How to Prepare a Study Schedule

One of the things that students enjoy most about Athabasca University is the flexibility online learning provides. However, the open flexibility can also present challenges for learners because when life becomes busy, it’s easy for study schedules to slip.

In order to stay on top of your workload and ensure you complete your course on time, it is always a good idea to plan out your study schedule each time you begin a new course.

The following success strategies will help keep you organized and on the right track.

Review your course schedule

Many courses include a study schedule that is typically laid out for six months. If you are on a four-month schedule, you will need to condense the six-month schedule to ensure you complete the course in four months. Sometimes a four-month schedule is available for some courses. You need approximately 15 hours of available study time for each course. If you plan to study five days a week, allow for approximately three hours of study per day. If you plan to study seven days a week, allow for approximately two hours of study per day. Here are some more helpful tips on creating a semester study schedule.

Select a scheduling tool

There are many different scheduling tools available, pick one that works for you. For a ready to use solution, consider this downloadable Excel scheduling tool. To make optimal use of this template, you’ll want to apply the following steps:

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  1. In column A, enter the start date of your course. Ensure the schedule reflects the number of days available in keeping with your course contract which may be four months or six months. Create a schedule for each course you are enrolled in using the tabs at the bottom of the worksheet.
  2. In columns B and C, reasonably divide up the number of reading pages and assignments over the number of days available. Note, you may find it useful to fill in column E when filling in column B and C. TIP: Schedule reading and assignments for 80 per cent your available days, leave 20 per cent availability for review, research, assignment prep, etc.
  3. In column D, list the reading title and source for your reference.
  4. In column E, identify the number of assignments required for the course and insert them at reasonable intervals so you can get feedback on them throughout the course to know how you are doing.
  5. In column F, identify the number of exams in the course and insert them, halfway through the course, schedule the midterm exam and plan for a final exam toward the end of your contract.
  6. Back to column B, clear a number of days in advance of the exams (up to seven for a final exam) for review and exam preparation.
  7. Also in column F, insert a deadline note at least 20 days prior to each exam to submit an Exam Request Form. Also insert a note to contact the invigilator you plan to use in order to schedule the time, date and place for writing each exam.
  8. At least 30 days before your course end date insert a deadline note for submitting a Course Extension Request Form ONLY if you need one.
  9. At least 30 days before your course end date insert a deadline note for submitting a Course Withdrawal Form Only if necessary, contact your tutor to learn more. Note, this option is only available under certain circumstances. “W’ for ‘withdrawal’ will appear on your transcript rather than an “F”.

Review and Repeat

Repetition is the key to learning. It is advised to study no more than 60 minutes at a time before taking a break. Using a digital timer is a great way to manage your study time. Be sure to review systematically and at the end of each page ask yourself “What is this page about?,” “What did I learn from this page?,” and “How does this relate to the previous pages?”

Before starting the next 60-minute study period, review what you studied in the previous hour and before starting tomorrow’s new material review what you studied today.

Stick with it!

Determination, perseverance and self-discipline are the greatest determinants of success for online learning. What distinguishes successful from unsuccessful online learners is what you do on days that you do not feel like studying. If you return to your studies regularly, even when you don’t feel like it, you are more likely to be successful in an online learning environment. Remember the following tips for success:

  • At the end of each week review the material studied in the previous five to seven days.
  • At the end of each month review material studied in the previous month.
  • Prior to each exam complete a thorough review of course material up to that time.

Other Helpful Resources