Starting a new semester can be an exciting time! As exciting at it is, we also understand that a new semester may mean that many of you feel the pressure of trying to balance work with writing research papers, preparing for exams, going to little league games, taking care of aging parents, and so many other circumstances life can throw at us. Our staff is made up of non-traditional students who have faced many of the same challenges you are facing! We are experienced jugglers, with firsthand knowledge of achieving this balance. We believe planning and time management are key to succeeding without feeling overwhelmed, and the beginning of the semester is the perfect time to start! It’s during that first week that you have the opportunity to understand what the expectations are in each of your classes, and plan accordingly. Having a plan in place before due dates and exams start piling up, as they so often have a tendency to do, is important. Our team would like to share a few proven strategies with you – things that each of us found particularly helpful along the way:
- Read the syllabus: This may seem like a given, but during busier times it’s easy to glance at the required text, and think “I’ll read the rest later.” However, it’s important to read the syllabus for each course thoroughly. Many professors provide a schedule for the entire semester, including due dates for discussion board posts, research assignments, and exams. In addition, the syllabus helps you understand your professor’s classroom policies and expectations in a clearer way. It’s a powerful tool!
- Schedule study time: This may be the most helpful and also the most challenging thing you can do for yourself, but if you set aside time that belongs to you, it will make a huge difference! It doesn’t have to be a two hour block – it can take different forms on different days. Tuesdays may be particularly busy, so 30 minutes may be what works that day, while Saturday mornings may offer more time. Do what works for you, but make it part of your routine.
- Create a personalized calendar: When life gets extremely busy, it’s often tempting to put school on the back burner. This can be especially troublesome in an online environment, since much of what we do in an online class is independent. As online students, we aren’t privy to conversations that serve as reminders. We aren’t even privy to official reminders unless we take the initiative to login to Blackboard. The old adage “out of sight, out of mind” can come into play very quickly! That’s why we recommend creating a personalized calendar for each term. Think of it as your GPS, as it provides a road map for the semester that will help you stay on track. On days when time is short, a calendar can serve as an especially great tool, even if you only have a couple of seconds to glance at it, it can alleviate the stress of not knowing and keep you aware of what’s coming up. It’s an easy thing you can do that will serve you well! Here’s what should be included:
o Due dates for reading assignments, research projects, discussion board posts, other homework and exam dates from each of your classes. These dates should be on your course syllabus
o Study time that you’ve set aside – while this may not pan out every time, due to life circumstances, it’s important to schedule it, and do your best to treat it as a requirement.-
o University deadlines – it’s important to note critical university deadlines, such as drop/add dates. Deadlines for each term are available at http://www.wku.edu/registrar/academic_calendars.
- Familiarize yourself with resources: Take time to become knowledgeable of the resources available to support online learners. What you find may surprise you! For example, WKU provides
o Online Tutoring in areas such as reading comprehension, study skills, test anxiety, test taking strategies and time management, as well as more than 200 subject areas for undergraduate students! Visit http://wku.edu/tlc, then Online Tutoring to see a complete list of what is available or call 270-745-6254 to schedule your online tutoring session.
o An Online Writing Center to assist graduate and undergraduate students in fine-tuning research papers. Submit your paper online at http://www.wku.edu/online/srp/writing-center.php.
o Research Assistance through WKU Libraries: Staff is committed to helping you find the materials you need to conduct research. They have newly updated research guides, which are organized by specific subject areas. Each guide connects you with online databases pertinent to the research area selected. The research guides were designed by subject specialist librarians, who are also available to assist you in your research! Visit WKU Libraries to get started or for additional tips on how to search for specific information go to www.wku.edu/online/srp, and click the Library tab.
One click access to these resources and many more is available through the Student Resource Portal at www.wku.edu/online/srp.