Online college means no dorms, no fighting with other commuters for a parking spot, no dealing with campus traffic, no terrible cafeteria food, no slushing through rain or snow to get to class, no 8 AM exams, and no annoying classmates reminding the professor to give you assignments he’d already forgotten about. What a relief! No wonder more and more students are picking online college over in-person classes.
But, just because you’re not on campus doesn’t mean you’re free from the rest of the hallmarks of college: syllabi, essays, exams, quizzes, textbooks, essays, readings, discussion questions, and so on. The difference is you won’t see your professor in person twice a week to hear him remind you a thousand times that your paper is due on Monday. In-person or online, a deadline is a deadline and assignments are assignments. If you don’t get and stay organized, you can easily fall behind and veer off track in online college.
Keeping organized is key to success in college. One of the first and most important things you must do after enrolling in classes is create a system of organization that makes sense and that you can stick to. If you need to have copies of papers in front of you, be sure to print out your syllabus right away. If you can keep it on your computer and still stick to it, save a copy to a folder dedicated to that class. Folders, whether they be paper or electronic, will be crucial to keeping you organized in online college.
To be sure you don’t fall behind or scramble for instructions at the last minute, go through your syllabus as soon as you have it. Make a list of other documents you will need, and download them as soon as they’re available. Either print copies to keep in each class’s folder, or save them to computer folders along with all other class documents. Keep all materials together and get them as soon as you can. Check-lists should be your best friend. There’s no better way to keep track of all assignments, materials, deadlines, and steps.
Keep a deadline calendar. If you’re taking multiple classes it’s important that you have all the information in an accessible place. Go through each syllabus and write in each deadline and exam date for every class. Then, add in other time commitments and appointments you have. Sometimes this is the only way to realize that you have four papers due, an exam, and a dentist appointment all on the same day. You can start planning now how to budget your time.
The most important tools you’ll need for keeping your online classes organized will be folders. Keep a separate one for each class, and create sub-folders for individual assignments or projects. Keep contact information for your professor or classmates together with other class materials, so you don’t have to scrounge when you have a question. Budget your time carefully and don’t forget to look at both the small picture – taking each assignment step by step to keep from being overwhelmed – and the big picture.