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The Balancing Act

Balancing Responsibilities and Setting Priorities

Vital to a successful online learning experience is the ability to balance your responsibilities. Knowing how to set priorities is the key to getting the greatest benefit from your online education experience. Determine early in the semester exactly what work is required and do your best to plan ahead.  Do not hesitate to ask for advice or help from your instructor.

A. Managing Stress

Strategies for managing course-related stress include:

  1. Know your deadlines. These include course deadlines as well as deadlines and important events occurring elsewhere in your life while you are enrolled in the course.
  2. Plan ahead. If you know that your time will be consumed by a non-course related activity during a particular week, do your course-related activities ahead of time.
  3. Know your available resources, especially technological resources, and have them at hand when you are working in your course.
  4. Keep in touch with your instructor. If you do fall behind, let your instructor know immediately, and ask him/her for assistance in planning how you will catch up.

B. Student Accountability

The further you progress in higher and continuing education, the more responsibility you will need to take for your own learning. 

C. Self-Directed Learning

As you explore the many avenues of learning available and begin to define your individual path, you will still need to work with your instructors to make sure you are meeting the requirements of the individual courses. 

D. Understand Expectations

In order to meet course requirements and instructor expectations, you will need a clear understanding of these requirements and expectations. Instructors will provide a syllabus which acts as a contract between you and the instructor. Read through the syllabus carefully and print it out. 

E. Seek Clarification

If you have questions regarding content, contact the instructor immediately.  In the online environment instructors have fewer cues to alert them to your confusion. They cannot see your puzzled expression or hear you ask, “What?” If something is unclear to you, it may very well be unclear to the rest of the students in the class. Your questions may help others in the learning process as well. So ask, early and as often as necessary.

F. Become an “Active Learner”

To be successful in this environment, actively seek ways you can best understand the course material.

  1. Read, listen to, and participate in the course 
  2. Become involved in discussing and defining course topics
  3. Critically evaluate the information you receive

G. Develop Self-Discipline

Self-Discipline may be the most important characteristic of a successful online learner.  With it, you have a tool that leads you to become an efficient time manager, and without it you may encounter difficulties.  Here are some tips to help:

  • Know when assignments are due; print your syllabus and course schedule/calendar
  • Set up a schedule of when you will log in to the class and stick to it
  • Minimize distractions while online
  • Ensure consistent access to a computer
  • Have an alternative plan in case you have computer problems

From Monroe Community College Distance Education Student Handbook (PDF, Plain Text).
Used with permission.


Be sure to read the page on "Procrastination," -- the next item in the left-hand menu.