Four Tips for Staying On Track In a Self-Paced Course

Students in coffee shop studyingOnline learning can be an ideal way to pursue higher education while shuffling the many demands of life, work, and personal circumstances.

Here at UNE, we offer many online learning programs, including the science and math prerequisite courses.

These courses are designed for students who need prerequisite courses in order to complete their graduate school application.

Beyond the convenience of online accessibility, UNE’s science and math prerequisite courses are also self-paced. This means that while students have a set timeframe to complete the course within, they are able to complete it earlier by determining the pace and timing of the content delivery, assignments, and exam completion. We pride ourselves on a student-centered approach that allows students to learn in their way, in their time.

The good news: students completely set their own pace.

The bad news: students completely set their own pace.

What do we mean by this? On the one hand, self-paced online courses allow students to set their own schedule and proceed based on their comfort level, which can be a huge benefit as it offers tremendous flexibility. On the other hand, it’s critical to be self-disciplined in order to pace through coursework and finish in the allotted time.

Sometimes, this can be difficult with personal demands or unfamiliarity with self-paced expectations. It can also be challenging to stay accountable if the “I’ll get to that later” mindset creeps up.

As the Student Support Team, we are eager to help students succeed in courses by offering effective ways of staying on track. We believe in creating opportunities, not waiting for them, so we pooled together what we think are the best tips and tricks for making sure students give themselves the best chance possible of being successful with online, self-paced learning.

1. Stay organized

Stay organized within your online courseCourse assignments are done completely at the pace of each student, so there are currently no due dates. Also, these courses do not have regularly scheduled meeting times. Typically, courses are structured by week for the 16 week time- frame. To stay on pace with the 16-week schedule, complete the weekly assignments from week to week starting on the first week of the course.

To help with this, dedicate a specific time every day or during the week to read the course materials and complete the assignments or exams. It is very important to develop a time-management strategy to concentrate on the course to help alleviate the stress of doing too much at one given time.

Helpful hint: some students find it useful to create alerts on their computer, phone, or a paper calendar to remind themselves of when things are “due”.

2. Rely on the syllabus

Keep in mind that the best tool is the course syllabus! Students should take time to review the requirements for the course on the syllabus and allocate individual due dates for each assignment and exam based on individual pace and timeframe for completion. If students need more or less time as they go, the dates can always be adjusted to help stay on track!

Helpful hint: when setting these dates, try to set the final a few days prior to the deadline to factor in any unforeseen circumstances. It’s always better to complete a self-paced course a few days early.

3. Have accurate expectations

Contrary to some beliefs, online courses are as challenging as face-to-face classes. Just because the course is done at the computer, doesn’t mean it’s an easy route. There is a lot of information to digest in a short window of time, so being aware of this will help students avoid falling behind in coursework.

4. Communication is key

Communication is the key to your success as an online studentExpressing any concerns or questions with the student support specialist and the instructor will be very beneficial in determining the status and pace needed to complete the course on time.

Helpful hint: begin the course on or soon after the start date approaches instead of waiting a few weeks. This will help in making an early assessment of whether there are any questions or concerns that are needed to communicate and get resolved. The earlier students tell us, the sooner we can help.

Student success is our priority

Part of your success will be dependent on how well you can set reasonable expectations, be diligent in completing coursework, and set goals within an established timeframe. Staying on pace in a self-paced course will become more attainable as you use these tips and tricks.

Remember, success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out!

For more information on how your Student Support Specialist can help you navigate the world of online learning, visit

Learn more about our online science prerequisites courses




*This blog post was originally written on July 1, 2017. It was refreshed and republished on November 3, 2021.

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