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This is the time of year when many first year university students withdraw from subjects and from tertiary education all together. I believe there are many reasons for this, amongst them course selection, university life not living up to expectation, social isolation or social overwhelm, trying to manage finances and carry a big part time work load at the same time as attending lectures and juggling assignments. For others the transition from school was simply too great, and they feel that they need time out to reflect and reconsider their options. A university education also comes at a significant financial cost, and so persevering with a course that doesn’t fit makes no sense to them. Here in Australia in 2015, an estimated 33 000 undergraduate first year students are expected to drop out of their university course. I can’t imagine the cost of this loss to our tertiary education system, and presume it’s the reason behind so much emphasis being placed on retention counseling and coaching.

Thankfully, this doesn’t mean that they are lost to learning! These students now find themselves in a position to widen their lens and look for other learning opportunities. Academic re-engagement can happen at any stage – and at any age! One of the most exciting outcomes of the internet reaching our homes has been the chance to become an online student! The world literally becomes our oyster and the choice of student pathways and courses are incredible. Anything becomes possible once again and the dream of a tertiary education stays alive!

My question is how do students who embark on an online course maintain a feeling that their lives are balanced?

With many students working long hours each week while juggling their family commitments, their friendships and health, finding the time to log in and have a study session can feel overwhelming. My answer is that Life Balance is a term that causes some misunderstanding because there is no ‘balance’ to it at all! It truly is an integrated juggle of life roles, and each student will deal with it in a different way.

What is important is that they are very aware of how they feel about each aspect of their lives, and that they become masters at prioritization.

A wonderful PhD study by Dr Robyn Young (2009) highlighted seven insights, which I would like to share with you because they explain how we can better understand Life Balance and how students can optimally navigate this academic pathway:-

1. Life Balance is not about equality of time allocated; it is about our actual versus our preferred allocation of time (are we making the choices we want to be making?)
2. It comes from feeling in control of the decisions we make about how we allocate our time (when we are making the choices we want to, we will feel more in control)
3. Work is an integral part of life (Work and study are a part of life – it’s an integration, not an either/or situation)
4. Work has different meaning to different people
5. Life Balance requires diversity by incorporating many roles into our lives (being involved in a number of things is helpful, socializing/community/family/work etc)
6. It is a process, and not an outcome (the effort, strategies and focus we bring to our daily lives is what matters, not the outcome. Success will follow)
7. Taking responsibility for our own Life Balance provides control of the process (it’s our life and we need to find our own solutions to our own situation)

Students who are studying online may have many queries:

  • how to best integrate their new study commitment into their life so that their well-being isn’t negatively affected by competing demands
  • how to better manage their time and create flexible study timetables
  • how to better cope with their workload and plan for assessment
  • how to keep their motivation alive
  • how to overcome procrastination. Perhaps they are a time drifter, and find themselves surfing the internet for hours, unable to focus on the study task at hand.

I am proud of the support that UBalancer is able to offer online students. Our punchy diagnostic cloud based online program, together with great coaching conversations, complement online learning in a clear, visual way that helps students to understand their situation and plan for their own performance. All through this process, students are gaining fantastic insight on how to take personal responsibility, and to have a balanced approach and enhanced well-being.

I do believe that our holistic approach to student well-being may impact on retention rates and that with this kind of coach support, students will find themselves in a position to happily juggle their life roles, stay focused and put in the effort they want to into their study. Their success is sure to follow!

Cheers Alison

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