When students enter into online learning for the first time, one of the first pieces of advice I give is to start a system of organization sooner rather than later. From my experience, students who have a system of organization perform better and are less stressed throughout their courses.

But what do I mean by “organization?” I think it’s a bit more than having a calendar with your deadlines and a notebook for each of your courses (though these are definitely great suggestions). It is about goal setting, being responsible and self-directed and paying attention to details. Like Mr. Stark said in Part I of this series, these are skills that will apply to your successes after high school—college and career. I truly hope the tips provided below will help you as you look to improve in these areas.

Set Goals

  • Use a calendar or planner. This will help you avoid the last minute rush to complete assignments, which will allow you to be more attentive to details as well. You will avoid skimming readings and be able to comprehend more of the content, which will help you later on evaluations. 

    Having your own daily/weekly/monthly calendar can also help you schedule your assignments and plan for the future to avoid stress. If you make a habit of reviewing this calendar at the beginning of each week, you will always know of upcoming due dates and be able to plan accordingly. We assist in this process by providing an 18-week calendar in each course syllabus introduction.
  • Chunk your goals. For large projects or when studying for tests, the best way to establish your goals maybe to put them in chunks. This allows you to break down big to-do items into smaller bites. It will not only help you complete tasks more efficiently, but also give you a sense of accomplishment as you will be able to cross things off your list more often.

Be Responsible and Self-Directed

  • Use a to-do list. When taking courses with the Independent Study High School, you are indeed studying independently, which means you are responsible for completing your assignments on time. Along with your daily/weekly/monthly calendar, a to-do list can be extremely helpful in terms of planning how you are going to spend a specific amount of time.
  • Read each course’s introduction. Each of our courses has an introduction section that I strongly encourage all students to read. This will give you important insight into the course and the expectations associated with it. 
  • Keep copies of projects and evaluations. Keeping good files of your work can save you time. It can also ensure that nothing gets lost. Especially if you have to mail in a project, never send the original without keeping a copy. Having old evaluations on hand will also give you great study guides for unit exams. 
  • Keep all school materials in one place. There is probably a time when you have lost a certain piece of paper, file or notebook. It can be extremely frustrating, especially if you spent a lot of time on the piece. This is why students should keep all of their school materials in one place. Even if you can’t have them spread out all the time, have a book bag that stores everything you need. This will save you time and stress!
  • E-mail unhsteach@nebraska.edu if you have questions. Part of being responsible is knowing when to ask questions and seek out advice. We are always here to help you when you need it, so do not hesitate to e-mail us.

Pay Attention to Details

  • Study in the right setting. For years, students have chosen their beds, the floor or a comfortable couch on which to study, but these are places we associate with relaxing or sleeping, which can affect your concentration. It is helpful for students to study at places that we associate with work, such as a desk or a table. These will not only get you in the right mindset, but will give you plenty of writing surface and space to spread out your materials.
  • Avoid distractions. Turn off the TV, put your cell phone in another room on silent and shut the door. Not only will this keep you on task, but it will make for a more efficient use of your time.
  • Read directions twice. If anything, teachers like to know that students at least read the directions! Doing so twice gives you a better grasp of the objectives of the assignment and helps you avoid unintentional errors.
  • Seek out inspiration. Not into what you’re studying? If given the opportunity to apply lessons to what you’re interested in, take it! Motivation must come from within, but sometimes we need to seek out a bit of inspiration. You may not always realize the benefit of every course immediately, so take a moment to consider how it will help with your long-term personal or professional goals.