How to Prepare a Schedule for Online Learning

Due dates for assignments, discussions, exams should be planned at the beginning of the course

Are you taking college or university courses online and having a hard time keeping track of due dates?  This post will give you lots of information about how to prepare a schedule for online learning.

With our current situation, many schools are moving to learning online so that the school year can continue.  This adds challenges for students who have a hard time learning from a distance.  So creating an effective schedule is becoming even more important. 

Preparing a schedule on the first day of each of your courses is essential to success!  Keep reading to learn how to properly schedule your time, so that you can submit all assignments on time!

A Few Notes Before We Get Started

Many tips provided in this post can be used to prepare for in class assignments and exams as well.  However, in class there is a teacher reminding you of due dates and providing study tips for upcoming exams.  So while you still need to keep track of the due dates, you don’t need to be as disciplined as you would online.

There are multiple ways that you can track when your assignments are due with online learning and when you have to write your exams.  

By using:

  • a paper planner → if you prefer to physically write things down
  • printable calendars → if you want to create your own binder
  • the calendar on your cell phone
  • apps on your cell phone → there are many great options to keep track of school due dates
Use a calendar to keep track of all school due dates

Determining How Much Time to Spend on Assignments

Did you know that you should spend roughly two hours working on an assignment that is worth 5%?  This means a 10% assignment should take 4 hours to complete, a 20% assignment 8 hours…..and so on.  Big assignments can be worth 40%, which means you should be spending 16 hours working on it! 

Based on this information, you can determine how soon you need to start working on an assignment.  Taking multiple courses at once adds more challenges with scheduling your time.   

You could set specific days of the week to work on each of the different courses, or take a couple hours per day to work on a bit from each course.  However much time you can manage so be focused on your schoolwork to ensure you complete everything in advance.  

Handing in assignments late can mean losing at least 5% of your total grade for that course per day.  Typically after a week, you will no longer be allowed to hand it in and will receive a zero on that assignment.  So proper planning will allow you to hand in the assignments on time, every time and get the highest grade possible.  

Think of it like money.  If you had $40 and had to pay $5 every day for no reason and then hand over the rest of your $40 once the week is up, it would seem pretty wasteful.  Wouldn’t it?  I think most people would do everything possible to make sure that they weren’t just throwing money away.  Treat your assignments the same way!

Losing 5% of your final mark per day up to 40% is a huge loss!  This does not mean to rush through your work just to submit it on time though.  The key here is to plan well enough in advance that you will never be left scrambling right before it’s due.

My Personal Experience with Online Learning

When I was completing my online program, I was taking 3 courses each term and always had work due in all three courses each week.

So what I did was take the largest assignment (that was worth the most) and work on the bulk of that first, then later in the week I would work on the next highest assignment and then finish with the lowest mark assignment.  

I would usually give about 4 weeks to work on the largest assignment.  I found working on the assignments separately allowed me to give all of my attention to that specific assignment and I wasn’t scrambling the night before it was due.  

For exams I started writing my study notes a month prior to the exam date, so that I had plenty of time to ask any questions I had.

How Long to Study for Exams

The same rules can apply to studying for exams as was mentioned for assignments.  If your exam is 30% of your final mark, you should be spending roughly 12 hours studying.  However, if you feel that you need to study for longer than 12 hours in order to be successful on the exam, you should do that. 

If the material isn’t making sense, it is likely time to contact the teacher to see if they can answer any questions you may have.  The teachers aren’t available as readily as your teachers would be in a classroom setting, but they generally will answer within 24 hours and some of them will even call you to walk through some questions.

Plan for enough time to study effectively for your exams

If you are one of the lucky people who don’t need to study much and retains information well, congrats!    

Always give yourself more time than you think you will need and schedule your study time based on that larger number.  

So if you are studying for 2 hours per day, you will need to start studying at least 2 weeks before the exam for an exam worth 30%.  You should start preparing notes for study purposes even sooner with the bulk of the studying done in the 2 weeks prior to the exam.

Paper Student Planner

Using a binder or a paper planner are great options for keeping track of assignments and tests.  The calendars usually provide large spaces for the days of the month and you can use stickers or different coloured pens to help the due dates jump out at you.  They also allow you to easily write notes about certain assignments or exams all in one place, on the additional pages provided.

Binder Option

How to prepare a schedule for online learning - binder option

What You Should Print Out

For online learning, the teachers generally provide all due dates right at the beginning of the course(s).  Print out each of the calendars (not always in a calendar format), any policies (such as submitting assignments late) and any other relevant information that the teacher provides.  You will receive lots of details at the beginning of your courses, so only print out information that you know you will need to refer back to frequently.

Hole punch all of your documents and put all of them at the front of the binder, so that you can access that information quickly.  Print some standard calendar sheets from a website, making sure to choose the proper year and in between each calendar sheet, put several sheets where you can write notes.

How to Keep Track of Due Dates and Courses

If you are taking multiple courses at once, give each course a colour.  You could buy stickers in those colours or just use coloured pens.  Write down each course name on a sheet of paper, then put the colour next to it that represents each specific class.  This sheet should be the first piece of paper in your binder, as you will need to reference it often.  

Now that you have the colours chosen, go through each of the due dates on your course calendars and put the coloured sticker or pen marking on each of the due dates.  Write how much the assignment, quiz, discussion, exam, etc…. is worth beside the coloured dot.

Having these dates all written in one place will allow you to schedule your time appropriately.  If you have an assignment in Computer Science that is worth 10% of your final mark and that same week you have a Math assignment worth 2% of your final mark, you know that you will need to spend more time on the Computer Science assignment.  

You can complete the assignments in any order that you wish, but it’s generally a good idea to finish the more challenging assignment first to get it out of the way and then the other assignment(s) won’t seem so bad.

Scheduling Important Dates for Online Learning

You should make a note on your calendar which weeks your midterm exams and final exams should be written.  

For online programs, you may not have a midterm.  If you do, it may be done online and will not need to be scheduled. 

Final exams are written in person and need to be scheduled well in advance, particularly if you are not writing the exam at the school that you are enrolled at.  Look at your notes at the front of your binder to see when the final date of that course is.  From there, go back 8 weeks and write down that the exam must be scheduled by that date.  

There is usually course work up until a couple weeks before the last day of the course.  When scheduling your exam, make sure that all course work will be complete by the time that you write the exam.  Any work completed after the exam may not be included in your final mark.

Completing work online sometimes allows you the freedom to complete assignments early and then you can write your exam early.  However, it’s up to each individual teacher what they allow.  If a discussion is due in week 10 and no sooner, than you should not plan to write your exam until at least week 11.

Side note: After your final exam, it could take up to a month to receive your final grade, which will be available on your school’s online platform.  This is generally where you signed up for the courses.

Paper Planner for Online Learning Schedule

You could purchase a planner that already has a calendar for each month, along with spots per day to write more detailed notes.  There are some planners specific to school schedules, but they aren’t usually much different than a regular planner.  They will just include school/education related quotes that may motivate you.

How to prepare a schedule for online learning in a planner

If you are purchasing a planner for your online learning schedules, you may find that it doesn’t fit your needs exactly.  Look for one that is easy to attach additional sheets to and make it more personal.  You can then include any important notes regarding your specific classes.  

A planner with a folder at the front is a great option for storing notes.  It can also hold a calculator and pencil/pen, whatever you may need to quickly grab.  

Some planners have folders that can be purchased separately and then attached to the spiral bounding in the planner. 

There are so many options to choose from!  Buy one that the layout works for you or that you can add what you want to it.

General Planner Notes

Make sure that the months are visible by coloured tabs, so that you can quickly flip to each month.  Colour code the courses with pen or stickers and then go through and mark your due dates with those colours.

If you want to write any notes about specific assignments, use the sheets that follow each of the monthly calendars.  There are usually sheets provided giving decent space for each day for this reason.  

You will still need to check paper planners frequently, since there are no notifications popping up.  This will make sure that you are starting your assignments early enough and not losing track of anything. 

School Due Dates Apps

There are many apps available, if you would prefer to keep track that way.  You can enter your due dates and exam dates right into the app.  It will then send you reminders when you get within a certain time from those dates.  

The following apps are great options and they are available on both Apple and Android products:

  • Power Planner: Homework/Grades 
  • My Study Life – School Planner
  • Egenda – School Planner & Assistant 

Cell Phone Calendar

If you prefer to use the calendar on your cell phone, enter your due dates and exam dates in there.  You will then have the option to use different colours for each course, like you did in the paper calendar.  

How to create a schedule for online learning - cellphone calendar

There is also the option to be sent notifications as the due dates are coming up.  

It is still recommended that you check your calendar frequently because it is easy to miss some of the notifications.  At times you will have multiple assignments for different classes due on the same day.  Getting many notifications at once may be overwhelming and not give a clear picture of what is actually due.


The options are really endless when it comes to planning out your semester.  Everybody has different qualities that they like about calendars and planners, so find the option that works best for you.  If you don’t know which will work well for your online learning, try all of suggestions out for a semester and see which one clicks!

So there you have it!  Keeping track of your assignment due dates and exams doesn’t have to be intimidating.  

If you set aside time at the very beginning of each of the courses to write down a schedule for yourself, you won’t have to worry about schedules for the remainder of the course.  Then you can put all of your focus on completing the work and getting the best grade possible!

Good luck with your schooling!  You will be amazing!  I would love to hear what type of planner you prefer.  Do you enjoy writing directly into a planner, or do you prefer to keep track of everything electronically?  Are there any other apps that you would recommend?