kevin-mccalister-scream1Juggling school, life and work is a challenge for many online learners. When you combine being an online learner and the stress of the holidays, it can become overwhelming. There are ways to stay on track to find balance between school and the holidays without losing your mind. While using the same skills and techniques that make online learners successful, you can manage online learning and the holidays to create a place that works for both. The key is finding balance during this stressful time of the year.

Schedule Your Work Time

Keep your schedule updated! This will keep you focused and on task. Build your holiday parties and get-togethers around your academics. Be aware of upcoming due dates and holiday get-togethers that may conflict with your academics. Prioritize the holiday events in your life so you make take the time to do research for your paper or to complete assignments.

Take Advantage of Downtime

One of the greatest things about being an online student is you can work from anywhere at any time. The holidays can provide some unexpected downtime, most of which can be used in your favor. With holiday travel, shopping lines and last second changes to your schedule or others, there are opportunities to check in on your school work. You can utilize apps on your phone or tablet to submit work, ensure you have completed assignments, check in on your calendar for upcoming due dates or post in a discussion board.

It’s OK To Say No!

Know when it’s too much! Be mindful not to overextend yourself with requests from friends and family over the holidays. Keep them informed of your academic schedule and due dates. You might not be able to commit to all of your invitations, especially when they conflict with your upcoming due dates. Family and friends will be more accepting when you politely decline invitations when they are aware of school commitments.

Take Breaks

Take periodic breaks from school to charge back up. Spending all of your time on your studies can add more stress to what can be a stressful time of year. Find a quiet place for yourself where you can relax and take a deep breath, unplug from your school, clear your mind and “just be” where your feet are. There are a variety of wellness apps that promote wellness and relaxation.

Impacts On Other’s Schedules

Be aware of University closures and holiday schedules. Your instructor and University staff will be unavailable to answer your questions since they too will be spending time with their families. Be sure to reach out to your instructor prior to the holiday to ensure you get a timely response.

Enjoy The Holidays

Don’t ignore school, but it’s the perfect time step back and enjoy this time of the year. Share time with family and friends and enjoy the holiday traditions!



Many of us have things we’d like to change: our exercise and diet habits, procrastination and productivity habits, patience and mindfulness habits, quitting bad habits, decluttering and finances, reading and learning and doing all the things we want to do in life.

But very often we fall short of our hopes.

What’s the problem? Why do we struggle with these changes?

There are lots of reasons, some of them external … but the main reason that it’s difficult to stick to these changes is actually internal.

The main reason changing our lives is hard: we get in our own waymore

Strong time management is perhaps one of the most important skills that online learners need to be at their best. You have likely seen and heard the 2-3 hour rule by now. For an average online student taking 8 credits, that is up to 24 hours per week. Take some time to develop a strategy if you haven’t already. Consider the following questions:

  • What are my other commitments and priorities, and how do I work around those?
  • What days and times will be the best for dedicated studying?
  • What are some things I may be able to adjust, and what are set in stone?
  • Who can I ask for help when I need a hand juggling it all?

Your syllabus will give you the most information up front about course expectations and commitments, and should be reviewed thoroughly at the start of each class.

One of our favorite tools is the Term at a Glance Calendar. As you go through your syllabi, mark down due dates and deadlines for all of your courses. Having everything in one place will help to plan ahead for weeks that will be busier than others, and this makes a great addition to your study space for quick reference.

The video below will give you some good things to consider as you adjust to online learning and develop your own prioritization and time management techniques.


This list provides some additional tools and worksheets. Take some time to explore and see what might be helpful for you.


term_at_a_glance.pdfView in a new window

Weekly Task List.docxView in a new window

prioritization_3_methods.pdfPreview the documentView in a new window


Week Plan


Canvas mobile app for IoS

Canvas mobile app for Android



Maintaining stability in your already-busy life after adding school to the equation is key to student success. Luckily, once you’re admitted to Oregon State Ecampus, you’ll gain access to the Ecampus team of student success counselors who can help guide you on your way.

Here are five tips we suggest to maintain a work-life balance:

Be realistic about time commitments

One of the most frequently asked questions that we hear is about managing time. Between working, taking care of a family, staying connected to friends and school work, time becomes a luxury.

Before applying, consider all of your current time commitments. We recommend using the time worksheet to lay out a typical week to get a good picture of where your time is spent. This can help you make an informed decision about where school will fit.


Think about priorities in terms of both people and tasks. Who are the people you value? What are the most important commitments you currently have?

By prioritizing the people and tasks in your life, you can decide where to focus your time and energy. This helps you to be more productive, but also to be present when you are with the people you value. You will be able to make a more informed decision about the priority of school in your life.

Make time for yourself

What do you enjoy? What makes you happy? For some, that can be exercising or meditating. For others, it is volunteering or spending time outside.

Whatever you do that brings you joy, make it a priority and build in time for it. That will help keep your stress level low and allow you some time to reflect.

Start small

What is a small change you could make today that will make your life easier or more enjoyable? It could be as simple as limiting your commitments or setting a goal to take a walk at least once a week.

Think about something large – and then break it down into small pieces to tackle one piece at a time. Once you build a habit, move on to the next piece.

It is okay if you cannot do it all

Most of the time, the only person who expects you to be able to do it all is you. Sometimes the timing is not right for adding school, and that’s OK.

Taking a closer look at your schedule and commitments should help you to decide whether this is the right time to add school to the mix. If it’s not, don’t get discouraged. The opportunity may be there in the future. Whether you choose to focus your energy on family, school, career or some combination of them all, true success is deciding to commit your time to what you feel matters most.

And when you are ready to jump in, the Ecampus student success team is here to help you succeed. We understand the need for balance, and we can help you navigate the steps to get there.

As we begin to close out the term, it’s time to begin thinking about how to prepare for your final exams. Final exams generally cover several weeks of information and can often times feel stressful and overwhelming. Creating a strategy on preparing for them can decrease the stress and those overwhelming emotions.

Your strategy should take into account the gathering of your materials and notes, reviewing previous tests, creating study aids, and setting time aside to study. It is best to develop a study plan that takes into account those steps as well creating a schedule to review and study. As you begin to create a schedule to review and study, it is best to study in chunks and intervals. Research has shown that studying in intervals over a period time leads to better recall and long-term retention.

Here a couple of examples of study plans that detail the process over 14 and 7 days out from your final exam.

Developing A 7 Day Study Plan 

Developing A 14 Day Study Plan