Managing your time in an online class

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What is the most common question professionals ask before jumping into an online course? Time. How many hours should I expect to spend each day? Each week? When will I complete the course? Can my mentor talk to me 24 hours a day?

We’ve conducted phone calls with over 500 potential students who are considering their first or next step learning how to code. More than 67% have asked about the time commitment.

Getting started in an online class requires some planning. But with the right preparation, mentor support, and drive, even the busiest students have been successful in our course.

Rose, Mike, Bhaumik, and JT, four students who balance Thinkful with full-time work and personal commitments, offer this advice to other online students:

Stick to a schedule:

“The biggest thing that I have done is get into the habit of getting up early. It sucks for the first couple of weeks, but now I’m used to it and I can’t even sleep in. Right now I get up 5am to read and work on projects for two hours and then go to work.” - JT

“I did most of my work at night while my daughter was asleep” - Rose

The most uninterrupted time is on the weekends. I work in I.T. for myself and my days are usually very heavy. By the time I get home, I will try to carve an hour or so. Sometimes I will carve out time in the morning since that’s when my energy is highest.” - Mike

Start good habits, but keep things fresh:

“I think a general rule of thumb is to make it habitual, as well as have some spontaneous element from time to time. In other words, do it the same time at the same place everyday, and then once a week, try something new someplace new.” - JT

“I’ve made a habit of implementing new things I’ve learned (how to add input boxes, background picture, etc) while watching the videos or reading the material.  It’s a good idea to keep the text editor open at all times and code away whatever new concept you learn so that it’s fresh in your head. This is a great way to reduce the possibiliy of forgetting the proper syntax by the time the project came around. - Bhaumik

Set small goals:

I give myself little goals within the materials to reach. For instance, yesterday was, ‘Finish Chapter 3 of Eloquent Javascript.’“ - Mike

Use productivity tools: 

"I used Wunderlist to keep tabs on project todos and articles to read.  Relax Melodies helped me stay focused with their binaural beats + nature sounds.  Evernote kept all my code snippets and project notes in one place” - Rose

“I’m using the chains.cc app to make sure I spent at least an hour or two on the course every day. If I missed a day, the chain would break and I had to start over again. Works well to improve non-coding habits as well!” - Bhaumik 

Focus on projects:

Online courses can be tough if you don’t bring your own desire to the table. I’m really passionate about this stuff right now, so honestly it’s comes naturally to work on it. But apart from that, having real world projects (as Thinkful does) is the best way to learn, I believe. The fact that each section has some practical application is the best way to keep folks engaged.” - JT