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3 Proven Tips by College Advisor & Instructional Designer

 By Carlos J. Avent, M.S. 


Pursuing a degree online is NOT easier just because it’s online.  

That’s a myth, and a lot of people believe it. Why? Well, the reasons vary and to be honest, we don’t need to spend any time exploring those reasons.  

The experience of being an online student is not easier, it’s different. It’s different whether you are the traditional student who graduates high school at 17 or 18 years old and immediately enrolls into an institution of higher education, or you are the adult learner who returned to get your degree after years of work and life endeavors. Whichever it is, the goal remains the same, to earn your degree. It’s a process. For the online student, it’s a very different process that requires a very particular set of skills that you must acquire in order to see the success as an online learner. The skills presented here will make you an efficient, effective, and engaged online student. 


Manage Your Time

You have 24 hours in a day. That’s a total of 168 hours every week.  

Some of those hours you’re going to sleep, eat, maybe work, go somewhere and occasionally take a mental break. However, all of that is in your control. If you were to take note of what you do with every hour in your 24 hours, I guarantee you will realize one of two things (or both things): 

  1. That you spend way too much time doing something unnecessary, unfulfilling, or unproductive.  
  1. That you have at least have 2-5 free hours of spare time, at least 4 days a week, to dedicate to learning.  

Let’s explore how you can manage your 24 hours. Let’s pretend it’s a busy weekday and there’s an assignment due. Below is a chart of everything you may have to do on a typical weekday in 24 hours:  

Daily Tasks/Routines 

Est. # of hours 

Prepare for work 


Commute to work 


Be at work 


Commute to home 


Eat (2-3 times a day, including prep.) 


Family/Friends/Relax Time (kids caregiving, unwinding, etc.) 




Number of Hours per Day 


Number of Hours Used 


Difference (free time) +/- 

+ 3.0 

If this were your normal day-to-day routine, 5 days a week, you would have 3 hours per day, 15 hours per week (not counting Saturday and Sunday), to dedicate to your studies. Also, if you do incorporate those weekend hours to this example, there are probably ways to either cut back  or multi-task to create more time.  

But how do you do it? 

Utilize your timers, alarms, reminders, your calendar, or whatever you prefer that will help you stay disciplined with your time. There’s a 99.9% chance you have a smartphone. Use those time management apps. They exist to help you to take control of your day, not just wake you up. Time management is a skill that will require you to continuously work on and master. It takes serious discipline but mastering this as an online student is critical to success.  


Strategize Your Reading

It’s not always about how much you read. Sometimes, it’s just about reading the RIGHT thing, the RIGHT way. 

There are plenty of different reading techniques, but there’s one that everyone should become familiar with as an online student. Why? Because reading is a major component of online learning. This active reading exercise  easy to comprehend and execute so that you get a better understanding of what you’re reading and be able to apply what you’re reading.  

It’s called SQ3R. SurveyQuestion, and the three (3) R’s are ReadRetrieve (sometimes listed as Recall or Recite), and Review. The basis of this concept is to read intently so that the information is retained and comprehendible. Here’s the breakdown: 


Skim or “speed read” through the information. 


Ask yourself, “what am I looking to learn from this?” 


Read with an intent focus on answering the question(s). 


Note the major points, answer your question(s), and repeat. 


From your memory and notes, review everything for accuracy. 

It looks more complicated than what it is in real life. But academic  will be more challenging and make reading material  a daunting task, if you don’t follow it in order. 


Build Your Resources

Think of it as creating a playbook. If you want to win the game, you need a game plan full of options that works for you. 

Here’s a question. Do you think your favorite sports team would win any games without having a playbook of strategies? 

Probably not.  

Why does that matter? Because the same concept applies to your resources. As you go through your online learning journey, having your most effective resources readily accessible will keep you in the game. I’ll get you started with these: 


Research Sources 

Quick Learn Videos 

Skillset Tools 

Google Scholar 

Khan Academy 






Ed X 

Go Conqr 


Online Learning isn’t easy, and that’s ok. Why? Because it’s the things in life that are challenging, that pushes us into the next best version of ourselves. With that said, take charge of your online learning.