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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.