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Managing Work and an Online Degree
Now's the Time for Time Management

By Marlene Hollick
Nova Southeastern University Graduate

It has become increasingly popular for busy adults with family and career commitments to pursue their college education online. Whether undergraduate, graduate or continuing education (certificate) programs, internet-based online learning continues to remain the most feasible option for those whose schedules do not permit travel to and from classes. Attaining a balance between the demands of work and online learning can be difficult if you don't learn how to optimize available time and resources.

To master the time management skills necessary for successful completion of online course work, please consider how well these skills are working for you at the present time. For example, if your tendency is to miss deadlines, arrive late to work or meetings, or frequently take time off, perhaps your personal time management style may not lend itself well to an online learning environment. On the other hand, if you are regularly punctual, submit work early or on time, and have adequate hours during the week that can be exclusively devoted to academic course work, you may be a good candidate to attain your degree while maintaining your employment.

By the way, do not expect your boss to be concerned about whether you have enough time to study, nor should you expect your course instructor to care if you cannot use your office computer for school work. But if you aim to successfully combine both employment and pursuit of an online degree, carefully consider the following:

1. Have your own PC and working Internet connection at home, and plan your back-up in case of system or connectivity failures.

Do not use your office computer for course work, and do not complete your course work at your job. The same goes for telephone conversations on office time and equipment. People have been fired for lesser offenses.

2. Set aside time each day after work to complete your course assignments.

If you can allot 30 minutes daily, you will have set aside three and a half hours per week devoted specifically to course work. Make cramming a thing of the past!

3. Don't delay purchasing your textbooks and other required course materials.

Late submissions because you did not obtain your books in time will not be excused. Also remember - coursework materials are to be delivered to your home address, not the office (even if your job is helping to pay your tuition).

4. Be flexible with your schedule.

There will be days when you will be working late or come home too exhausted to open a book or a file. Build in additional time for catch-up on alternate days. Another choice is for early risers to complete coursework before heading to work. This flexibility is part of the beauty of online learning!

5. Use your work breaks wisely.

Your one-hour lunch can be lunch with a textbook, lunch working online (outside of the office), or lunch on the phone with your instructors, advisors or classmates. Similarly, don't waste opportunities on holidays and vacation days to complete some of your online coursework. Attaining an online degree is a 24/7 commitment - from an educational institution that never "closes."

6. Don't wait until the last day (or hour) to complete assignments.

Complete them as early in the academic week as possible, and this will help promote a better sense of control and accomplishment. Similarly, don't wait until the deadlines to register for classes, obtain exam proctors, or submit tuition payments. And if you do wind up in an emergency situation requiring a deadline extension, please contact your instructor or other college official as soon as possible to make other arrangements.

7. Plan ahead for on-site events.

If your college or university requires attendance at onsite seminars or events, submit requests for personal time off as soon as you know your academic schedule. For some online degree programs this may be an annual event, so schedule accordingly.

8. Pay attention to all mail and notices, including those from your college's IT or online learning departments.

For example, if you can't access the course management system and are late with your assignment submissions, your instructor will not be sympathetic if the IT staff posted a global "course site will be unavailable due to maintenance" notice days ago. If you are not in the habit of reading your mail in a timely fashion - for work or for school - start now.

Achieving the desired balance between your job and your online course work can be tricky and sometimes frustrating. But when you improve your time management skills to accomplish your academic goals, there is an additional benefit - you will also have learned to work more efficiently on the job, which is a reward of its own.

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