By Danika Rockett, Ph.D.
Whether online or on-campus, managing multiple courses in addition to your daily responsibilities with family and work can be a challenge, but with the right strategies, you can get it done.
If you’re like most college students, chances are you are balancing school with a job. In fact, one survey revealed that close to 80% of college students are working at least part-time while they attend school. But don’t worry--we’ve got your back and are here to offer support as you move through your StraighterLine courses.
Here are a few tips for balancing and managing a challenging course load with your busy professional and personal schedule:
Use technology to stay organized.
Taking multiple courses simultaneously can be a daunting endeavor and will require good time management and organization skills. Take advantage of the many apps that are available for helping you stay organized.
StraighterLine courses are all self-paced, but it’s still a great idea to use a calendar or some other time management app to stay on track--in fact, we posted a little while back some great apps you can download that will help you manage your time. But another potentially good option is a “personal assistant” app, which have become increasingly popular. Some examples include Google Now, which organizes virtually anything you would want, around the clock; 24me will send automated reminders, which is great if you tend to forget important deadlines; and Wunderlist, which essentially creates a shareable to-do list.
Take advantage of available support.
This might come in a variety of formats--family, friends, colleagues, and fellow students might be able to offer moral support when you feel overwhelmed. But also keep in mind that StraighterLine has a full student support team who are always ready to help if needed. No matter which course you have questions about, we can help get clear answers so you stay on track in all of your StraighterLine courses. If you would like to “meet” the student advisors, check out this infographic.
Evaluating your priorities when managing multiple courses will help you stay on top of the more important tasks while feeling confident that you can push off the lesser important ones. There are countless ways to tackle this, but one often-used method was devised by the popular motivational and keynote speaker, as well as prolific author, Stephen Covey. His strategy involved creating a matrix to indicate level of importance in relation to level of urgency. Covey’s matrix looks something like this:
Tasks in quadrant 1. are of course the ones you would want to get first since they are both important and urgent. For example, if you have a proctoring session for a final exam scheduled for this afternoon, that would be a highly important and highly urgent matter and would appear in quadrant 1. of your task list. However, if the exam session is scheduled for next week, that would be highly important but not as urgent and would therefore be appropriately placed in quadrant 3.
In general, you will likely find the most difficult balance between quadrants 1. and 2.--it can be challenging to determine which tasks should be prioritized when they are urgent (i.e. they need to be done sooner rather than later) but not as important. Try your best to complete all tasks in quadrant 1. so you can focus on quadrant 2. This will ensure that the urgent, yet not quite as important, tasks get done.
See if you can place the items on your task list in the quadrants above. Be sure to include “wish list” items, too--if you whittle down the more important, more urgent tasks, you can start working on what you really want to do!
Maintain a to-do list.
This tip goes hand-in-hand with the previous one, but if you can maintain a task list and prioritize those list items effectively (e.g., with a strategy like the one above), you’ll be well on your way to managing all of your schedules.
We hope these tips are useful. At StraighterLine, your success is our top priority, so don’t hesitate to reach out to an advisor if you experience any concerns while taking your courses with us.
About the Author: Danika Rockett, Ph.D., is manager of strategic partnerships at StraighterLine, and course manager specializing in English composition and communication. As a former English and Technical Communication professor, she manages all courses that involve qualitative assessment; she also helps develop and improve course content. She has nearly 10 years of university teaching experience, both online and in the classroom.