Year after year, one of the most common pieces of feedback from students who are new to an online degree program is that they are surprised by the amount of time it takes to succeed in their online courses.
Common misconceptions of online degree programs are that they are easy to complete or take less time than traditional college classes.
Through Arizona State University’s online programs, called ASU Online, undergrad and graduate courses are structured in seven and a half week sessions rather than 14-week semesters. For one session, a student should expect to spend six hours a week on coursework for every course credit.
In other words, if a student is signed up for two or three courses during a session and each course is worth three credits, that student should plan to spend between 36 to 54 hours a week on coursework.
This may seem daunting, particularly for students who work full-time jobs or have parental responsibilities in addition to their course work. But spending dedicated hours each week on assignments, reading and studying will allow students to stay on top of their work and avoid falling behind.
Time management mistakes online students make
Additionally, one of the key benefits of online learning is that students can create their own schedules and fulfill their study hours whenever works best for their individual needs. Students who have full-time careers often make time for school in the evenings and on weekends, while students who are parents, for example, complete their course work during the day while their children are at school so they can spend time together in the evenings.
Just as in a traditional college setting, it can be difficult to set aside time to study each day. But if students are dedicated to achieving their goal of earning a degree, they are ready and willing to commit to a steady study schedule.
One former student, Deann Ballard, was a mother of five, worked full time, volunteered in her community, ran marathons and managed to complete her degree. She is one of the best examples of a multitasker and proves that it is possible to do it all if you are committed to your goals and stick to a schedule.
The takeaway: Students shouldn’t have false hopes about skating by on a few hours of classwork and studying a week; they need to be prepared to devote a big portion of their time to their studies.
This article originally appeared on U.S. News & World Report’s education site.