
With a to-do list and a calendar, you’re able to set a regular routine to complete your course requirements. Humans thrive on routine, and you’ll find that with a set schedule, you’ll spend less time procrastinating and feeling stressed about finishing homework.
For example, you might decide that every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. is designated reading time, and set aside these hours to catch up on work. The important thing is to maintain your routine so you don’t become distracted.
Develop smart habits that will lead to success
Online learning is quite different from what a traditional university offers, but shares many of the same basic skill and time requirements. While you won’t be meeting with many of your teachers or classmates in face-to-face scenarios, you’ll still need to communicate effectively to participate in class.
Many courses facilitate class discussion through chat rooms or message boards. Before you begin your class, you should attempt to log into the chat or message board system to ensure you can participate. This way you’ll know whether or not you’ll encounter any program errors that will hinder your ability to learn.
Some courses might require you to submit responses to different discussion questions posted online by the course instructor or your classmates. The important thing to understand is that you will only gain as much as you put in to these discussions. Don’t simply respond with “Good post,” or “That was interesting.” Instead, develop well-informed, thought-out responses that stimulate discussion and dig deeper into a topic.
Just because your classes are conducted online doesn’t mean you shouldn’t develop great note-taking abilities as well. Taking notes is the important part of the learning process, and helps imprint information in your memory. It’s much easier to retain information that you have structured in a way that makes sense to you, so develop your own note-taking strategies to supplement course lectures and reading.
Pathways to success
Not everyone is well-organized by nature. Most people have to work hard to develop the organizational habits that will help propel you to success in your online degree program.
With a well-organized desk space, computer, and smart student behavior, you’ll be well prepared to meet any future challenges. If you’re interested in learning more about online degree programs, request information from schools offering master’s degrees in education.