How to manage your online study time

How much time you need for online study

All our online short courses and degrees are delivered part-time.

The number of hours you’ll need to find each week for study depends on how many credits you choose to study for each term.

Most of our online students take one or two 15-credit courses per term.

  • 15 credits – you’ll need around 10 – 15 hours to study each week.
  • 30 credits – you’ll need around 20 – 30 hours to study each week.

Your course guide tells you how many hours you’ll need to dedicate to study each week.

With 24/7 access to your teaching materials, you choose when to cover these hours.

Study planning

Planning your time is the first step to effective study.

Making a study plan might not guarantee that you’ll get all the work done on time, or that things won’t get in the way of deadlines. But planning will help you focus, keep tabs on your workload and give direction to your study.

Plan ahead

Grab your journal or calendar and create a schedule that includes all your commitments for the next few months. Include anything related to work, your personal life and study deadlines.

Study time calculator

The Open University has created these really simple but effective study time calculators. You can download Excel and Word versions and use them to see how much free time you’ll be able to dedicate to study each day.

Where your time goes

Keeping tabs on what you do each day will help you reflect on your study week, make improvements, and alert you to any issues that could cause you trouble later.

Keep track of your time

Try to keep a record of what you do during each day for a few days to get an overview. Use the same study time calculator and compare what you had planned with how your week worked out.

Make changes

If you missed out on some study hours, see how you can fit these into future study weeks. Reflect on whether your study pattern is working. For example, if you’re struggling to get as much done at weekends as you’d hoped, change your strategy. You could try cutting down on weekend study and adding an hour each weekday morning.

When do you work best?

Be conscious of your concentration levels during the day. How long does your concentration last? Some students find they’re night owls, others prefer getting work done at the crack of dawn. Note when you find your best times to work and relax are, and plan accordingly. Do the most challenging work when your concentration levels are highest.

Handling distractions

Block out your biggest distractions

Checking your phone, social media, rolling news – even with the greatest discipline, it can be hard for us to avoid distractions in the modern world. Simple things like setting your phone to silent, switching off email alerts, and asking friends and family not to disturb you can help.

In the online world, there are plenty of apps that can help with distraction.

  • Freedom — an all-in-one distraction blocker that syncs blocks across all your devices.
  • StayFocusd — select the website you find most distracting and choose a daily time limit.
  • Noisli – a fantastic background noise generator to help you relax and focus in noisy environments.
  • Forest – an app that encourages you to plant virtual trees instead of visiting distracting websites.

Most smartphones now let you manage your downtime and screen time by setting app limits too.

How to stop procrastinating

If you’re a procrastinator, the most helpful piece of advice you’ll get is also the most frustrating: just do it.

But what happens when making a start seems impossible? Here are some things you can do that can make a real difference.

  • Try to understand why you’re procrastinating. This TED Talk by Tim Urban is really enlightening.
  • Check you’re setting yourself realistic goals. If your goals are outlandish, they can make you feel too afraid to even start. Break your study plans down into smaller, manageable daily goals.
  • Be kinder to yourself. Once you realise that perfection isn’t expected of you, tasks will seem less daunting. It’s more than okay to get less than full marks.

What to do if you fall behind

Life has a habit of throwing the unexpected our way. Even with a great study plan, it’s completely normal to fall behind at times. So, don’t worry. We can help.

First step – contact your tutor

Your tutor is your first point of contact. They’re there to help you through your studies, so never be afraid to reach out. Try to seek support as soon as you notice a problem.

Whether it’s a work thing, personal issue, or something you’re struggling to get your head around on the course, get in touch and let them know as early as you can.

Ways your tutor can help

  • Clarifying any aspect of study that might be challenging you and slowing you down.
  • Allowing you extra time to complete assignments.
  • Guiding you in what to study if you have to compromise in your study plans and cover only the essentials.
  • Signposting you to the best sources of support for you.

Sources of support for you

  • Contact our friendly Student Advice and Support Service – they can help you with academic and non-academic issues all year round.
  • Your peers – other online students know exactly what you’re going through and are always on hand to offer advice. From study tips to moral support, ask for help in the Online Learners’ Facebook group, your class’s discussion forum or WhatsApp group.
  • Student Learning Service – this is our dedicated study skills support team. They can help you with time management, revision and getting your studies back on track.
  • Friends and family – your personal support network is really important when you’re studying online. Friends and family can help in so many ways – shopping runs, taking on extra childcare, proofreading and helping with coursework. If you’re struggling, let them know how they can help.