Adventures in Online Learning: The Importance of Creating a Schedule

“Things that can be done at anytime are often done at no time” —Gretchen Rubin, author

One of the beautiful and ugly things about online learning is that it is (very) often asynchronous. In other words, you do not have a scheduled class time during which you are expected to show up and be focused on the class in question. You get to complete the work when it is most convenient for you. Sounds great, right?

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of aspects of asynchronous learning that are pretty fantastic: it’s more convenient, you can move at your own pace, and you don’t have to deal with that one annoying student who always manages to ask a slightly off topic or tangential question that runs class over. BUT!

The problem with a class being asynchronous is that it becomes incredibly easy to fall into one of two traps. Trap #1: you procrastinate like crazy and never get anything accomplished. Trap #2: you never really start or stop work and everything just blends all together so that you never have real “time off” or real “work time.”

So how do you avoid these two traps? Well, we can take advice from someone who has experience with a radical asynchronous, zero work-life separation lifestyle: Scott Kelly, who spent nearly a year on the International Space Station. In a recent opinion piece in the New York Times (see below for a link to the article), Mr. Kelly describes the importance of creating and keeping an appropriately paced schedule.

He notes that a schedule of will give you a structure to your day, including the all important bed time. A schedule will help you to both accomplish the tasks you need to get done and ensure you make time for the fun things: whether that’s a Netflix party or a walk around the block (time outside is also critical!). In short, Mr. Kelly emphasizes the importance of pacing yourself. In the same way that you can fall into Trap #1, never getting anything done; you want to avoid falling into Trap #2, of feeling like you’re never able to turn off work. Finally, a schedule will ensure you get enough sleep—which he notes is critical to mood, ability to think critically, and relationships.

Schedules do not have to be as strict as the one that Mr. Kelly describes following on the space station. It can be as simple as:

  • 8am wake up
  • Get dressed, eat breakfast
  • Work on coursework for 2-3 hours
  • Lunch
  • Finish any coursework with a deadline of tomorrow
  • Go for a walk outside/work out
  • Chill until dinner
  • Dinner
  • Hang out with friends/family
  • Bedtime at 11pm.

There’s no times listed, just a suggestion of what to do during certain times of the day, which you can adjust to your preferences: if you prefer to work out in the morning, work out in the morning! If you do your best studying at night, work on coursework before you go to bed! The key to to try and be consistent with how you’re working and relaxing, and making sure you get adequate amounts of sleep (i.e. not too little OR too much).

Link to The NY Times article by Scott Kelly:


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