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How to prepare for your timed online assessment

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.
  • Preparing yourself
  • 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.

    Don’t let spelling bring you down

    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!

    How to be more critical in your writing

    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.
    This involves:

  • 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

    Preparing for uni

    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.

    Facebook
    Twitter
    Insta

    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.

    Top 3 Write Up tips

    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.

    Anna
    Write Up facilitator

    How to feel confident presenting online

    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
    Like any presentation the key is preparation. This means getting started early and planning.

  • 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.
  • Become familiar with the technology (eg. Zoom, Viva Voce, Collaborate etc)
    No matter which web conferencing software you use the key is understanding its features. Make sure you know how to control the following:

  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!
  • 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.

    Effective writing with APA 7th edition

    When writing university assignments you have to acknowledge quotations, information and ideas taken from other authors. At QUT the four commonly used styles for citing and referencing are APA, Harvard, AGLC and Vancouver. APA Style is used in many disciplines but it is most commonly required in Health and Education.

    This online tutorial has been adapted from APA’s tool for teaching and learning effective writing. It takes you through the basics of seventh edition APA Style, including format, and organisation; academic writing style; grammar and usage; tables and figures; in-text citations, paraphrasing, and quotations; and reference list format and order.

    You can also find more information on seventh edition APA Style in the official Publication Manual (7th ed.) and the Style and Grammar Guidelines section of the APA Style website.

    These days there are also heaps of tools that can help you manage your readings and referencing. While they might seem to make things quicker and easier, it’s important to know that they are not 100% reliable. Make sure you fully understand the elements and construction of citing and referencing.

    Detailed examples can be found on QUT cite|write which has been designed to help you create references that meet the requirements of the university and your specific units. For EVERY assessment task you do make sure you check the task instructions carefully and ask your lecturer/tutor if you are not sure which style you need to use.

    5 tips for proofreading your assignment

    Nearly time to submit that assignment? You’re probably sick of looking at it but don’t let basic errors and typos affect your grade. Proofreading is the final stage of the editing process which focuses on surface errors such as mistakes in spelling, grammar, citation and punctuation. Take time to do a last minute proofread to look for those all-important details. Here are our top tips for proofreading.

    Use Tools on Word
    As a starting point use the tools available to you such as the Editor (hit F7) in Word which checks spelling, grammar and style. Set your Proofing Language to Australian English (AU) by finding ‘Language’ in the Review menu and selecting the required language. This will underline any words that are not spelled correctly so that you can correct them if necessary. Just remember that some terminology may not come up in a spellcheck so it’s always best to confirm you have it right.

    Print a Copy
    No doubt you’ve already spent weeks staring at a computer screen so your eyes need a break. It can really help to print your essay out and make changes with a different colour on the hard copy. Changing the format of your writing will help you to pick up all those little errors that you didn’t notice when your were writing and editing.

    Read Aloud

    It sounds simple but reading your writing out loud can help you to identify grammatical errors as well as content that is incorrect or confusing. If you notice any particularly long sentences, think about where they could be split to make your points clearer. Complex sentences may sound impressive, but they often leave the reader wondering what your main point is.

    Check your Citations
    Always refer to your task instructions and QUT cite|write for accurate citing and referencing information. Check each citation as you go and make sure it follows the examples given exactly. Don’t forget to check the placement of the parentheses, commas and full stops.

    Take Micro Breaks!
    Writing is hard work so it’s important to take regular breaks throughout the process. Plan to have five-minute breaks every half hour to allow your brain to work at its best. If possible, go outside and get some fresh air to avoid feeling sleepy. Also, make sure you stay hydrated with plenty of water to help you work at your best!

    Proofreading can be tedious but it’s worth investing time into ensuring your writing is error-free and meets the assessment task requirements.

    Top tips for joining online sessions

    It’s safe to say that we’ll all be joining live online sessions through one of the many tools avaiable. Whether it’s through Collaborate Ultra, Zoom, Skype or another platform it helps to know what’s expected and how you can participate successfully.

    Before the session

  • Find a quiet space where you can concentrate fully.
  • Make sure you have a reliable Internet connection.
  • If possible use a USB headset with a microphone.
  • Test the audio and video before you start.
  • Make sure you are familiar with the platform controls etc.
  • Add a profile image to create a friendlier more connected environment (nothing too weird!).
  • In the session

  • Mute your microphone and turn off your video when you join.
  • Check to see if there are any instrcutions or starter activities on screen.
  • Introduce yourself (if appropriate) or say your name when you speak for the first time.
  • Avoid interrupting other speakers and mute your mic while wiaiting.
  • Use the platform features such as chat or raising your hand to ask questions.
  • Audio and video tips

  • Don’t shout into your mic – just speak clearly in your normal voice.
  • Only turn on video when necessary or instructed to do so.
  • Position your webcam so the top half of your body is visible.
  • Be aware of what is behind you when your camera’s on. We can all see it!!!
  • Avoid busy virtual backgrounds – a plain background is best.
  • In some ways it’s easier to hide in an online session but the same manners apply as they do in person.
    Be polite, respect others and be prepared to contribute!

    How to stay connected online

    Are you finding it hard to study online? Sitting behind a screen can make you feel alone but the good news is that these days you have more ways to connect than ever before. Here are a few things you can do to stay fully connected with your course.

    Make a study plan
    Study takes time and effort so it’s important to plan your week. Make a weekly schedule of sessions to attend or participate in and the amount of time you plan to spend on each unit. Don’t forget to include deadlines for assessment tasks. Commit yourself to specific times to do the set reading, review your notes, conduct research and prepare for the weekly content in each unit. Be ready to participate in online discussion and ask questions.

    Be disciplined
    It’s so important to log in to Blackboard daily and check your QUT email. Staying up to date with unit announcements, new discussion posts and content will help you learn as well as deepen your connection with the online community. Develop your own strategy for working through the resources and posts so that you keep on top of anything new.

    Be active
    Set yourself up for success by contributing to online discussions, asking questions, and responding to fellow students. The more you engage, the more you’ll feel connected to your peers as well as the content. Make the most of apps, discussion boards, videos and other technology that helps you get involved. Make an effort to interact with your lecturers, tutors and peers whenever you have the opportunity. It’s easy to sit back and remain passive but that won’t get you the results you’re after!

    Stick together
    One of the best things about being a student is that you’re never alone! Take advantage of fellow students who truly understand the pressure of study because they’re experiencing it too. Use this opportunity to work with and learn from others. Group work can give you a wide range of perspectives and help strengthen your own knowledge. Make the most of the technology available to set up a virtual study group.

    AskQUT
    As a QUT student you have access to so many wonderful resources and support networks. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed, but the first step is often just asking a simple question. HiQ Chat is a good starting point for general questions or Chat with a Librarian for information on resources, research and referencing.

    So, don’t let sitting in front of a screen prevent you from feeling connected to your study. Make the most of your peers, university staff and technology to successfully study online.