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Online Classes

5 Organizational Tips for Online Students

Taking an online class can sometimes be stressful or tough to stay on top of—especially if it is your first time being an online student. Online professors and students alike have some tips to keep you ahead of the game for your online classes.

1. Utilize Task-Management Tools

There are several online tools that students can utilize to plan their schedules and manage tasks for their online assignments. Elijah Van Benschoten, online Instructor of Studio Art at SDSU, recommends using Microsoft OneNote. He breaks his to-do list down on the program by short, medium and long-term task categories. OneNote also allows users to attach notes, drawings, screen clippings and audio commentaries to their tasks.

“OneNote allows me to keep my to-do list going on my laptop and phone.”

- Elijah Van Benschoten, Instructor of Studio Art

2. Contact Your Professor

SDSU student Rebecca Moorhead emphasizes the importance of establishing a relationship right away with online professors. A word of advice when emailing professors—check D2L to see if they prefer being contacted via their Outlook email or their D2L email to guarantee smooth communication.

“I think the best way to relieve some stress and organize an online class is to email your professor. In the first week, I almost always talk with my professor about what is due to make sure I’m staying on top of the assignments and starting the semester off on the right foot.”

- Rebecca Moorhead, SDSU Student

3. Set a Schedule

It can be easy to fall behind in a class that doesn’t meet in person, so online SDSU instructor Chelsie Bakken recommends setting a schedule for yourself. “Utilizing a calendar like Google Calendar or iCalendar can be vital to staying on course. Make a schedule. Decide which days and times you will be ‘attending’ your online class.” In addition to "class time," she also recommends adding assignment start and due dates, project milestone checkpoints and reminders to check in with the instructor and peers on the calendar. This method is advocated by students as well.

“I set away time specifically for my online class as if I were taking the class in-person.”

- Paige Leafstedt, SDSU Student

4. Maintain Balance

“I really try to find a healthy balance between not taking organization so seriously that it stresses me out and taking it seriously enough so that it helps me stay efficient and effective,” Van Benschoten said. Budgeting your time in healthy ways can be difficult, especially in college. Bakken has a good solution for this.

“Tsheets.com is a valuable tool to track how much time is being spent on each project. If you find you aren’t spending enough time in one area, reassess your schedule.”

- Chelsie Bakken, SDSU Student 

5. Find Your Strategy

There is no one solution that can work for everyone, so it is important to find your own rhythm when it comes to organization for an online class. Below is a list of task-management and calendar programs that were recommended by SDSU online instructors and students. Check them out and find one that works best for you:

“I’m always tinkering with how I organize things to see if I can improve even more, though some people thrive on developing good habits. So it might be most important to figure out what works best for you before anything else.”

- Elijah Van Benschoten, Instructor of Studio Art

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