The field of adult learning is wide open and making good use of time will allow any student the chance of academic success. The typical adult learner has too many things vying for their attention. Work, home life and social commitments take up a great deal of the hours available in each day. Online education offers the adult learner more chances to find time to attend class, and complete the class work. Often all that one requires is a place to sit down, a laptop or net book, internet connection and the student and the class are together.

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No fighting traffic to get to the school, no trying to locate parking or catching public transportation to make it to class on time. Discounting the traditional brick and mortar university is not the aim of this paper. There is a place for both traditional education and online education. Not all students have the personal commitment to attempt online education. “The time that it takes to teach and take classes has been the subject of much speculation, but no standard exists to measure the amount of time that instructors and students dedicate to course. ” (Amiel and Orey 2007).

Most of the time that an adult learner will spend on online education is going to have to be estimated. Trial and error will lead to a clear plan of the amount of time that a learner will need to complete the course work. Amiel and Orey wrote in their paper, the study indicated that online students taking online classes required a smaller amount of time that students in traditional classrooms (2007). Students have to be realistic about the amount of time that they have to work independently and spend on self study (Van der Meer, Jansen and Torenbeek 2010). Commitment is one of the mainstays of time management.

The adult learner has many distractions, obligations and interruptions each day. The learner has to make a firm commitment to completing the task that is in front of them every day. Many adult students have to balance their study time with the other commitments of a busy life. Most work a minimum forty hour week, adding in an average commute time of five to seven hours a week; there goes a large block of time out of the one hundred sixty-eight hours of the week. Child care or the care of elder family members can take up a great deal of that time that is allotted every week.

Clubs, committees and other social obligations have to be factored into the time equation. “Time management … take a moment and look at literally and you’ll see that it’s a complete contradiction in terms: time cannot be managed. ” ( Levin 2007). It seems to follow suit that if time cannot truly be managed then the only thing that you can do is make the best use of the time that you have. There is an old proverb that asks “How do you eat an elephant? ” The answer is one bite at a time. How do you effectively manage your time? One bite at a time. An adult learner must evaluate where their time goes every day.

The student must look at time blocks that are not flexible; work, commuting, family obligations, attendance that the course requires, sleep and others that cannot be changed. These items have to have priority in the planning stage of time management. The flexible activities that the adult learner participates in often offer up time for getting in a half hour or more for reading a few chapters in a textbook. Looking at time spent just sitting and waiting, at a doctor’s office, getting oil changed, waiting for kids to finish soccer practice. One could easily add a couple of hours of study time in a month just sitting around waiting.

Levin writes that even ten or fifteen minute intervals will help chip away at a reading or editing task (Levin 2007). Scheduling these events on the calendar will keep things on track allowing that “found time” to be used effectively. Often family obligations take up more time than is planned for. Informing other members of the family that this is the time that is set aside for the adult learners’ school work and being firm about it keeps the adult learner on track. Involving the family in the learning process helps also; if they understand what is going on they will be less likely to resent the time that is spent studying.

The adult learners’ family members are good sounding boards for ideas. They can proof read the learner’s papers. They can even lend a helping hand with quizzing a student for review on material that has been covered. Organization will help to control time wasted looking for things that needs to be used for studying, writing and other assignments. “When you begin… with a clean desk, clean office…focusing on tasks that you deem most important and urgent at that time, you can work with more energy more focus, and more directions” states Jeff Davidson (2010). Getting together the items that are needed to be organized is the first step.

There is no need to buy out the office supply store: bins, folders, paper clips, a calendar and highlighters are a few items that will make life easier. Cleaning up the piles of paper that appear on the desk is the next step. Going through them and deciding what needs to be put aside till later, and what needs taking care of right now, what is just trash and needs to go in the recycling bin will give you an open space to work from. No matter how well the adult learner has the plan made there are going to be interruptions, things that are going to come up at the last minute.

The best way to handle these occurrences is to jot down a note about where you are at and deal with the situation. Sometimes it will be difficult to get back to where the adult learner stopped at but once again a commitment must be made to completing the task. The note that was jotted down will refresh the memory, a tickler to get the adult learner started again. Finding inventive, outside the box ways to study will help the adult learner make the most of time. A book that needs to be read can be taken anywhere with the advent of eBook readers such as the Kindle or Nook.

Laptops and net books provide a connection almost anywhere for research. Often time spent commuting can be spent listening to books or lectures on tape or an mp3 player. Where there is a will there is a way! No longer are students tied to a desk in a class room or to the hours that a library is open. Wi-Fi and the smart phone have widened the horizon even more. Once time management is put to good use the student will find that this skill set can be used in many places in their lives. It can make the learner more productive in their business or work place. Good time management can make life run like a well oiled machine.

In an article by the Mayo clinic staff, they recommend time management to reduce stress and improve productivity (2008). The fact that medicine acknowledges that time management will reduce stress and make one more productive should tell anyone that it is an important fact of life. Adult learners have to make the most of the time that they have to get their degrees completed with as little extra stress as possible. Taking advantage of the offerings of an online learning situation and good time management should provide the returning adult learner with a better chance of realizing their dream of a college education.

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