Working from home can pose a challenge to even the most disciplined student or employee. A person who is not familiar with working or taking classes online can easily get derailed by distractions and struggle with self-motivation. Stevenson University Online understands that many of our new students are not only going back to school for the first time in years, but also getting accustomed with a totally new style of learning.

We asked our Graduate Assistants (and SUO students) and Student Success Coaches about what challenges one faces while taking classes at home and how to overcome them.

Time Management

It really depends on the student and how they learn best. Some may want a long session so they can focus, others do better with shorter sessions but more of them. Some prefer mornings to study, some late nights, some with music, some need silence. A student needs to know how they learn best, then put some structure into making sure they have time during their “ideal” time to do their work. – Ruth Berenson, Student Success Coach

Just a small nugget of wisdom- it is important to keep your life balanced between school and work as well as trying to fit some fun into your life, so having a schedule can help you find your “me” time. – Amanda Herron, Graduate Assistant & Student

Time management can be one of the biggest challenges since there is not a face-to-face class as an ongoing reminder of what is due when. So the onus is on students to keep track consistently of their assignments and pace themselves to allow sufficient time to complete them and to study for upcoming tests. – Fran Jackson, Student Success Coach

A lot of success in online courses comes down to time-management and one’s ability to be disciplined. For me personally, one thing that helped was: at the beginning of each semester go through the syllabus and making a detailed schedule/calendar of all assignments, assessments and readings. From there, following that schedule as strictly as possible made a drastic difference with any challenges I had early on. – JT Klopcic, Graduate Assistant & Student

Setting a Schedule

Create a weekly study plan that works for you. Your work/personal schedule might not permit you to study every day. That’s fine. Look at what assignments are due each week, paying attention to the due dates, and create a study schedule that works for you and your family and stick to it. – Karen Fuchs, Student Success Coach

As soon as the syllabus is available to you, make sure you thoroughly read all of the modules’ assignments so that you can be prepared for what is coming. Make up a schedule that works for you, whether you are working while studying or not, you need to make a schedule and obey it. – Olympiada Georgiou, Graduate Assistant & Student

Every time I start a new course I read through the syllabus and course schedule to get an overview of what is expected of me. I then break down what I am going to do every day to make sure I complete the readings, assignments, quizzes, etc. I revisit this list at the beginning of every week to ensure that I am still on track and am getting everything completed that I am supposed to be completing. Writing down a schedule of when to read, when to work on assignments, take quizzes and when to study helps me tremendously with time management. – Amanda Herron, Graduate Assistant & Student

One thing that I do whether I am in the office or I am at home, is make a daily list of task that I need to complete and when I would to have them complete. This helps to keep me focused, on task and gives me direction throughout my workday. It also helps to give me a gauge of how productive I am being on each day. Taking this same practice to working at home has helped tremendously to ensure I am still being efficient and productive throughout the workday. – JT Klopcic, Graduate Assistant & Student

I suggest making a schedule of when they [students] will be working and setting it up on a calendar with reminders for breaks. If they are someone who really struggles with focusing, they can set up a reward system for themselves as a motivational tool. For instance, if they work consistently for 90 minutes, then they allow themselves 15 minutes (a short break so they don’t totally lose their focus) to look at Instagram, make a phone call, get a snack or run around the block a few times to get energized. Minimizing distractions is critical to being able to “get in the zone” and stay there for a block of time … Every time they are distracted by looking at a text or a notification, they have to spend time refocusing on the task at hand which makes them less productive. – Fran Jackson, Student Success Coach

Managing Your Environment

A number of my students do leave the house to get their schoolwork done, often taking their laptops to a Starbucks or library to study and write papers. A few with young children hire a babysitter for specific times so they can do their schoolwork undisturbed and have a separate place (“their office”) to get into the headspace of school. – Ruth Berenson, Student Success Coach

I needed to find a “working/studying” environment that worked best for me. I am using a laptop so all I needed was a big table to just lay down all of my books and work. Even if I am studying/working from home, I would still wake up earlier, get my energy boost (which is coffee) and change into comfortable clothes, but not stay in my pajamas! Also, I usually get distracted with music or the TV on while studying, so I make it as quiet as possible around me. – Olympiada Georgiou, Graduate Assistant & Student

I have implemented several processes that are important to my success while taking online courses at home. I always get changed into regular clothes because it makes me feel more awake than if I were in pajamas and it makes me feel like I am somewhere other than at home. I usually complete my assignments in a quiet room by myself which helps me from getting distracted and wanting to talk to other people instead of getting my work done. I like to listen to music when I do work because it can help drown out background noise if others are around and it also helps me concentrate when I am alone because when it is quiet it is hard for me to focus. – Amanda Herron, Graduate Assistant & Student

Working from home on a regular basis, for me personally, it helps greatly to maintain as normal of a schedule as possible. Waking up at the same time, going through my normal routines, starting work at the same time. Having a designated space in the house where I can set up a workspace. Eliminating distractions within my workspace has also helped for both coursework as well as work. – JT Klopcic, Graduate Assistant & Student

Utilizing Resources

When it comes to practical issues, thankfully our university provides us with lots of academic resources, like Hoonuit, through which I’ve watched several tutorials on how to upload/submit/write assignments. A student can easily search on Youtube and Google for information as well. Moreover, I made sure to use our Campus store, by which I ordered my first required book. Again, as a student I had to make sure to have available all the “equipment” that was needed for my class. – Olympiada Georgiou, Graduate Assistant & Student

Another challenge is utilizing the available resources that are available to support them [students] such as their professor, Smart Thinking tutoring, their Success Coach, and other students in their class. The lack of a face-to-face class time limits the exposure to these supports and students often are less likely to reach out with questions or to request an extension on an assignment due to personal issues. It’s almost since they don’t see the professor regularly, it’s as if they forget that person is available to them as a resource or they feel uncomfortable reaching out for help since they haven‘t built an individual relationship with their instructor. Students must be a self-advocate if they are going to get the help they need when they need it. – Fran Jackson, Student Success Coach

In Conclusion

Make a schedule, be organized, know your resources and who to go to for help, and don’t hesitate to reach out! – Ruth Berenson, Student Success Coach