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Tips for Taking Self-Paced Courses

  • Self-paced courses are online academic classes that can be completed at a students' own pace within a predetermined timeframe. These courses don't ask students to meet online at specific times, or to submit assignments ahead of set deadlines.

    While the flexibility of these courses gives students the ability to pursue an academic goal while maintaining a full-time career or balancing other responsibilities, their non-traditional format requires you to approach studying and completing assignments differently than you would in a synchronous course.

    We've put together a list of advice and tips designed to help students navigate the process of taking a self-paced class.

    Start off strong

    Get ready to begin your course by reviewing the syllabus thoroughly, and by studying up on best practices for online and self-paced learning. It may also be helpful to skim any required texts ahead of the course's start date. This will allow you to familiarize yourself with course expectations and start your class feeling prepared—both of which will help you stay ahead of your workload as the course progresses.

    Create a plan—and stick to it

    Self-paced courses allow you to complete assignments at your own pace, making it easier to balance coursework with your other personal and professional responsibilities. But, without deadlines and scheduled lessons, it can be easy to leave your work until the end of the course period. This back-up of work can become difficult to manage as more and more time passes. By creating a schedule and study plan to follow at the start of the semester, you'll safeguard yourself from potential procrastination and progress through your workload stress-free.

    Find your study space

    Once you build your study schedule and craft an organized plan to tackle your assignments, we recommend identifying where inside (or outside) of your home you plan on completing your coursework. Find a spot that's Internet-accessible, quiet, and surrounded by limited distractions. Because we all have our own study preferences, this location may look different to different students—but, whether your study spot of choice is at your office desk, in your favorite reading chair, or at your local library, your selected location should be both comfortable and convenient.

    Engage with your instructor

    Your instructor will be your main point of contact for any questions you have regarding course expectations, assignments, and discussions. Therefore, developing a rapport with your instructor early on will make reaching out with specific questions throughout the course an easier, more comfortable process. Additionally, students that form relationships with their instructors may find that they can act as mentors or professional references for the student following the course's completion.

    Stay organized

    Pinpoint the best way for you to manage your workload. For some, this means using the self-paced course’s built-in organizational tools, such as course checklists and pacing charts. For others, this could involve saving all of your coursework in one place on your computer, or using sticky notes to remind yourself to stay on pace or complete a particular assignment. Establishing a pattern of organization will help you better manage busy weeks or when unexpected life events alter your schedule.

    Interested in taking a self-paced course at MCPHS? Explore the prerequisite courses offered through our School of Professional Studies.