6 Time-Saving Tips for Online Grad Students
Online courses have increased the number of options for nontraditional graduate students to attain master’s degrees. From making time to study to ensuring adequate communication with instructors and cohorts, these programs provide unique challenges for students. One of the most significant? Time. Thorough planning and adequate preparation can help you anticipate how to handle one of your most precious resources.
1. Make a road map
On your first day, it’s essential to look through the syllabus and schedule to get an idea of the course’s expectations. While this can sometimes be overwhelming, it’s important to know what work is expected over the semester, ensure you have access to the materials you will need, and know that everything is working properly. Many instructors give the class access to material in small chunks or week by week to avoid overwhelming students, but will often give clues to major exams and assignments in the course schedule. Print out schedules from the instructor and post them in visible areas for a consistent reminder.
2. Schedule, schedule, schedule
Once you have an idea of the major coursework of your classes, look at your life’s schedule alongside that work. This will help you anticipate areas where you may have natural chunks of time in which you can work ahead, or other places where the schedule is bound to be tight. Family vacations, parent-teacher conferences or holidays can provide opportunities or challenges. Anticipating how coursework fits into that schedule and even blocking out work time will do a lot toward your overall online success and can help save time in the long run. The flexibility of online classes can sometimes also be a challenge, so carving out regular, routine time to work each week will help.
The best time-saving tip for online graduate students is also the most difficult: Develop an intentional focus. Interruptions are costly, both in terms of concentration and time, so ensure they will be at a minimum during studying or work time. Research shows that the mere presence of smart phones can be distracting, so consider setting notifications to “Do Not Disturb” and leaving phones in another room. Because this graduate work is online, distractions like social media, news updates and cat videos abound. If these online temptations are too much, programs like Minutes Please or Self Control can help track or block access to social media to keep studying on track.
4. Know your resources
Students may anticipate a lack of resources in the online environment, but schools with online graduate programs often have vast resources to ensure student success. Surveying what is available is essential: From online librarians to writing centers to tutors, become familiar with your school’s additional offerings and use them.
5. Make friends
Certainly, being online makes developing relationships with classmates seem difficult, but most instructors use discussion boards as a significant portion of their class. Connect with classmates early and often, and don’t be afraid to ask general questions, set up study groups or discussions and connect with classmates when you need additional support. Your professor is an invaluable resource in terms of course content, but your online student colleagues are also essential. Developing strong cohorts can be a challenge when courses are online, but research is clear: Strong cohorts lead to student success. The time investment in meeting classmates will pay off in study groups and clarifications you may need later.
6. Get to know your professor
If you haven’t studied online before, it can be difficult to adjust to relationships with professors. After reviewing course documents, if you have major questions about the pacing or work in a course, be sure to introduce yourself to the professor and ask these questions early in the semester so you can plan accordingly. Additionally, if areas of your content remain puzzling, reaching out to the professor is essential. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek clarification — your cohort may be wondering the same things. Asking questions early can save you a lot of time in the long-run.
Online graduate coursework is challenging and can be a big adjustment for students who come from traditional undergraduate programs. From professor to cohort, you are surrounded by important resources that can help ensure your successful graduate studies. Careful planning and clear communication are the most essential time-saving practices available to students. Engage in these important practices, and you will be well on your way.
Interested in an online graduate program? Be sure to check out all of Concordia University, Nebraska’s offerings.