Time Management Tips for Students Taking Online Classes

graphic of students sitting on and around giant clock
Online LearningStudent Success
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Lindsey Myers is a Mechanical Engineering major from New Mexico State University 


Managing online classes is something every student across the world was forced to learn in 2020. None of us were ready for it, but we knew we had to figure it out fast. Even though I had previous experience taking online classes, the transition to 100% virtual learning was still a struggle for me. I can’t imagine how hard it was for someone who had never taken an online class before.  

Taking one or two summer classes online is one thing—but transitioning your entire course load to digital is another. In my opinion, online classes can sometimes be more stressful than in-person delivery because there is so much independent responsibility put on the student. Going to class in person gives the instructor the opportunity to give reminders, updates, clarification, and answers right then and there. It also gives the student the opportunity to meet peers, make connections, and have their questions answered in real time. Going to class physically creates a consistent schedule for the student to get accustomed to. Some people do prefer the freedom and independence that comes with virtual learning because it’s more flexible and you’re able to adjust your schedule closer to meet your needs. But I personally experienced a lack of clarity and connection when I was taking all my classes online.  

If you want to help your online students learn the skills they need to get organized and stay on top of assignments, I encourage you to share my time management tips with them. These are strategies that I learned through my own experience with the transition from in-person to online learning.  


Record all your due dates in one place 

The most important factor to being successful during an online class is organization. My biggest tip to start off the semester would be to gather all your syllabi and write down the due dates for all assignments, projects, and exams for the entire semester in a calendar or document. It can be very easy to misread due dates or forget when an assignment is due if you’re trying to remember from the top of your head. Obviously, some things will be subject to change, but at least you’ll have an overall idea of what is coming up and what you should start working on.  

The biggest struggle I ran into for online courses was seeing an assignment’s due date too late and having to cram or rush to complete the assignment without fully learning or understanding it. This will hurt you in the long run when it comes time to apply the skills from that particular assignment to an actual exam. This is the number one way to stress yourself out and feel like you’re always having to play catch up. The “free time” that comes with online courses, makes the days of the week fly by, which means due dates come in the blink of an eye. Having a calendar or notebook to stay organized will keep you afloat and make sure you’re managing your time effectively throughout the semester.  


Have a proactive attitude  

Throughout grade school and my college career I’ve been developing my time management skills. Due to extra-curricular activities and part-time jobs, I’ve learned how to manage the semester’s challenges effectively. Besides having a calendar to keep track of upcoming events, it’s also important to have a good work ethic and proactive attitude. Having everything online and doing everything on your own time can be dangerous because it allows you to be lazy. It’s very easy to tell yourself, “I can do this later” or “I’ll have time another day.” There is a big difference between managing your time and procrastinating. It’s good to be able to tell the difference in yourself.  

A proactive student would turn those thoughts into something like “I should knock this assignment out now, so I’m not worrying about it later.” This practical thinking will ensure you have a less stressful and effective semester. Over the years, I’ve learned that your attitude has a lot to do with how you manage your time. Discern which type of student you are, which student you would like to become, and the habits it will take to get you there.  


For more insights on teaching time management to new online learners, read this blog post from a peer.