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Online classes are the most convenient and flexible way to get a degree. One of the perks with online education is the ability to travel and take vacations while continuing with classes. As we’ve discussed in previous blog posts, online students need a lot of self-directedness, determination, and planning to be successful, and this is even more important if you want or need to schedule a vacation during an online class. Many online students are limited to when they can take vacation because of work or family obligations and very few people are willing to interrupt a degree program by putting off classes for 6 or 8 weeks just so they can take a 1-2 week vacation. With online classes, you can do both at the same time!

I have travelled while taking online classes as a grad student and am doing so now while teaching as an online professor. The key is in planning ahead for every contingency, making a schedule for school work, and sticking with your daily schedule. Here are some tips for continued success in an online class while on vacation or traveling.

  1. Plan ahead: It’s best not to schedule a travel day when postings or assignments are due; however, some of my students and colleagues do just fine working in the car while someone else is driving. Personally, I find it easier to just plan to be where I’m going on days when work is due.
  2. Technology and connectivity: Whatever you do and wherever you go, you MUST have the ability to get online every day. I had a student a few years back tell me she was going to Fiji and would have no internet and wanted to make up the first week of class when she got back. I googled where she was staying and found six internet cafes within walking distance of her accommodations. I sent those to her and offered a choice of working while on vacation or dropping the class, taking it later when she would not be away from home. She chose to work while on vacation.
  3. Look ahead at the assignments: The week before your scheduled departure, look through the weekly discussions and assignments that will be due while you are on vacation. Figure out how much time you will need to complete each discussion (including responding to classmates) and writing the assignments. Ask any questions you may have about those assignments before you leave.
  4. Make a schedule: Set aside however many hours you need each day for reading, writing, posting, and working on assignments. For example, if discussions are due on Wednesday, begin reading and writing those on Monday so you can take your time and complete high quality work. Start writing assignments that are due on Sunday early in the week so you have time to read, research, draft, edit and revise. You might work just one hour on a few days and 2-3 hours on other days. Factor that into your daily vacation plans.
  5. Complete some school work each day: Generally it’s better to work an hour or so (longer for more extensive assignments) each day than to be stuck on a due date having done no work at all. Sometimes the best intentions don’t work out and you’ll need to make up the time elsewhere that day. For example, sometimes I plan to work early in the morning for a couple hours and something comes up that prevents me from staying on my scheduled work time. I have to make up those hours later in the day and have even stayed up past midnight to fit in the work time I missed earlier in the day. So do be prepared to be flexible and possibly give up a little sleep sometimes by getting up a bit earlier or staying up a bit later on some days.
  6. Contact your professor ahead of time: Actually this is debatable and there are differing viewpoints on whether or not this is necessary. I never notified my professors when I was traveling or working somewhere other than home. Nor do I tell my online students when I am traveling. Some students ask for extensions on due dates because they are on vacation. Word of warning – don’t do that. You might ask to work ahead a week but you won’t be able to do discussions early or late. It’s best to just plan ahead and do everything on time.

Plenty of online professors and students have gone to exotic islands, hiked in the mountains, gone on cruises, traveled the country in an RV for months on end, travelled abroad, and any other type of vacation you can think of! As long as you plan ahead, keep to a schedule for school work, and complete all the work on time, you can take a vacation or travel during an online class.