If you’re thinking about taking classes online, or you’re already a virtual student, you are probably concerned with how you will balance your education with the other responsibilities of life, such as your job and/or family. Even without any external distractions and in spite of the most well designed learning environments, navigating a class can be confusing, making it easy to miss deadlines.
Within last Monday’s post about creating an electronic notebook to help organize your course work that can then be printed out for the added assistance of a hard copy, I mentioned inserting a course calendar and checklist of important dates (see “How to Organize Schoolwork with LiveBinders,” 26 November, 2012).
A similar combined electronic and print approach may be used to merge your course calendar with the checklist so that no important class deadlines are missed. Here’s one approach, using the calendar feature that is probably already available with your email account. Although I am using Google mail (Gmail) and its calendar as my example because it is widely used by individuals and organizations and because it is free, your current email account may offer similar features.
The first step is to gather the course information that includes dates and deadlines. Most of this information should be found on the course syllabus, but do consider checking the college’s calendar, clicking through each week of the class to include smaller deadlines that may not be listed on the syllabus or institution’s documents, and inserting any other relevant days/times for other activities in which you may participate. Here is a suggested list of items to look for:
• The general term/semester dates: first/last day of class, last day to withdraw and request an incomplete, deadlines for submitting applications for financial aid, registration periods, final exams, holidays, etc. The University of Cincinnati provides a good example of an institutional calendar. You should be able to find the one for your school on its website.
• Course specific dates: week or unit start and end times (because online courses are often set up by weekly units), any synchronous or on-campus meetings that are required, deadlines for all assignments, any participation or access requirements (e.g., many online courses require a certain number of posts in discussions spread over a specific number of days), the smaller steps needed to complete larger projects, and any other “to do” items associated with the course. See this sample syllabus from the University of South Carolina for a preview of what to expect.
• Other helpful items, such as blocking out time to access the class and complete these assignments is often advisable.
When collecting these dates, it may be beneficial to have them printed or written out so that you can set them on your desk to view while you take the next step of inputting the information into the electronic calendar.
The next step is to insert the dates and deadlines into Google calendar. There are several options available based on the type of activity, but start with the one that is easiest for you. This video will demonstrate how to input information into the electronic calendar.
Most of your needs may be met by simply clicking on the day and time an assignment is due, typing in the relevant information, and the clicking “save.” Double check to make sure that the event saved and that it is visible on the calendar. You are now well on your way to making sure you never miss another deadline. But wait, there’s more!
As you may have noticed in the video tutorial, there are some additional easy-to-use options. You may view your calendar by day, week, or month, for example. Note that an “agenda” tab also exists that will enable you to view your calendar as a to-do list. Finally, if you click on the “more” dropdown menu, there is an option to print. I would suggest printing out the calendar by month so you can plan ahead.
Another option when you click “print,” is to “save as.” This will allow you to save the calendar so that you can upload it to another resource, such as your LiveBinder. You could also share this in print form or electronically by email attachment.
Furthermore, you may want to make use of color-coding due dates. When you create an event, you will see a line of colored boxes toward the bottom that are labeled, “event color.” If you find this helpful, you may want to pick a certain color for work time, major projects, each activity, or each class if you are taking more than one. This can help events stand out visually; therefore, assisting you in meeting deadlines.
Finally, it would be wise to set both email and telephone reminders for events. Right below the color-code options, there is an option to set an email and/or a pop-up window reminder. The default is set to ten minutes before the calendar event, so you will want to adjust these according to the event. Ten minutes, for instance, may be enough of a reminder to sign into a synchronous class discussion, but it’s probably not enough to remind you to complete a major project. You can set more than one reminder at different intervals as well.
The reminder I find the most useful, however, is the telephone option. Click on “settings” in the upper right corner, and then choose “mobile setup.” You will be asked for your telephone number and carrier. Once verified, you can synchronize your calendar with your telephone to send you a daily agenda and/or event reminders. The following video by Derek Epperson shows you how easy this is to do.
As an online student, you have more opportunities to utilize technology to your benefit than you may realize. Why not take full advantage of both print and electronic options to stay current with course expectations? You may never miss another deadline.
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