A weekly study timetable is essential to be an organised university or college student, particularly when you are a busy online learner.
We suggest you use the timetable template above (or similar) to help organise your week.
- You can fill in the timetable in Microsoft Word or just with a pen or pencil.
- Tip: It's best to start with fixed commitments.
But there's more to study planning than a timetable.
- A complete study plan also contains goals and strategies to make your study efforts work.
- The extra elements are essential for studying online.
- Distance education students learn independently and benefit from strategies to stay motivated.
What is an online study plan?
An online study plan is a structured schedule for students. It details study times and contains learning goals.
University students should create a schedule where certain days and times are allocated to online study and nothing else. Developing a study plan not only helps you to be organised, but it also makes you accountable for learning outcomes.
As an online student, a study plan is vital. You need to have the discipline and persistence to do your studies. External students don't get energy from face-to-face interactions with teachers and peers.
How do I plan my studies?
The aim in study planning is to create a tool to help you navigate your course efficiently. The plan is personal to you and must reflect your study methods and lifestyle.
To create a study plan, a good starting point is to reflect on how your time is spent and prioritise what is important. Online study time needs to fit into your schedule. But you should aim to study when you are well rested and mentally alert.
A habit that most outstanding students get into is to establish some sort of study goal before or at the beginning of each study session. Having a goal boosts motivation, makes you accountable and ensures you keep making progress.
Being realistic about what you can accomplish is also important. For example, allocating very large chunks of time to online study might end up having a demoralising effect. Study plans need balance. There should be rewards (e.g. free time) after you achieve study goals.
Steps to create a study plan
- Assess your current schedule. A good starting point is to assess how you currently spend your time. This will help identify how much time is available for study. You might also find activities that waste time and can be cut.
- Construct a timetable. To prepare a timetable, start by blocking out times where there are commitments. Then you can start allocating time for important things, including your course. To succeed at online study, you need to set aside a good number of hours for each course. Your timetable needs to leave room for extra study (in case you need it) and, of course, time for yourself.
- Set study goals. You can do this formally or just spend some time thinking about it. Good students set long term and short term goals. A longer term goal (for a course) might be to complete all readings and exercises before entering the exam period. A short term goal might be to work solidly for the next hour before you take a break.
- Establish good habits. A study plan works best if it is followed consistently. It helps to start well early on and build great habits. These help carry you through during any periods when you might be busy, tired or just down on motivation.
Set a timeframe for doing homework. Decide how much time you have available for homework after school for each day of the week. For example, Monday - 1 hour, Tuesday - 1 1/2 hours, Wednesday - 1/2 hour, etc. On days where you have other planned activities, whether it's an extracurricular activity or chores or quality time with your family, you will have less time for homework.
Consider using your mornings. At the end of the day, if you're really tired and still have homework, go to bed and set your alarm perhaps an hour or two earlier than what you usually do. This way when you do your homework you will have more energy and be able to complete it faster. You also won't have to worry about it after school, when you are tired.
Take advantage of your travel time. If you don't get motion sick in the car or on public transportation, try to do some of your homework on your way to a basketball game or on your way home from school. But be careful, as your writing may be messy and unreadable.
Use your study halls or homeroom times well. Don't be fooling around with your friends and then come home annoyed that you have a lot of homework. This will make you more grumpy and you will probably get told off by your teachers as well. Don't let your friends distract you.
Use free periods. If you have a free period, don't use it to hang out with your friends at a local pizza place, use it to catch up on your homework. You will have time to hang out with your friends after school or on a weekend, make homework your first priority.
Make Fridays count. Unless you have plans on Friday after school, try to do all your homework for the weekend then. It will be easier to enjoy the weekend without having to worry about your homework. What a lot of people do is not do their homework on Friday, and wait until Sunday night to do it so you have all weekend (including Friday) to do whatever. This may sound like a good idea now, but while you are going out to a party or whatever on Saturday night, all you will be able to think about is having to do your homework the next night. Then on Sunday, you will be tired and won't have a good attitude to do your homework.