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How To Get Organized For Online Classes: A Guide For The Overwhelmed Student

Now that the new semester is starting, college students everywhere are scrambling to prepare for classes. One of the most exciting things about a new semester to me is the fresh start we are given. It is hard enough to find an organizational plan that works for traditional classes, but add an online class into the mix and things start to get a little crazy. It takes time to get organized for online classes, but I have done the work for you!

This post is all about how you can get organized for online classes in college.

When I first became an online student, I spent hours looking high and low for the best strategies to prepare me for my classes. At the time, I was taking 6 classes all online and was completely overwhelmed with the process. Having been through that, allows me to share my findings with you.


Read The Syllabus

In an online class it is crucial to read the syllabus from start to finish. Since you do not have the opportunity to listen to the professor during “syllabus week” you’ll need to get an understanding of the class for yourself. Typically, the syllabus includes contact information, important due dates, assignment descriptions, grading rubrics and more.

If you prefer to read from paper, print a copy out. If not, open the document in a computer program that you can edit in. Start by reading the syllabus straight through once. After you have finished the syllabus, go back through it and highlight any useful information. I like to make note of the professor’s email, due dates for recurring assignments such as discussion boards, and grading rubrics.

Create An Assignment Calendar

After you have read the syllabus, it is important to organize all the due dates you will have. Every online class I have been in has had some sort of recurring assignment. Most of the time it is a discussion board. To create an assignment calendar you can use a printed planner, the calendar in your phone, or even Google Calendar. Note what day the initial post is due and the days that the responses are due. For example, the initial post might be due on Wednesday every week but the responses might not be due until Friday. 

If you are taking more than one online class, assign each class a different color (this works if you are taking in-person classes as well). Being a visual person, actual calendars and colors are the best way for me to get organized. Use symbols that help you understand what you have due and when. For example, when I have an exam, I use bold fonts to catch my attention.

Keep Everything In One Place

The most important factor to get organized for online classes is to keep everything in one place. Deciding how to do this is completely up to you. If you like to take traditional notes, keep them all in a notebook. Create a folder on your desktop where you will keep every assignment you turn in.

My favorite way to do this is using OneNote. OneNote is part of Microsoft Office and acts as a digital notebook. Many schools offer free subscriptions to Microsoft Office using your student email so check and see if yours does before paying! You can divide categories and organize this as much as you want. I use OneNote for more things than just school so my organization might look different than someone else’s. However, for the purpose of this post, I’ll show you exactly how I organize for classes.

First, I recommend you create a “notebook” that will hold your class(es). My notebooks are organized by the semester I am in. For example, this semester is called Spring Sem.

get organized for online classes with OneNote

After you create a notebook you have the option to make “sections.” Each class you have should be created as a section.

Get organized for online classes with OneNote

Once you create the appropriate number of sections, you can start getting organized further by adding “pages”  which will act as assignments. Some examples of pages are your syllabus, grading rubrics, and contact info. Additionally, I create a “weekly assignment” page where I outline everything I have to do for the week including reading assignments, papers, ad quizzes. I then make a subpage under the assignment list and complete each assignment as they come.

Any other organization lovers out there? Now that you are organized, you can learn how to maintain a 3.9 gpa in college too!

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    1. I like having the option of taking classes online but I miss going into the classroom sometimes

    1. My biggest struggle with online classes is self-pacing. Even though I am organized enough to know when all of my assignments are due, I always wait until the day they are due to complete them

  1. I’m in online university- my fifth year and preparing and organizing is so essential otherwise it’s so easy to become overwhelmed. I use an assignment calendar and it’s so helpful!

    1. Online school is so convent but I do get easily overwhelmed with assignment deadlines! My assignment calendar is my life saver

    1. When I was taking classes on campus I used a planner which was nice to pull out when the professor announced upcoming dates but since I am already on the computer for online classes I find it so much easier to have everything in one place!

  2. You are organizational goals! I always strive to have it that together but you make it look like a breeze.

    1. Thank you so much! This comment made my day. I feel nerdy for saying I find organizing fun! 😀

  3. I used to LOVE online classes! So easy to get ahead and make a great grade!

    1. I completely agree! I love the option to take accelerated classes online to get the same amount of credits as a traditional class.

  4. These are SUCH great tips! I took one online class during my last semester of college – long story short, my advisor neglected to tell me I needed a class for my minor that wasn’t available in the spring; so I took an online course and I was SO stressed because I didn’t know how to stay organized! Great tips!

    1. Oh no! If my advisor neglected to tell me something so important I would freak out! It’s great that the class was available online!

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