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Orientation: Study Skills & Time Management

On this page we show you how to estimate the amount of time available for studying and how to find appropriate locations to study.

You may have heard about how convenient and flexible distance education can be, however, taking a distance education course still takes time. You might be saving commuting time in an online or TTVN course, but you might also spend more time dealing with technology concerns. In addition, quality distance education programs have the same course requirements as their on-campus counterparts, so the study time to complete assignments takes at least the same amount of time, if not more. Whether the time you spend on course-related work is more or less than you might experience in a traditional, classroom-based course, it is still time you need to reserve and manage carefully.


Estimate the amount of time available for studying*

Distance learners often benefit from carefully structuring what time they have available therefore it is highly recommended that you estimate the amount of time available for studying.

Download your Time Estimator Worksheet (pdf). Use this worksheet to help you determine the number of hours that you can use for studying in a “typical” week. Follow these steps in filling out your worksheet:

  1. First, eliminate time periods that cannot be used for studying by playcing an “X” in those boxes.
  2. Next, mark inconvenient study times with a diagonal slash (/) in each time period when you are likely to be too tired to study or likely to be interrupted frequently. Also mark those time periods that are too short to be used as study time. These times represent places where your schedule can “flex” for you to accommodate emergencies, examinations, and spontaneity. You should not include these flex times in your estimate of the amount of available study time.
  3. Finally, add the total number of hours on the worksheet that remain unmarked for each day and enter the totals at the bottom of the page. Then add the daily totals to get your weekly total and enter this in the 'Total' box at the bottom of the page. This figure is your best estimate of the time available for studying in a typical week.


Find appropriate locations to study*

Just as you should schedule appropriate times for study, you also should structure one or more locations for studying. A study environment that is tailored to your individual needs and preferences will maximize your learning efficiency. You should consider the following guidelines to create one or more study areas that will help you focus your concentration during scheduled study sessions.

  1. What is your ideal study area and how does it look? A good study area is highly individualized. Before you can create an environment that suits your learning style, you must become aware of the study conditions under which you are most productive.
  2. Where is your special study area? Consider creating an area devoted exclusively to study. Avoid using your study space for other activities such as paying bills, reading novels, or playing with your children. By devoting an area exclusively for studying, you condition yourself to increase your alertness and concentration when you use that space.
  3. What is your ideal noise level? Select a study area with the amount and kind of noise that suits your preferences. Some students work best in a quiet room free of distractions. Others prefer soft music, background voices, or even loud music. Determine which noise conditions are least distracting for you and create your study environment accordingly.
  4. Do you have enough light? Structure your study area so that it is well-lit.
  5. Do you have a straight-backed chair and a flat surface that can be used as a desk? Avoid easy chairs, recliners, sofas, and beds that are conducive to sleep. Also, provide space for easy access to books, paper, pencils, pens, and other learning materials.
  6. Where is your ideal study location? Minimize travel time to and from your study area. Consider your daily schedule of activities, and identify convenient locations conducive to studying. Possible locations might include: a library, your home, an office at work, or a restaurant.


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*Penn State University, 2005

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