Staying Organized and Motivated in the Online Classroom
By Anna Sommer
Academic Advising Project Coordinator, American Public University
Maintaining the motivation to finish your degree program isn’t easy. In addition to writing papers, researching, reading, taking tests and participating in class discussions, you may face additional challenges such as working, raising children and coping with financial challenges.
One way to foster motivation is to be organized. Here are two simple tips to help you stay organized and keep up your motivation in the online classroom.
1. Find a calendar system that you like and use it. Some universities offer a calendar feature within their online classroom. Some people like the mobility of calendars on their phones; other people prefer the hands-on approach of a paper calendar. Whatever type of calendar you prefer, make sure you know its ins and outs and use it religiously for your coursework.
Read through your syllabus and other classroom information to see what will be expected of you and when. Create a schedule with deadlines for you to complete assigned readings, research, papers, discussion board posts, etc. If you plan and schedule out your coursework in advance, you will be more focused on the task at hand instead of worrying about what you may have to do later or what you forgot to do earlier.
Scheduling coursework will also keep you motivated. You’ll be able to see your progress over time and feel a sense of accomplishment as each task is checked off the list.
Be sure to also schedule time for breaks. Having some non-school time can be a great way to relax and get motivated to start fresh later on.
2. Understand what is expected of you. Online classrooms vary from institution to institution. Some online classrooms have separate areas for resources and assignments, and some may combine these into one area.
Sometimes within the same institution, professors will use the online classroom in different ways. One professor may expect discussion board posts to include a personal experience on the topic, while another professor will require posts to read like an academic paper with outside resources.
Understanding what is expected of you within the classroom setting will set you up for success. You can focus on what needs to be done instead of trying to figure out how to do it.
To understand the expectations, take some time at the beginning of the course to do the following:
- Thoroughly read the syllabus and keep a copy handy (e.g., print it out or keep it on your computer’s desktop for easy access). The syllabus should outline all expectations and give you suggestions for meeting these expectations.
- Read through example papers or other resources the professor or university offers. Reading through these resources helps you understand what type of writing the professor seeks from you, how to demonstrate your knowledge of the material and how to cite sources appropriately. Remember, online courses are writing-intensive; learning how to write well and write to your professors’ expectations is crucial if you want to succeed.
It can be easy to lose focus in an online setting when you aren’t physically surrounded by classmates or a campus. Staying motivated is important.
Motivation can come in many forms. It is often the silent sidekick to an organized student. Taking time to get organized will ensure you are focused and ready when it counts the most, and being ready to succeed is motivation every student needs.