I have recently reached the end of my first semester as an Online, Mature-Aged, Undergraduate, Theology Student, Full-Time, and as I haven’t posted anything this month, I thought I would share my experience with you. This particular post might interest you if you are contemplating pursuing studying and are considered a mature-aged person or school leaver interested in pursuing full-time studying at an Undergraduate Level as an Online Student. I won’t be able to share with you my final grades, as I haven’t received them, but I will be able to share with you some information on my struggles and also the benefits of online studies, outlining 7 Things that I will be implementing in my second semester that starts in February 2019, after the Summer Holidays! I am not expecting excellent final grades, and do expect to have to re-attempt 2 of my units (as I didn’t realise I had signed up for 3rd Year and Masters Level Units, a very silly mistake!), but hopefully if you stay up to date with my blog posts, there might be a change with my grades in the future, and I look forward to continuing to share my experience with you. So please enjoy reading through these 7 Things to Remember when Considering Online Studies.
“The Single Biggest Problem in Communication is the Illusion that it has Taken Place”
-George Bernard Shaw
As an online student it is important to open the lines of communication between yourself, your lecturer, coordinator or the teachers assistant, as soon as it is possible, and maintain communication between yourselves throughout the whole semester while studying online. For my particular University, each unit that I studied, listed a different Subject Co-Ordinator, Lecturer and Teachers Assistant, and I mostly spoke to the Teachers Assistant regarding everything I had a question for. However, the problems I had with this was because there was no face-to-face interaction with anyone, I often didn’t ask questions when I found something difficult to understand or if I had issues with my assignments. This is not to say I should have pestered them with every issue I had, but it is very easy as an online student to feel a separation between yourself and your school, while still being apart of the community of a particular university. Also, if you consider yourself a procrastinator, and decided to leave your assignments until the last minute, and chose to ask for an extension on the day your assignment is due, and this is your first interaction between yourself and the person assisting students in this course, this will be their first impression of you.
“A Good Teacher, like a Good Entertainer must first hold his audience’s Attention, then he can teach his lesson”
-John Henrik Clarke
Lectures will be online, All of them! This may sound easy, because the positives are, that you will be able to watch the lectures for your unit in your own time, and you will be able to re-watch them in case you didn’t quite understand something. However, because you have your own time to watch them, it can become quite easy to choose something more enjoyable to do rather than watch your lecture, because you have no one to be accountable to. So it is important when considering online study that you are aware that in order to get the most out of your course, and to apply yourself to your assignments, that you schedule in time to watch your lectures, and try your best not to fall behind. In my University, the unit co-ordinator, lecturer and teachers assistant are notified if you have or haven’t attended your online lecture, and while nobody is reminding you to watch it, you will be graded on your attendance in your final grade. If you are a Mature-Aged Student (over the age of 21), welcome to a time where you are reminded that the young ones are probably miles ahead of you when it comes to attending classes, and even though you are suppose to be the example, it is most likely going to be a surprise to you, how much work and effort you have to put in. So try not to leave your lectures until the last minute, it is irresponsible on your part, regardless of your age, as the teachers do not know your lifestyle, so it is up to you to schedule the time in to watch them (mostly talking to myself here, hehe).
“One of Life’s most painful moments comes when we must admit that we didn’t do our homework, that we are not prepared”
– Merlin Olsen
One of the biggest mistakes I have made this semester, is NOT starting my assignments immediately after I received them. This is something I failed in myself, regardless of the grade I received, if there is something I am going to implement into my study routine for next semester, it is to immediately start researching for assignments, and to just start writing. Whether it is 200 words a day or x2 resources a week, writing a draft, writing outlines, reading through all the materials I require for my assignment, editing, final drafts, and finalising the assignment. If you are interested in study routines, and look forward to learning about and following along with other people’s study routines then this is something for you to look forward to on my blog in the near future, especially with the new semester in February. Also, complementary to the communication topic if there is any questions you need answered in regards to your assignments, it is important to get them in early, it shows that you are using your time well, and the impression you give off to those marking your unit, or teaching you really matters, especially as an online student, as you don’t have any face to face interactions with your teachers, so you will have to remind yourself to do this.
#4 Study Space
“A plant is the most cliché thing, but a little bit of green has a great effect on happiness. Being at a cubicle all day is not pleasing, but a little life on your desk can give you a little life, too”
– Bobby Berk
Whether you choose to study at home on your laptop or computer or choose to study at the library, or even outside, it is important to have a study space prepared before you start your course. Choose where you are most inspired, for myself, I need to be sitting at a desk facing the wall, because I am prone to daydreaming if there is too much open space in front of me, and facing a wall allows my focus to be limited, and solely on my lessons and/or assignments. However, regardless of being easily inclined to daydream I have to be near a window, because fresh air and bright light keeps me inspired, and greenery through plants, brightens my mood, when work becomes monotonous. Also having a tidy desk, and neat and clear reminders help me to focus on prioritising tasks. One thing I will be investing in, for the next semester is a whiteboard/ pin board to hang on my wall directly behind and above my computer, to allow me to view my tasks easier, as well as a wall calendar and clock to keep me productive. Also having a pen and paper to scribble on is helpful, in case you need to note any important thoughts down, that you feel you might forget. If you are interested in online study, put some thought into how you like to study, and think about the times when you’re most productive, and try to incorporate those aspects into your study space.
#5 Diet and Lifestyle
“I heard a definition once: Happiness is health and short memory! I wish I’d invented it, because it is very true!”
Just because someone want’s to become an Online Student, does not mean that your schedule or the workload is any different to a student who attends university on campus. For myself, I know I am too old now to be living off of Nasi Goreng Packet Noodles, Coffee and Diet Shakes, and still have energy to last me all day and night, in fact my lifestyle has drastically changed since that of my first few adult years out of teenage hood, which makes complete sense if you’re almost 30. If you are a “mature-aged” person looking to become a student again, but you are worried about having to give up your lifestyle, and whether you have enough time to do everything, then pre-planning would be my suggestion. If you enjoy cooking fresh food for your family, then prepare your meals in advance, and leave them in your fridge and freezer for you to eat during the week, and if you are the chef in your household, at least you know that everyone will be prepared for meals, in case you have little to no time to cook due to an assignment or deadline that needs to be finalised. Also you are probably going to be sitting in a chair for majority of your day as you listen to lectures, attempt assignments and write out notes, so do not substitute any form of exercise for this. Exercise will keep your brain awake, and renewed, so going for a walk, or doing stretches, or just standing out in the sunshine will be of great help to you as you study, and allowing your blood to move around your body, will improve your mood, and allow you to feel refreshed. It will also help your back, shoulders, neck, calves and all from seizing, or blood clots forming from lack of exercise. If you are someone who doesn’t know much about human biology or has no interest in it, I suggest you educate yourself on the basics, as general knowledge, so that you are aware of how important it is to value your health and not wait until it is too late, especially when becoming an online student.
I have a diploma in beauty therapy including massage, hot stone therapy, weight loss, skin care, hair removal, essential oils and more. I am not a healthcare professional, so anything I have said in the above paragraph, regarding physical health should be consulted by a professional GP before pursuing.
“You see, only one who wanted to find the stone – find it, but not use it – would be able to get it, otherwise they’d just see themselves making gold or drinking Elixir of Life”
– Professor Dumbledore
When it comes to money, I have no tips or tricks to give to you, in the future I might, but for now I don’t. The advice I can give though, is to have your finances in order before you start studying, so that this area does not become an area you are worrying about, or continue to worry about. You don’t need the stress of money hovering over your mind, distracting you from your assignments or work. If you are financially stable, and enjoy the luxuries of money, then you probably have more advice to give than I do, but if you are someone who is studying so that you can change careers, follow your dreams or find better employment, because you are not enjoying what you are currently doing, then my advice would be to have this sorted before you start. Some practical advice might be to save every time you receive you’re salary, or put a significant amount away for emergency funds, and write your personal financial budget up for the whole semester, not just the month, but the whole semester. If you are prepared for the whole semester, then you can track your progress, because the months roll by very fast when you are studying online, and you won’t even realise it.
“Plans are nothing; Planning is everything. In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable”
– Dwight D. Eisenhower
Finally, Organisation and Planning, is probably the most important point out of all 7 listed. There are so many organisation and planning blogs, tutorials, videos and pictures out there, it can seem overwhelming to find the right style that suits you, if you haven’t already got one. But whatever style you are frequently using, in regards to planning and organisation, you need to get a much more efficient one. Regardless of your lifestyle investing in something that will remind you of homework, and a schedule might be a good idea. For myself, I tried the bullet journal method this semester, and I will list in order the system I used:
- Cover Page
- Contents Page
- Year in View
- Contact Information
- Yearly Goals
- Yearly Financial Budget
- Season – including the months of this season
- Trimonthly Budget
- Month View in Calendar Blocks
- Monthly Expenses, Goals and Important Dates
- Weekly Views
- Repeated the above until the Year was complete
- Student Planning Section
- Unit Title, Code, Contact Details for Lecturers, Award Points, Unit Overview
- Important Unit Outcomes, and Rules for Assessments
- Assessments in a Table Format: Assessment Number, Name of Assessment, Date Due
- Weekly Lecture Topics in a Table Format: Week, Lecture Topic, Mark if Watched
- Grades in a Table Format: Assessment Number, Name of Assessment, Percentage of Course Grade, My Grade
- Above Repeated for the rest of the Units
- Health Section (did not commit to this part)
Did this method work for me? Yes and No. It took a very long time to plan and create this journal, too long I’m afraid, and I will not be using this method for next semester. It did however, help that I wrote all the most important information down for my courses, and the due dates, and drew out calendars, and marked all the due dates in, to avoid any confusion when I received important emails and notifications from teachers about assessments, I also used tabs and colours to separate the sections to make everything easier to find. Next Semester I have already invested in a new planner, as seen above, it is by Mossery Co, specifically designed for Students to plan their courses and life, and because everything is already set out for me, it will be easier to fill in, plus it’s personalised! I also want to try using the calendar blocking method, and using a pin board/ whiteboard as reminders of important dates not to be missed. But all this is to come in the near future if you stick around!
I am looking forward to bringing you along on this study journey with me, and I hope you enjoy it too. Christmas is fast approaching however, so I will be taking a break from studies for a short while, and looking to post some Christmas Related posts. I will be travelling to America in 2 weeks time, for majority of December, and I am looking forward to creating blog posts for you, from there, hopefully I will be able to share some footage and photos with you of my travels as well, as I created a You Tube Channel, specifically so I could share videos to this blog. I am also currently finishing a very popular book series off, one that many have read before, and posting my review shortly, so be on the lookout for that too.
Thank You Kindly, Emma Bee xx