Skip to main content
30 Apr

Key Strategies for Studying Online

So you’ve chosen to pursue your graduate degree online. Perhaps studying online will allow you to take classes at an institution outside of your local geographic area, or possibly the freedom to complete coursework on your own schedule is the major factor driving you to seek your degree online. Whatever your reason, one thing is clear: Studying online effectively requires a specific set of skills that are not quite the same as those needed to succeed in a conventional classroom.

With this in mind, here are a few suggestions for how to study online efficiently and with an eye toward success in your online graduate degree program.

Prepare to Work Hard When Studying Online

A common misconception about online coursework is that it is less intense or rigorous than its on-ground counterpart. A strong online degree program should ensure its classes are delivered at the same standard of excellence as their on-ground versions. This is particularly important when accreditation is a factor, as is the case with many of the most desirable online business programs.

You should be prepared to devote at least 20 hours each week to studying online; this time might include completing readings and written work, participating in discussion forums, watching videos or lectures, and more.

Study Online

Use Flexibility to Your Advantage

While it’s likely you’ll be working full time in addition to pursuing your degree online, you will have one essential tool at your disposal to help you account for the extra demand on your schedule: flexibility. Because the designers of your online graduate program know that studying online has to fit into your busy schedule, they allow you to access lectures, readings, and other essential materials whenever you want, wherever you want.

This flexibility does add to your responsibility when studying online, however. Online degree programs require an extra level of self-discipline to filter out distractions and concentrate on your work when the time is right. If you master this skill, you can thrive in an online program.

Personal Goals Can Be Key

With all of your competing responsibilities in an online degree program, it can be tough to manage your priorities. That is why you will need to become an intelligent personal goal setter, one who can focus on short-term tasks while keeping an eye on long-term goals and projects. Try setting weekly deadlines and challenging yourself to complete as much work by them as possible. By turning online study into a competition against yourself, you can get an extra degree of satisfaction from completing relatively mundane tasks.

Stay Consistent

Your schedule can become much more manageable if you try to keep it consistent while studying online. Set aside one night a week for readings, another for written work (papers, problem sets, etc.), another for discussion board posts and, if necessary, schedule office hours with your professor. If you want to account for larger, long-term writing assignments, plan your schedule out weeks or months in advance.

Studying online is all about maximizing the value of your time, and proper planning and schedule setting goes a long way toward ensuring you use your time wisely.

Make Connections

Perhaps the greatest resources you’ll encounter during your online graduate program are your classmates and instructors. They can not only provide assistance to you as you work through challenging coursework, but also serve as potential connections, references, and even mentors as your career progresses after your graduate studies are complete.

Make an effort to get to know your classmates through whatever social media channels you can; perhaps start by looking them up on LinkedIn. Don’t hesitate to seek out your professors during office hours whether you want help with a challenging assignment or you merely want to discuss course content or professional issues further.

Seek Out Support

Graduate school can feel extremely isolating, especially when you’re working through an online program without face-to-face contact with your cohort peers. Throughout this experience, it’s crucial to remind yourself that you’re not in this alone. Lean on your friends, family, coworkers, and whoever else you think might be receptive to offer you support. You can use them to keep you accountable for your goals, to help you juggle other responsibilities in your personal life, or simply to vent in your more stressful moments.

In particular, find out if your employer is willing to subsidize some or all of the cost of your graduate studies. Sometimes the most significant kind of support a third party can provide is financial assistance.

Focus on the Finish Line

Whenever you encounter a tough moment, take a step back and remind yourself why you’re doing this in the first place. A graduate degree is a serious investment of time, money, and energy, but the payoffs are often immense. Use your ultimate goal—increased knowledge, greater responsibility, a higher salary, or whatever else may have motivated you to take on this challenge—to inspire you to persevere.


The Online MBA and Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) programs from Seattle University offer a robust, AACSB-accredited business education to busy working professionals. With the strategies outlined above in mind, you can thrive in a high-quality online business program and take your career to the next level.