Celebrating years of inspiring online art/design education

What Is Flexible Learning? Exploring Time Management and Study Skills

by Clara LaFrance | April 21, 2011

Whether traditional or online, time management is essential to success in an art or design program.

Time management, like death and taxes, is inevitable. We all work to balance work and family obligations, vacations, and assignments and projects. This second post in our series comparing traditional and online learning experiences explores time management and study skills and answers the question: What is flexible learning?

When you enroll in an art or design program, either traditional/brick-and-mortar or online, you will need to employ creative study techniques to meet your deadlines while also creating beautiful work. It’s all about striking the right balance.

In a traditional art or design program, the time balance is more like a time crunch. Your schedule is filled with classes to attend in person at set times, each requiring a presentation of that week’s work. Before class, you’ll need to incorporate time to properly print, cut, and mount your work.

Entire afternoons can be spent prepping projects for an in-person class, from dealing with long lines at the college’s print lab to prints that don’t come out quite right to mounting your work perfectly on a mat or foamcore. I hope you remembered to buy extra supplies before the art store closed!

It may feel as if post-production takes up half of your time in a traditional art or design class! Here’s a secret: it does. But clear, professional presentation directs attention to your piece and its message; shoddy workmanship distracts from your piece. Schedule your time well and you can avoid frantically prepping at the eleventh hour.

Online art and design programs may not require waiting in line for a single large-scale printer or rushing to the store for a fresh box of X-Acto blades. But you’re not off the hook when it comes to time management!

The instructors in online classes are specific about the presentation of your work. This structure (the digital equivalent of waiting for the printer) is important; instead of creating a mat for your work, you must crop your work perfectly, name your files properly, size and compress your work, and present it exactly as the instructor specified. You will also need to leave time to write a professional and clear message to accompany your work. These considerations reflect what is expected in a professional design job and enables your instructor to grade your work efficiently. “Sessions online courses are designed to give students the full experience of creating design jobs for clients, which includes professional presentation and commentary. Instructors are looking for the whole package!” says Chief Academic Officer Tara MacKay.

Despite the important presentation details, online programs offer a greater flexibility for students than traditional programs. You don’t need to meet in the classroom at a specific time, and you can learn and participate at a pace that suits you. At Sessions, you will still be committed to weekly deadlines, but how you schedule your week is up to you. Ask yourself these questions to help guide your time management and study skills:

  • Are you more of a morning person, or an evening person? When are you most alert and focused?
  • Can you carve out blocks of uninterrupted time for completing assignments?
  • Do you have a dedicated space (like a home office) for your online learning?
  • Can you make adequate time for research, exploring art and design in the real world?
  • Do you have any digital or analog methods for keeping on track, such as iPhone apps or a big whiteboard in your office?
  • Have you allotted enough time for yourself and for family?

What is flexible learning?

It’s finding the time management and study skills that work best for you when learning online. But this doesn’t mean that you’re alone. Student advisors and instructors are always available to help you through any obstacles.

Share your ideas for time management and study skills

in the comments for this post, and don’t be shy about sharing your failed attempts too! (For example, I had a PDA that was working beautifully until I forgot to sync it to my laptop and it fell in a snow bank.)

Next time, we’ll talk about how critiques figure in to traditional and online art and design education.

Clara LaFrance
Course Producer, Sessions College

Clara LaFrance is a freelance graphic designer when she is not pursuing her dreams as a circus teacher and performer. Clara has an M.F.A. in graphic design from Boston University.