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The University of St. Thomas (UST) is Houston’s Catholic University, committed to the Catholic intellectual tradition and the dialogue between faith and reason. Our blog is dedicated to helping you explore your future career possibilities and how to make the most of your college experience.

Advice for an Online School Routine

Considering how far technology has come over the last few decades, it’s not surprising that digital solutions have transformed the traditional college experience. Taking classes online, whether based on preference or out of necessity, is simply a reality for most students today.

But some learners are still relatively new to attending their courses remotely. While it can take some time to adjust to an online school routine, every student has the opportunity to be successful in a virtual environment.

So what steps can you take to give yourself the best odds of excelling in the online classroom? It all comes down to establishing an effective online school routine. Here are some tips to get you started.

6 Tips to Help Create a Strong Online School Routine at Home

1. Strive for Consistency

Your activities will inevitably differ a bit from one day to the next — attending lectures and submitting assignments ensures this. On the other hand, there are many parts of your day that are completely within your control. What time you wake up, when you make breakfast and how you prepare for school upon logging in can be the same every day.

Try to create a typical structure that can be applied to each school day. Not only does establishing this type of consistency help you get in the right mindset, it also streamlines decisions. You don’t have to question what time to set your alarm for if you determined in advance that 7:00 a.m. is best for you.

2. Create a Schedule (and stick to it!)

Hardly anyone can mentally keep track of every due date, lecture and meeting. This becomes even more difficult when you factor in work and other obligations that exist outside of school. When it comes to staying on track, creating a schedule is key. It helps you determine priorities and improve time management. Skill researchers have identified this as one of the predictors of online student success.

The exact format your schedule takes is really up to you. Some students prefer to log everything in a hand-written planner. Others like the convenience of an online calendar they can access from their mobile devices. Whichever tool you use, make sure to supplement it with a few reminders.

3. Set Up an Effective Workspace

Learning at home is a lot easier when you have a space designed for studying. Find an area that you can designate for completing schoolwork, then stock it with supplies, add some personal touches and equip it with comfortable furniture. You don’t need to spend a lot of money, but make sure you have a sturdy chair and desk, plus some computer accessories like a laptop stand and mouse.

It’s also much easier to focus on important tasks if you remove as many distractions as possible. If you live with family members or roommates, consider letting them know you’ll be unavailable for certain time periods. You might also want to think about turning off phone notifications.

4. Seize Opportunities to Connect and Engage

There’s a common misconception that online courses are isolating. In reality, you’re free to interact with your instructors and peers as much as you’d like. The real difference between in-person classes and online ones is that you need to take initiative when it comes to participation, and it’s in your best interest to do so. Research continues to show that frequent interaction, collaboration and communication are key elements for positive online learning outcomes.

Thankfully, students typically have multiple ways of connecting with classmates and professors. Depending on the course and the tools it leverages, options could include breakout discussion rooms during video calls, real-time polls, live chatting and discussion forums. And don’t forget that email can be an invaluable tool, particularly when you need to reach your instructor about an assignment or challenge you’re facing.

5. Make Helpful Resources Easily Accessible

Nearly every student is going to need a bit of extra assistance at some point, whether it’s related to academic challenges, technology issues or something else entirely. Most schools are well-aware of this, which is why they offer numerous support services for online students. The University of St. Thomas, for instance, offers virtual tutoring, an array of career services, IT support and much more.

But even with an array of resources, it’s far easier to determine your next step if you familiarize yourself with the available options and how to access them before you run into issues. In fact, effectively using available resources is a valuable tip that can help you achieve good grades.

Consider creating a document that lists all the relevant information for contacting different departments and accessing support services. Or you could try bookmarking the relevant webpages to easily find everything right from your computer browser.

6. Clearly Define the End of the School Day

It can be difficult to disconnect when you’re taking classes online. The lines between school and your personal life can start to blur without the need to physically travel anywhere, so find ways to formally end your schoolwork for the day. This could be as simple as shutting down your computer or turning off school-related email notifications.

Regardless of what you do to signal that you’re officially crossing over to personal time, stick to it. Even faculty recognize that setting clear boundaries is essential for maintaining a healthy work/life balance.

Fine-Tune Your Online School Routine

With just a few small changes, completing courses at home might start to feel as typical as attending in-person. And developing a good online school routine can help you feel better prepared for all your classes, including those that aren’t directly related to the field you’re studying. Believe it or not, those general education courses are just as vital as your major requirements.

Find out how receiving a well-rounded education can benefit your personal and professional life by taking a look at “Exploring Core Classes in College and Why They’re Important.”

About the Author — Staff

AvatarThe University of St. Thomas is the only Catholic, liberal arts university in Houston, Texas. We have 35+ undergraduate majors including STEM, Nursing, Business, Education and Pre-Med. Located in a vibrant urban environment just minutes from downtown and the famed Texas Medical Center, we welcome students of all races and religions to our diverse and collaborative campus.

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