While we’re all used to studying online it’s not the same as studying through lockdowns. Working from home full time and being unable to attend campus can take a lot of adjustment both practically and psychologically. It helps to have a few strategies in place to help you through these challenging periods.
Make a study timetable
Possibly one of the hardest things about studying and working from home is sticking to a schedule. It’s so easy to blur the boundaries between daily activities and study. One minute you’re doing your weekly reading and the next you’re catching up on laundry. Or in the other extreme you spend the whole day in front of a computer on just one unit. To create balance and prioritise tasks it helps to have a daily timetable that divides the day into chunks of study. Start by listing the things you want to achieve and then work out the best order to do them. Don’t panic if you don’t get through everything – just carry the unfinished tasks to the next day. Make sure you include regular breaks and leave time for some exercise. Learn more about managing your time.
Organise your study space
Not everyone has the luxury of a dedicated space to study but it’s important to try and find an area that you can use. Keeping your study space neat and tidy helps you feel organised and in control. Make sure you have everything you need so you don’t distract yourself by wandering through the house looking for things. If you share a space with others let them know you’re working so they can keep disturbances to a minimum. Sometimes it helps to change your environment so take some reading outside or do some writing at the kitchen table to change it up a bit.
We’re all prone to procrastination and it’s even more of a problem when studying at at home. There’s always something else to do and it’s more difficult to avoid the temptations of social media, gaming, streaming your favourite show and so on. This is the time for self-discipline. Try limiting time that you can use your phone. Put it in another room an access it only when you have a scheduled break. Noise-cancelling headphones may help you concentrate or you could find ‘focus’ playlists which feature instrumental music to help keep you in the zone. Check out an earlier post with tips for being organised.
Understand how you learn
Different students learn in different ways so it’s worth thinking about what works for you. If taking endless notes and re-reading material doesn’t seem to help you process infromation then change it up. Try creating flashcards to test yourself or create a mind map to explore different aspects of a topic. Experiment with note-taking and find a method that suits you. The Cornell method is useful for organising notes to revise later. It involves dividing a page into a main column, a narrower column beside it and a space at the foot of the page. The main column is for main notes, the right-hand column is for headings and/or key words and the space at the bottom is for a summary. This format allows you to test yourself easily and the process of creating the notes actually forces you to think about the meaning of the content. Learn more about note-taking in QUT’s study resources.
While we’re all in lockdown it becomes the norm to stay in touch with friends and family using FaceTime, Skype, Zoom etc but it’s also important to make contact with other students. Use social media, video links, email, chat or voice calls to share ideas, discuss assignments, test each other or just share experiences. Commit to attending online tutorials and support sessions to make sure you stay connected with your lecturers, tutors and classmates. If you feel that you need extra support or some advice on how to manage your study book a Success Coaching appointment. QUT also offers free, confidential counselling services for all current students.
Don’t forget to keep checking for COVID-19 updates.
Whether you are new to uni or returning to study after a break, it can be both exciting and overwhelming when the semester finally begins. Here are a few things you can do to make sure you have everything you need to set yourself up for success.
Download the QUT app
This is a great first step in getting organised. The free student app really helps you manage your studies. Use it to search and register for all kinds of eventsand keep track of your classes. If you are on campus it can even help find a car park, check shuttle bus times and locate rooms.
App Store download
Google Play download
Connect with on social media
There are a range of social media channels to help you connect with QUT and your peers. Check out the official channels to stay up to date with all things QUT.
You will also find many more connections through your faculty so make sure you look out for this info in your units.
Attend orientation and study skills sessions
Make sure you join your essential orientation events. They cover everything you need to know about studying in your faculty and give you a chance to meet others.
Look out for other workshops to help you prepare for study at university.
Don’t worry if you miss something as most session will be recorded and available to access online.
Have everything you need
Be ready to start with all the text books and study materials you need for each unit. Once you have enrolled you can view your personalised booklist.
Don’t forget to check out what’s available in QUT Library as it stocks a small supply of prescribed readings and textbooks.
Starting an assessment task can be stressful. Not sure where to begin? Here are 5 steps to help you get on track:
Understand the task
During your course you’ll be expected to submit lots of different types of assessment. Understanding the assessment requirements and reading the task instructions carefully will help you stay on track and submit what is actually required. If you’re unfamiliar with academic writing you might what to check out types of assignments. The assessment guidelines include the marking rubric (CRA) which outlines the standards used to grade your work. These often contain extra information about weighting of marks and how many references to include so it pays to read them carefully for EVERY assessment task. The instructions also include information about the accepted format, referencing style and mode of delivery for presentations. Find out more about CRA sheets.
Analyse the task instructions
Once you’ve checked out the task itself and looked at all the criteria it helps to break it down further. You can unpack the assignment by identifying key words that tell you more about what is required:
Content words identify the topic or issues related to your task.
Directive words explain what you need to do to meet the criteria and how to do it.
Limiting words narrow the scope of your assessment by providing more detail.
Use the key words to brainstorm everything you know about the content (topic) so that you are ready for the next step. Find examples of directive words in the Task Word Glossary.
Research the narrowed down topic
Use the content words (which tell you about the topic) and limiting words to make a research plan. Make a list of questions that you need to answer and make sure you read with that purpose in mind. It’s important to note the searches you do so you can keep refining the search and find the most relevant, current information. If you don’t feel confident about researching a topic QUT Library has a stack of online resources to guide you through the process.
Organise your notes effectively
You need to read and note the information you have identified as useful for your assessment task. There’s no one method that works for everyone but it helps to have a basic system and to keep reviewing and refining your skills during the semester. So, make sure you develop a process to organise your information in a way that makes your life easier. Record the reference material every time you refer to a source. If you are doing this electronically use file names that make it easy to locate the information later and store the files under topics so you can locate them again for future reference. Learn more about effective notetaking in our study guides.
Make a detailed plan
Whether you’re writing an essay or preparing a presentation it always helps to have a really good plan. Use the task instructions to map out what you need to include in your assessment task.
Most written assignments require you to organise the information logically and the task instructions will often give you a structure to follow.
It may be tempting to think that it’s not so important to write a plan for a presentation but careful planning goes a long way! Planning the content, structure and timing of a presentation is essential to achieve maximum grades. Check out QUT’s guides for preparing a presentation.
The first assessment you do at uni or the first assessment for a new unit can feel a bit overwhelming and it’s easy to let self-doubt creep in. The good news is, you’re not alone at there are so many resources to support you. Check out academic help and workshops available to you this semester.
It’s the beginning of another new year and you might be feeling excited about what’s ahead or dreading the thought of getting back into study routine. Either way, it’s a good idea to start your preparations early and be ready for the approaching semester. There are a few things you can do to ease yourself back into your studies and successfully prepare for the year ahead.
Set realistic goals
Before you begin the new semester, set some goals to work towards for the year. Commit to things that you can realistically achieve and reflect on what you can improve on from last year. You might want to aim for a certain GPA, get better at planning assessment tasks, attend more workshops and support sessions or make more of an effort to meet people. To get started it can help to break down the year into quarters and focus on the first three months.
Make a budget and look for ways to save money
While the summer break is often a good opportunity to earn and save money, it can be challenging to manage finances during the semester. If you have to live on a student budget, now is a great time to start planning for the months ahead. Identify your busy periods and consider when you might be able to pick up some extra hours. Don’t forget to check out QUT’s financial help and support resources.
Check off all your admin tasks
Before you have to head back to campus or attend your first classes make sure you have completed as many administrative tasks as possible. Class registration usually opens about four weeks before semester starts so you have plenty of time to plan your timetable. Arranging your textbooks and course materials during the holidays can also give you time to source second-hand books or plan your budget. If you have access to unit outlines, you can even start noting down assessment due dates and plan for those busy periods in advance.
Look for ways to expand your learning
Not all learning happens in class and the holidays are a good time to think about how you can build your skills before your workload starts to increase. Reflect on areas for improvement and look for opportunities to develop academic skills such as reading articles, note-taking and academic writing. It’s also a good time to research potential internship and volunteering opportunities or ways to get more involved at uni. Don’t forget to refresh your résumé by adding any skills or new experience you’ve gained.
Organise your study space
The simple act of clearing and tidying your study area is a great way to get back into study mode and motivate yourself for the year ahead. This includes , as well as buying stationery and supplies so that you have everything you need for the semester. Creating good study habits relies on having a space in which you can be most productive. This may be somewhere quiet where you’re on your own or it may even be in a space where you are surrounded by people and noise. Whatever works for you. The key is to find your preferred space and stick with it so you can create a consistent study routine.
Near the end of the semester it can be such a relief to hand in that last assignment or submit that final blog post, but for most students the work is far from over. Preparing for exams can be a real challenge when motivation and energy levels are low so it helps to have a few effective strategies in place.
Set up your study environment
Display your timetable and let everyone in the house know you are preparing for exams
Set up a dedicated space for study to help you focus
If you’re studying in the library choose a quiet spot and use headphones to block out noise
Create a plan for the exam period – including relaxation/sleep habits/nutrition/exercise
If you live alone prepare meals in advance and freeze them for easy access during exams
Think about how you can limit distractions such as online notifications, chat and social media
Own your time
Make a detailed timetable for each exam (unit) – try concentrating on one per day
Make sure you know the details for each exam – log in to Blackboard for updates from lecturers
Check that you understand the type of exam that you will be doing
Organise and store revision notes so that you can refer to them easily
Break your study into 30-minute chunks and plan exactly what you will focus on
Try different methods to revise content
Summarise the key points for each week’s topic
Quiz yourself to identify what you need to work on
Use apps such as Quizlet or stick to hardcopy cards to carry around with you.
Make a list of things you’re not confident about you may want to do
Create your own set of questions to answer
Find a study buddy and test each other
Try any practice tests that are made available to you – note what you found difficult
While it’s important to have a study plan and stick to a routine don’t underestimate the power of a break. Give yourself a morning or afternoon off during exam time. See friends, go shopping, watch a movie, do some exercise. Taking some time out will refresh you so that you can return to study with a clear mind and purpose.
And, if it’s all getting too much for you make sure you reach out for support. Talk to friends, family, peers or access the free services at QUT Student Counselling and Welfare.
Make sure your mental health and wellbeing are a priority!
When it comes to any type of assessment the key to success is preparation. This is no different for online assessment tasks and exams. Having a clear head and being prepared can make a huge difference to the outcome.
Preparing the technology
Update and double check required software (e.g. RStudio, MATLAB, Mozilla Firefox, etc).
Install Mozilla Firefox; this is the recommended QUT browser for online assessment (Internet Explorer and other browsers may cause issues).
Restart your computer to free up any memory.
Once restarted, only open the apps you need to complete your assessment.
Check your unit’s Blackboard site and HiQ for who to contact if you need support.
Preparing the space
Let your housemates/ family know when you plan to begin your assessment.
Set up your desk with only what you need
Get comfortable; make sure your chair, desk and computer are arranged at an appropriate height and angle.
Address any potentially annoying distractions in the room (e.g. creaky doors, loud ticking clocks etc).
Ensure the space has good lighting.
Have notes ready and pages bookmarked; organise them into themes or categories and use labels to help you find things quickly.
Plan time for your assessment; allocate time blocks to peruse, answer and revise the different sections. Also allow enough time toward the end for uploading files.
Turn off your other devices to avoid being distracted by texts, phone calls, notifications, etc.
Take 5 minutes before you begin to do some light stretches and breathing.
During your assessment
Read all instructions carefully.
Stick to your time plan – don’t allow yourself to be stuck on one question or problem.
Check that your answers are inserted correctly and are in an acceptable format for the system.
Follow all directions regarding academic integrity. QUT has systems in place to check for this.
Tests can be set up with different options, so each test you take may be different to one you have taken before. Your lecturer, tutor or unit coordinator may give you details about the test’s settings, and you will also see a screen summarising the settings as you enter the test. Check out Preparing for Exams for more tips on revision and time management.
Like it or not, spelling actually matters! For some of us it doesn’t come easily but every written assessment you submit will be marked for English expression which includes grammar, spelling and puntuation. If you want to express yourself clearly and achieve the highest possible grades it’s important to take the time to proofread assignments for spelling errors.
A good starting point is to select English(Australia) in Word before you start working on your document and make sure you use Microsoft Editor. If you need help to set up editing for Microsoft Word have a look at this quick guide or check out the free training on LinkedIn Learning (requires QUT sign-in).
Another strategy to improve your writing is to learn more about it. There are literally thousands of websites dedicated to writing and language use but Oxford English Dictionary has a great section on its site, Lexico, which contains lots of quick-reference spelling tips. For example, if you can’t remember whether the plural of tomato is spelled tomatoes or tomatos, then you can jump straight to plurals of nouns post to get some advice. There’s also a handy list of common misspellings, arranged in alphabetical order and a guide to the differences between British and American spelling.
No matter how you go about it the important thing to remember is that poor spelling leaves an impression so it’s worth taking the time to get it right!
Have you ever been told your ‘writing is too descriptive‘ or ‘you need more critical analysis‘? This is common feedback on written assessment and a source of frustration for many students. While some description is necessary most uni assessment tasks require you to produce more analytical and critical writing. This shows that you are engaging in current academic debates and have evaluated the research relevant to your discipline.
So, what does it mean to be critical?
In order to be a more critical writer you need to be critical throughout the whole writing process.
questioning what you read and not necessarily agreeing with it.
looking for reasons why you shouldn’t accept something as being correct or true.
identifying problems with arguments or methods, or referring to criticisms of these.
suggesting ways in which something could be improved (if required).
sometimes reflecting on your own behaviour/attitudes/performance.
Demonstrate your understanding
Your writing needs to show how you have interpreted the unit content and readings, how you have used that information to demonstrate your understanding, and what your position is on the topic. This doesn’t mean that you are including you opinion (unless asked to) but you are building an academic argument based on what you know and the evidence you have.
The way you structure your argument and the quality of the evidence you use to support your claims illustrate your thought process and how well you have understood the issue or topic.
Support your argument with quality evidence
Make sure you always use evidence to help you strengthen your position. Synthesise sources to ensure you answer the reader’s potential questions and counter any opposing arguments.
For most assignments you don’t need to provide a lot of background or historical information so you should keep descriptive statements to a minimum. Focus on providing more analysis and evaluation to demonstrate your interpretation of the facts, and support your arguments by explaining the significance, outlining consequences and/or implications and making recommendations.
Tips for being more critical
Don’t just describe something. Make sure your writing also identifies the significance of the issue/evidence.
Rather than simply explaining what the theory says go further and show why that theory is relevant.
It’s also not enough to outline the method/intervention/treatment. You need to demonstrate how appropriate it is.
Make sure your writing always answers the question so what?
For useful phrases to use in your writing check out Manchester Phrasebank’s section on Being Critical.
And if you really want to learn more try this free online course from Future Learn
Write Up is a wonderful support service for students and I feel so lucky to be one of the facilitators for the team.
We get students to work together, give feedback and provide support for understanding, responding and structuring assignment tasks, checking and integrating research, and help with language.
So far, we’ve had students from a wide array of faculties, and I thought I would share the most common issues that students have asked us for help with.
Here are my top three writing tips
1. Before you even set pen to paper, get organised! Gather all your resources together from your tutes and lectures (especially your assignment task sheet with the criteria!). Now you’re all set to begin. Your task sheet is your treasure map. It is your guide to what you need to cover in your assignment.
2. Keep your sentences short for clarity—if you see any sentences that are running over 3 or 4 lines, it’s time to break them up with full stops!
3. Always be specific about the ‘subject’ of your sentence and who you are referring to. For example, if you are currently referring to your theorists as ‘they’, it’s time to use their name, or be more specific about their role. Make your writing as clear for the reader as you can. If you only use words like ‘they’ or ‘she/he’ the reader won’t know if you’re talking about the ‘nurses’ or the ‘patients’. Don’t make them guess!
We look forward to seeing you in one of our Write Up sessions.
They’re fun and helpful and we can’t wait to meet you all.
Write Up facilitator
Now more than ever we’re being asked to embrace technology and step out of our comfort zones to present information online. There are so many amzaing tools out there to create a presentaion but it takes a bit of work for most of us to actually feel confident in front of a camera. Trial and error can be the best way to get comfortable with new technology but it also helps to have a plan.
Prepare, prepare, prepare
Create a clear focus with 1-3 key message(s).
Revise your drafts and edit out unnecessary content.
Make notes for each screen / section.
Think about how you are going to engage the audience.
Practise timing of spoken presentation.
Like any presentation the key is preparation. This means getting started early and planning.
Become familiar with the technology (eg. Zoom, Viva Voce, Collaborate etc)
Screen sharing and presenter view.
Playing an embedded video (if relevant).
Using a spotlight or highlight on a speaker.
Setting up and testing audio and video.
No matter which web conferencing software you use the key is understanding its features. Make sure you know how to control the following:
Set everything up fully to achieve the best results
It’s also important to choose a suitable location for your presentation. Make sure you find a space which is quiet and has good lighting. This may mean booking a study room in the library or going to a friend’s house when they’re out. If at home let others know that you are presenting live or recording so you’re not interrupted.
Before you start, think about your appearance.
Wear appropriate clothing – smart casual (no PJs!).
Angle your camera just above eye level to frame your shoulders and face.
Keep your face well-lit with natural light, or place a lamp behind the camera, towards your face.
Remove personal items or anything visible in the background.
Do a final check of the technology.
Test earphones, phone camera or webcam.
Close down all unnecessary browsers, windows or apps and turn notifications off.
Have notes ready (printed or in presenter view).
Test slideshare settings in presenter view.
Check the audio and video settings.
Log into the web meeting on another device to check the audience view.
Practise making a short recording then watch it back.
Pause when you transition between slides or present complex information.
Speak from notes rather than ‘reading’.
Breath and smile as you talk.
Follow assessment task instructions carefully.
Don’t forget to hit record!
Tips for pre-recording your presentation
Some assessment tasks require you to record your presentation and upload the file. The same principles apply but you may need to do things a bit differently when pre-recording.
Whether you’re presenting in person or online being a clear, confident and engaging communicator is an essential skill to have so it’s worth investing some time and energy into it. Check out more QUT resources on presenting online.