Today even students who are returning to school in their forties are digital natives. That means that schoolwork competes with students’ phones, tablets, and gaming systems. These are also the other distractors that online returning students traditionally deal with, like work and family. Time management can be one of the most critical factors in student success. Student success markedly decreases when a student starts an assignment on or after the due date (Field, 2015). So, what strategies help? Encouraging students to use time management techniques will have a better and more prosperous college experience. This will be reflected in retention percentages and student feedback surveys.
Here are some of the approaches we are currently employing with our clients’ students.
Plan with the Students
Our online catalog has roughly the same cadence of due dates for each course. This allows the Success Coaches to work with the student during orientation on time management. Typically, a student will know their personal and work schedule at the time of orientation. This allows them to look forward by answering the question, “when will you address your schoolwork.” Students are encouraged to identify times before their first class when they will complete their work.
New students are contacted after their first week of study. The focus is on issues that will stop student progress but, one of the preplanned questions is, “how are you doing adhering to your time management plan.” The opportunity is afforded to the student to review and amend their earlier plan with the Success Coach.
Work with Instructors
Workflows are predetermined with faculty to refer students to a success coach to problem-solve academic issues while a student can still be in the course. This is done for new and continuing students. Success Coaches can then work with students on time management or any other issues that come up. The most common problem self-identified by students to our success coaches is time management.
Identify Areas for Improvement
Students are asked to brainstorm what they can do to be more successful or efficient learners in scheduled coaching meetings. We find that students often, without prompting, revisit the conversation they held in their original orientation and identify fidelity to their original plan as the main area to improve.
Move the Due Dates Forward
One popular strategy is to have students plan to finish an assignment the day before they are due. When pressures on a student’s time interfere with planned study times, having the extra day allows students to still turn assignments in on time despite unplanned disruptions.
It is understood that the online population has more pressure on their time than their traditional in-seat counterparts. Competition for a time in other areas of student life can be daunting. One of our successful coaches ‘ objectives is to arm students to succeed in that competition.
I would love to hear your thoughts or feedback on other strategies.
Field, J. (2015). Improving student performance using nudge analytics. In Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Educational Data Mining (pp. 464–467). https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED560905.pdf