We often hear two things from students who take Outlier courses; they really value the flexibility our courses offer, and they feel the most successful when they have a clear routine established to help them stay on track.
These can seem kind of contradictory, but the key is to find something that works for you.
Outlier courses are flexible in that you can work through the content at your own pace, but there are also some scheduled components, like exams and assignments. Given that, we highly recommend our students figure out a schedule that fits the unique circumstances of their life! We want you to achieve your educational goals and priorities in the time you have available.
How it Can Help
We know Outlier students are either working full-time jobs, taking other arduous courses or just have a lot to juggle. Creating a schedule that is realistic, both in terms of how much time you need to spend on the course and how much time you will have available, is going to help you a lot. Remember, time is the one resource that we can't make more of, and it is easy to let it go by!
Here are some ways a schedule can help:
- Keeps you on track to accomplish your goals.
- Understand what you can realistically achieve with your time.
- Gives you a visual way to see what you should do next quickly.
- Set aside contingency time for "the unexpected."
- Not taking on more than you can handle.
- Have enough time for family and friends, exercise, and hobbies.
- Achieve a good work-life balance.
Steps to Creating an Effective Schedule
Here are some suggestions for how someone starting out in an Outlier course could begin as they map out their plan for the course. We’ll talk about this from the big picture view of setting up a calendar for the whole course, but you can also do these steps on a weekly basis.
Step 1: Identify Available Time
Start by establishing the time you want to make available for your education at Outlier.
To do this, you’ll first want to figure out what else you have to do each week. These things can be work, appointments, other school commitments, social events, or a million other things (hopefully, some of them are fun!). Now, you can think about how Outlier will fit in there.
As you do this, reflect on which parts of the day you feel most productive. For instance, some people are at their most energized and productive in the morning. In contrast, others focus more effectively in the afternoon or evening. Whatever works for you, make sure you feel like you’ll be able to engage effectively with the learning materials when it's time to start.
Step 2: Milestone moments
Now, open your scheduler (whether it be virtual or not) and block in the actions you absolutely have to do in a given week to stay on track in your course.
For example, put in when you have assignments due in a way that is clear and which will help you then plan backwards to make sure you’ll have the time to do them. If you know when you’ll take an exam, make sure to get that in your calendar now so that you don’t accidentally create scheduling conflicts later.
Step 3: Schedule High-Priority Activities
Now, think about what you’ll need to do to stay on track, and think about when you’d like to focus on them. Some of these may be the same every week, like watching lectures and completing active learning. Some of these may be particular to a given week, like making sure to block off extra time to study for an upcoming exam or to start on an outline for the writing assignment that is due in a couple of weeks.
Step 4: Get off to a Good Start
One thing we’ve seen is that students who manage to get into a good rhythm right away tend to do better in the course. For example, students who do both lectures and active learning in their first week and who log in more than once that week are more likely to pass the course. Try to hit the ground running by planning out week 1 even before the course starts.
Pro Student Tips
These tips can work for anyone and, really, for any sort of schedule you may need to do. We’ve also heard from some former successful Outlier students, who have provided the following tips!
Tip #1 - Center Your Focus
Outlier students have busy schedules. Some are college students with part-time jobs; others are taking courses while working full-time or taking care of family. Either way, it is important to think about how to make the most of the time you have for the course.
Most weeks, you’ll have some lectures to watch, active learning to do, and a number of quizzes to complete. It's necessary to try and to do as much of it as possible. We’ve found that students who both watch lectures and do active learning every week pass the course at a higher rate than those who focus just on one or the other. If you want, you can consider speeding up the videos, mainly if you also have guided notes ready for you to fill in as you watch.
Tip #2 - Take Advantage of Outlier’s Calendar
To help you get started, Outlier has ALREADY outlined a semester calendar for you! On this calendar, there is a week-by-week layout of where you should be in the course, as well as assignment deadlines and exam windows.
You can get it for iCal, Google Calendar, and Outlook Calendar!
Tip #3 - Avoid Procrastination
Look, we all do it. It's hard (impossible?) to stay 100% on top of everything all the time. But there are some tips and tools available to help cut down on some of the worst habits in terms of procrastination. For example, check out this article for more tips on Time Management. You can also take Outlier’s (totally free!) college success course, which has a whole section devoted to time management and overcoming procrastination.
Tip #4 - Don’t Stress! You got this, and Outlier has your back
Not stressing out is easier said than done! But, take it easy on yourself. Give yourself the time you need to rest and relax when you need it.
Also, reach out for help if you need it! The support team at Outlier was always helpful whenever I reached out with questions. If something comes up that makes it so you may not be able to stay on track for a given week, be proactive; let them know and see what they can do to help. Check out this resource to see what may be possible in terms of getting an extension.