By Melissa Turek, December 2015
1. Small chunks
There is a lot of information and work that gets packed into each eight-week course, but don’t panic. Instead of trying to sit down and read all the assigned reading for the week at one time, break it up into smaller sections. Usually the discussion questions are multilayered and require information from all the chapters you are assigned. Read one chapter and then see how the information in that chapter applies to your discussion question. Then take a break and come back a little later and do the rest. If you do it this way it tends not to feel so overwhelming.
2. Take advantage of downtime
I always brought my books to work in the event that I had some downtime during the shift. And if I didn’t bring my books, I could still go online and read posts from my classmates. Even though there may not be a lot of this downtime, you would be surprised what even ten minutes can accomplish.
3. Find use in seemingly unusable time
Do you have a long commute to work? Or to school? If you carpool, on the days you are the passenger bring your book or have Engage on your smartphone. If you drive, many books have audio portions that you can download and listen to from your smartphone. Some professors also do audio/video lectures which would be perfect for you to listen to during a commute. You can also bring your book to the doctor’s or dentist's office; anywhere you may have a long wait is a great place to get in a bit of homework.
4. Save all your work
I cannot tell you how many times something I have written in a past class was useful in a current class. So always save all your posts, papers, presentations, and PowerPoints because they can be a valuable source of information. And it's a time saver as well.
5. Use classmates' posts as a resource
What I suggest is that the reference list of your peers' posts can be a goldmine of research information. If you are having trouble finding research that applies to your topic, try seeing what resources your peers used. Oftentimes, that will point you in the right direction and save you all that time you would spend aimlessly searching the databases.
6. Understand yourself
Are you someone who works better under pressure? Or do you require a lot of time to devote to your homework? If you work best under pressure, starting too early or giving yourself too much time can actually slow your progress. But if you require a lot of time to process your homework and you procrastinate, you may find yourself unable to meet the deadline. Find your homework pace and stick with it.
7. Learn to multitask
Being able to multitask will save tons of time. Laundry and dishes (if you have a dishwasher) can be done while you are posting away. You can even watch your favorite TV shows and work on your posts during the commercials.
8. Only two classes a semester
If you work full-time and have a family, don’t try to take more than two classes a semester—which means one class per eight-week session. If you take on too much at once, you will become overwhelmed and not be able to keep up with the demands of school, work and home.
In all classes, you will have different assignments due on different days of the week. For instance, initial posts are usually due on Wednesdays and replies on Saturdays, or Sundays. Always start with the assignment that’s due first. Also, prioritizing school in relation to the rest of your life is important as well.
10. Have family support
Having the support of your husband and/or children is imperative! Make sure your partner is willing to absorb some of the housework and child care responsibilities. For example, taking the kids out for ice cream and a movie if you have a paper due to give you quiet time.
About the Author
Melissa is a 39-year-old, soon-to-be graduate of Utica College. She lives and works in upstate NY, near Albany.