How Many Hours Should You Dedicate Daily to an Online Course

Jordan Coleman
Published by Jordan Coleman
Last Updated On: December 8, 2021

Whether you choose to do online courses to save time and money, or you simply do not have a choice - studying can be one of the most daunting tasks an online student faces.

The key to success with online learning is not underestimating how much time studying will take. Scheduling the right amount of time and making sure you stick to it is incredibly important.

After searching all corners of the web, browsing student forums, I can finally present you with the ultimate guide to online learning, as well as some perks to an online class.

How Many Hours Should You Dedicate Daily To An Online Course?

female student pointing at her wrist seated on desk

Before we answer this one, you need to be aware of how do online courses work.

An online course provides you with the same level of education as an on-campus program gives you, the only difference being online programs are much more flexible.

Therefore, you should feel like you’re getting the same amount of education value from your online program as normal college students.

In order not to make material sacrifices, many online courses have the same time requirements as in-person learning.

You’ll usually spend around 9 hours per week attending classes or independently going over your activities.

This will be over 15 week for a total of 135 hours per 3-credit course.

These 135 hours, however, typically refer to class time, and not your entire study hours.

Additional Study Hours to Consider

You also have to take into consideration the time you take reading study materials, browsing online forums and required readings, and watching videos from your instructor.

Generally, students spend around 15 - 20 hours per week, both in college and during online courses, on their coursework [1].

However, this does depend on your credit hour per course. So, you should be spending around two to three hours a day going over course material and studying.

This all depends on your flexibility and if you’re willing to put long hours into your study. Virtual learning allows you to generate your own study schedule, and there's no need to be in physical class at 9 am.

If you have a job or kids or other commitments, you can work one or two hours of studying into your weekday and maybe three hours into your weekend. Depending on the degree level and course, you may have specific deadlines you have to reach.

Generally, as long as you hit your complete credit hour by the end of term, even if you only manage to attend classes in your spare time, you’ll be fine as long as you learn efficiently.

Read More: How Fast Can I Finish an Online Course? 

Determine Your Learning Style

woman writing on a notebook with stack of books open

Many students take four or five hours per day going over coursework, repeatedly, hoping to cram in all the information in a limited number of hours.

I hate to break it to you, but that does more damage than good.

To ensure you study effectively, online students have to figure out a study method. Maybe you’re a visual learner, or you retain information better when listening than reading.

It’s also possible you have a better idea when you do it instead of watching.

Once you figure this out, you’ll waste less time and spend more time retaining important information.

Different ways in which you can learn include:

  • Strong note-taking
  • Mind maps
  • Listening to the lectures
  • Reading the lectures
  • Discussing with other students

The Harder The Subject, The Longer The Study

A good way to determine how many hours per week you need to spend studying is determining how difficult your courses are.

If you don't have much knowledge on the subject, it may also take you longer as you’ll need to do more subject research.

For subjects that are easier, two hours of study time should be set aside per every credit hour. Ones that are a little more difficult, students should apply four hours a week per credit hour.

Study Smarter

laptop with teacher teaching on screen and a student thinking holding up a book and pen

Unless you’re taking an online course on how to be productive, you may struggle with your time management and study schedule.

Once you figure out when you should study, you can dramatically decrease how long you study. Before you log in, give yourself 30 minutes to review your study notes and previous class downloads.

“Students typically spend six hours a week on coursework for each credit they enroll in.”


- Joe Chapman, Director of student services and ASU

After students finish their online courses, it’s a great idea to give yourself another half hour to review everything you have just learned. This will trim many hours per week off your study time.

At the end of each week, sit down to review all your previous virtual classes, notes, and downloads. Bring your textbook along so you can refer to anything you’re unsure of.

My best advice is to complete all college assignments by the due date, even if they’re only due when class ends.

Prospective students will soon learn that doing this will take much less time than your typical 2-4 hours per week of studying.

Of course, if you have tests or quizzes, you’ll need to schedule some extra time, especially if you’re doing a graduate study.

Balancing Your Study

female student happy and giving a thumbs up with her laptop and books on desk

Many people who choose to study virtually don't have time for the typical ‘college life.’ One student could be a mother of three, another could be a part-time worker.

Balancing your work life, student life and free time isn’t easy.

A student who also has a busy home will not have time to cram all that studying into 13 free hours a week. Plus, you have to have your own downtime too.

Always remember that both physical and mental health is more important than your grades.

Don’t sacrifice your sanity and home life to get that A. If you get a B or C, you’ll also end up with the same degree.

Staying up and spending 40 hours per week studying instead of sleeping is not healthy. You’ll excel much more in your classes if you eat 3 meals a day and get a good night's sleep.

Did you know that our brain takes 20% of our energy every day, just in the resting state [2]?

When you reach your limit, you may feel like your brain is completely fried. When you reach this stage, it’s time to take a step back from assignments, even if it’s for a short time.

When you’re making your schedule, sit down and work out how many hours you can really have a day with your virtual courses. Of course, while also ensuring you live healthy and happy.

Read More:

4 Advantages To Online Study

teenage girl looking a her laptop screen, and a person listening in an online class

If you’re considering taking an online course, take a look at the following benefits:

1. Flexible

Many people prefer a virtual class or a degree due to the flexibility they provide. These programs are great to fit around your existing schedule, unlike on-campus programs.

If you work full time, you’re still able to pursue a degree on the side.

2. Work From Home

If you prefer taking a class from home, you can do that with virtual classes.

You won't have to take time commuting every day, and you’ll save money on all sorts of things including transportation and campus fees.

Plus, studying in the comfort of your own home can be more comfortable all around.

3. Work At Your Own Pace

Lectures can sometimes be a bit much for people, especially if you’re having an off day and can't concentrate.

The beauty of virtual classes means you can simply pause the lecture video if you feel like you need more time to understand the subject.

You’ll still have deadlines you’ll need to meet and a good rapport to build, however, you can do them in your own time and at your own pace.

4. Learn New Skills

If you aren’t very savvy when it comes to technology, taking a virtual class will help you adapt to using new tech.

Video chatting, forums, attending lectures, and interacting with your peers and professors - all on your computer.

The Bottom Line

Determining how long you should spend on your education is a daunting task, to say the least. Experts recommend 2-3 hours a day to spend studying, going over course material, and attending classes.

However, the beauty of virtual learning is the opportunity to fit studying around your life. If you can only study 2 hours one day and 4 hours the next, that’s okay.

As long as you’re hitting your course hours and you’re mentally and physically okay, you can be flexible with your learning time.


  1. https://www.usnews.com/higher-education/online-education/articles/2018-01-16/how-do-online-classes-work-10-frequently-asked-questions#Q1
  2. https://www.brainfacts.org/brain-anatomy-and-function/anatomy/2019/how-much-energy-does-the-brain-use-020119

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