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Get Organized for Back to School: Seven Steps to Success for Online Students

Jul 29, 2010 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 6 Comments

It’s not just the kids who are going back to school this fall.  All over the country and all over the world, online students will be logging on for their first days of classes in the fall semester.  Are you ready?  Here are seven tips for starting off your next school year on the right foot.

Create a calendar

As a student getting an online degree, you have special challenges. You have to stay organized and motivated to turn in assignments, even though some online classes may not have due dates and you won’t have professors and peers breathing down your neck.  Buy a calendar and write down the due dates for your major assignments once you receive them.  If your online courses don’t have due dates, set them yourself.  This way, you’ll be able to keep track of all your assignments and be sure you won’t get stuck trying to finish everything at once at the end of the semester.

Make sure your family knows your schedule

When you’re getting an online degree, you have a flexible schedule—most of the time, you’ll be able to log on when and where you want.  But when you live with a family that depends on you, it can be difficult to carve out the time to study in peace.  If you can’t avoid studying at home during a time when your family is there, make sure they know exactly when you’ll be working—and when not to bother you.  The sooner you can get them used to your routine, the easier it will be for you to work undisturbed.

Student Wonder





Create a workspace

You can study anywhere you want as an online student.  But you’ll be more focused if you can find a place in your house that you can dedicate as a place to study.  It doesn’t have to be an entire room, although it’s better if you have a door you can shut if you need peace and quiet.  It does need to be a space where you can eliminate distractions and keep your school supplies organized.  Preferably, this space should be removed from television, family gathering places, and other areas that could be distracting.

Organize your desktop

Is your computer organized, or do you just save every paper you write to your desktop and worry about it later?  This year, create folders for each class.  File away last year’s papers in their own folder.  Save any digital documentation for school in its own area of your desktop.  Make sure you can find any important document you need in just a few clicks.

Call the school well in advance 

Do you need to turn any paperwork into the school before the start of the fall semester?  Do you have to secure any new loans or deal with other financial aid issues?  Do you need to send transcripts from your old school for credits at your new one? Call the school at least a few weeks before your fall semester to make sure your transfer college credit issues, financial aid, and other paperwork are taken care of for the coming year.  You don’t want to be surprised with any hassles while you’re getting accustomed to your new classes.

Get your books beforehand

If your professors post their syllabi online soon enough, give yourself a few weeks to find your books.  You can find lots of deals online if you have enough time to allow for shipping.  You can also get in touch with other students who may be willing to lend or sell you their old books; you’ll need to give them time to send them to you in the mail as well.

Make sure you’re comfortable with the technology you’re using

If you needed to get a new piece of software or equipment for your class—anything from a faster online connection to a new program—make sure you know how to use it before classes start.  Your professors will probably expect you to hit the ground running, and you’ll have an easier time in class if you’re not struggling with the technology as well as the assignments.

Online students have special organizational and motivational challenges that most traditional students don’t have.  But even though you don’t actually go anywhere when you go back to school, you still need to be prepared.  Follow these tips, and you’re likely to get a strong start in the coming school year. How to Organize and Take Notes - With the Help from Technology




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Autumn Bell Over a year ago

Although this article mentions getting ready for the fall semester, it is just as applicable to students getting ready for the spring semester after the winter break. I am going to post a link for the students currently registered in my online class. Although the class doesn't officially begin until January 9, many students like to check in early to verify their spot on the roster. I think they will appreciate the great tips shared by Jennifer Williamson.

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