Making an effective study plan can be a very useful tool for any student, but with the increased independence that comes with online learning, a study plan can be even more helpful. This is not only because more independence means more personal responsibility, but because students can have more individualized study plans that suit their particular needs. But making these plans can be tricky, especially if you’ve never done it before. Here are six steps you can use to get you started.
1. Think About Long Term Plans
To make a plan, the first step is to find out what you need to do! You can start with long term plans, which may be a bit more vague, then work your way down to more specific details. Some questions to ask yourself are:
- What are you hoping to do after graduation?
- When are you hoping to graduate?
- What is your desired career?
Many career pathways require you to take certain courses in high school, so looking that far ahead can help you decide which courses you need to take. Many students find themselves graduating later than they had hoped, because they didn’t realize they needed to take a particular high school course until they were already applying for post-secondary education programs. By planning in advance, you can avoid issues like these. You may not have to plan all your high school courses early, but having a general overview can help significantly, and you can fill in the blanks and make things more specific as you move forward.
2. Take an Overview
Once you have your classes planned out, it’s time to plan how you’re going to complete each class. Some questions to consider might be:
- How much time do you think you’ll need to dedicate to each class?
- What about your responsibilities outside of class?
- How much free time do you need for yourself?
- What timeframe is realistic when you consider all of the other things you need to do?
Keeping all your needs in balance can help you in both your academic and personal life.
3. Go Over Your Course Syllabus
Many classes will provide you with a syllabus when you begin, a general overview of all of the major things you’ll be doing in the class. At Ontario Virtual School, you can even view all the lessons and assignments before you begin. By looking at the different topics and assignments, you can get an idea of how much time and effort you may need to give to each one in order to do your best. Of course, you can shift these plans as you advance through the class and learn more about what each one requires, but having a strong plan starting out can help to make sure that you are moving at a steady pace right from the start.
The courses offered at OVS allow you to take lessons and complete assignments whenever you like, and you can complete a course in as little as 4 weeks or take up to 12 months. This means if you want to focus on one class at a time, you can. Some students decide that instead of a traditional approach of taking four classes at once for a full semester, they’d rather focus on one class at a time for a quarter of the semester each, fully immersing themselves in each one before moving on to the next. Other students find this doesn’t work for them, and they instead benefit from the variety of taking more courses at once and working through them at a slower pace. Some even prefer to take eight courses at a time, but spread them out over two semesters. Depending on your learning style, scheduling things in a way that works for you can help you to complete courses more effectively, not only earning better grades, but completing courses faster than you could otherwise.
4. Plan Each Individual Unit, Lesson, and Assignment
At most schools, including OVS, your courses will be comprised of several Units, general topics that lessons fall under. While OVS allows you to complete lessons and assignments in any order you like, many classes feature lessons and assignments which do build upon each other, and it might be a good idea to make a general Unit Plan for each portion of the course.
You can take tests whenever you like, but it’s important to schedule a time for yourself when you know you’ll have a few hours of privacy and quiet, free of distractions and able to focus on your task. And of course, you want to make sure that the time you set aside for this is far enough into the future that you are able to fully absorb all of the material from that Unit, but not so far that the material isn’t immediate in your head.
Maybe you know one of the assignments in a Unit is an essay, but you find essays to be a bit of a struggle. You can set aside more time for that assignment than you may for some others. Or perhaps you find essays easy, and you can then make a plan that involves completing that assignment faster and moving on to the next one more quickly. Your plans will be individual to you, and that will make them all the more helpful.
5. Set Aside Time and A Place to Study
Once you know what you need to do, it’s time to figure out where and when you can do it. You may find it helpful to set small goals for yourself, to complete a certain number of lessons or assignments per week. To read a certain number of pages from a novel or textbook every day. Maybe you set aside a particular time every day (or night) to work on your classes. You may also find it useful to set aside a study area. Planning could involve making your room, or even just your desk, the perfect environment for you to use as a study space. Planning these specific elements can help make your study sessions much easier.
6. Adjust Plans When Needed
Sometimes the best laid plans can still go awry. Even with careful planning, things will not always go as expected. That doesn’t mean that all your planning was wasted, however. Usually, you’ll find only a small adjustment is really needed, and the rest of your plans can still be useful. Maybe a particular assignment took you longer than you expected or something came up in your life and delayed your progress in a course. Perhaps your priorities change and you realize the goals you want to aim for are now different. That’s all okay! Consider what parts of your plans are still useful, and which need to be changed. It could be just a change in your timeline, and none of your actions really need to be different or you realize more focus needs to be given to a particular class in order to get your grades to where you want them to be. Maybe you change what classes you want to take in your next semester, and need to rethink some of your more distant plans. A study plan is a tool to help you, and if parts of it aren’t helping you, then change them!