Distance education courses tend to pull students from a wide demographic. Unlike many traditional colleges and universities which tend to enroll students mostly immediately after high school graduation, distance education institutions have a mix of students, some coming right from high schools and others returning to college later in life. For students balancing a full or part-time career, a heavy college course load, and the commitment of life and family, achieving balance can be difficult.
US News and World Report cites a survey which found that half of online learning college students are married and over half of the married students also had children. Many students enrolled in online learning colleges also have either full or part-time jobs, as well as many other commitments outside of school.
The key to achieving a workable balance between your courses, your job, and the rest of your life is through organization and communication. Through organization, you are able to keep track of your work, school, and personal obligations. When you have organized your obligations, you are able to both make a general schedule for your daily routine and adapt, as needed, to unexpected events or sudden emergencies. By communicating your obligations, priorities, and needs with others, you are able to inform them of your priorities and ask for help as needed.
To begin, formulate a loose schedule for your week. In your schedule, include inflexible elements, like dropping off and picking up your children at school or daycare, work hours, mandatory class times, and personal or family commitments that occur at the same time each week. When you have created a general schedule of events for your week, you are more clearly able to see the time you have to accomplish studying, homework, taking care of your kids, housekeeping tasks, and other personal responsibilities. You are also able to see and resolve any potential conflicts between work time, school time, and family time.
Using the general schedule of inflexible events in your week as a guide, create a more detailed schedule. Include time to do homework, to take care of your family, and any other parts of your week. Make the schedule something that you are able to stick to by including personal time. Remember to allow time for driving, if need be. However, this schedule also needs to be flexible. Creating a schedule that is flexible allows you to accommodate unexpected situations. Once you have your flexible weekly schedule created, develop good study habits to maximize your ability to do well in your courses.
With an understanding of your schedule, communicate your plans to the people important to you. If you will need to adjust some of your work times to accommodate your classes, or need extra help from your spouse with the kids or housekeeping, it is critical that they be informed of your plans and your general schedule. Even if you do not foresee needing help, keeping your employer, friends, and family informed of your plans to take classes and giving them a general understanding of your schedule could give you more flexibility if something occurs and you need unexpected assistance.