How to make time to study online

3 min read


Online learning can be a fantastic experience. You can pause, rewind, repeat, and skip ahead. You can do it all at your own pace, when you want and only when you want.

But what makes online learning so refreshing compared to a typical classroom experience can also cause challenges. Just like with people, its strengths are also its weaknesses. The freedom to engage with online material whenever you want means you don’t have the same kind of structured teaching blocks of time that exist with in-person classes. And this means you can slip behind. What to do?

DIY your schedule

One solution is to make your own structured time blocks — work a set period of study time into your weekly schedule. Consider how much energy and thinking power you’ll have and when. If you’re an early bird, getting up an hour early so you are fresh might be preferable to staying up an extra hour when you’re inclined to nod off.

Clawing out time

I prefer another method, especially when something is important to me and I want to ensure that it won’t drop off the radar. You might call this alternate method not ‘blocking out time’ but ‘clawing out time’.

‘Clawing out time’ means finding those spare minutes throughout the day that are otherwise wasted and putting them towards a goal. Got ten minutes? Listen to a video, start writing a discussion post, or think about the exercise that is coming up next. Here are three ways I have successfully clawed out time to enhance my own learning.

  1. Carry around texts. As a PhD student, I always carried an article in my bag and pulled it out when I had a spare minute to digest a paragraph or two. I read and made notes on dozens of articles while waiting for appointments or standing in line.
  2. Use the hands and the mind at once. Bluetooth headphones come in handy when it comes to clawing out extra time for course videos. Sometimes, course videos or materials in audio format can be watched and listened to while preparing food, folding laundry, or doing other tasks that require the hands but not so much the mind, ears, or eyes. This is more difficult if the learning content requires intense concentration. But not all elements of a program are intense. This strategy also works terrifically for content review and learning reinforcement, or for exploring related content on the net.
  3. Don’t forget about thinking. In a bustling day, time to just think can be sorely neglected. But learning deeply requires the time and brain space to think about how principles apply to our work. Quality online learning involves exercises that prompt such thinking, and thinking takes time. I claw out thinking time for a few minutes in the morning before I get up, while I’m in the shower, and while I walk my dog. When I have a lot on my mind, I also give myself permission to “do nothing”. I acknowledge that active thinking is time well spent. I stare at the wall in the quiet, lie on my sofa in the dark, or lounge in the sun without my devices nearby.

However you fit your online studies into your busy schedule, you can feel good about the time you spend. Learning and growing are tremendous sources of personal fulfillment and further our contributions to the world. If you ask me, time spent learning is always time well spent.

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Judy Wearing, PhD


Judy Wearing, PhD

Lead Learning Architect at OpusVi™


Judy Wearing, PhD

Lead Learning Architect at OpusVi™

Judy has worked as an educator and curriculum developer for over twenty years, designing programs, courses, and learning activities for a broad range of learners both online and in person. She holds two PhDs, one in biology from the University of Oxford and the other in education from Queen’s University. She specializes in supporting teachers and learners in the competencies particularly creativity, critical thinking, and communication. She is the author of more than twenty books for adults and children.