3 key factors in online study success

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By Kenley Cowles
Degree: Master of Management
Campus: Manawatu

So, you’re on “MyEnrollment” picking your courses and…wait a minute, a course core to your degree isn’t available at the campus you’re studying at? Whatever shall you do? “DISTANCE STUDY!” booms Massey University! It’s amazing. You don’t even need to physically attend a lecture.

While on paper this may seem like taking any other course (you still learn the same stuff) it can be a uniquely challenging experience for a primarily internal student. You’re about to give up much of the structured learning environment that internally taught papers offer, which can be a slippery slope to many hours wasted on followed by many hours of stress when you realise you have a rather large assignment due in a few days’ time. So how can one overcome the differences in study modes?

Pretend you go to class

This one’s straight forward. With 2 or 3 other internal courses, it’s easy to neglect to even look at the Stream site for your distance course when you aren’t in a routine of physically attending it. So pretend you do. If your course is offered at another campus and you’re expected to watch lecture recordings, do this live. Mediasite and Adobe Connect (the primary lecture streaming services at Massey) both allow this, Connect even lets you chat live with other distances students and the lecturer themselves. Use the Academic Teaching Timetable or information on stream to work out when you should be ‘attending’ class. If your course coordinator puts up re-recorded lectures or podcasts try to watch/listen to these as soon as they come out. This is likely the same time every week. Getting into a habit of doing this means you’re more likely to be actively thinking about the distance course you’re taking, making it easier to keep on top of the work load.

Read quickly and selectively

Some courses will throw a whole pile of links to academic texts at you every week. This can be pretty demotivational, who has time to read and memorise all this stuff anyway? The answer is you usually aren’t expected to. Distance courses are usually designed for adults with other full time commitments and the expected work load should reflect this. Instead of becoming an expert on a handful of texts (which often cover the same material), quickly read them and summarise key points and topics in your notes so that you know what to re-read later come assignment/exam time (Bonus points if you note which articles offer different perspectives on the same topic). Be sure to complete compulsory readings, however.

Make your own time frames for assignments

Distance study often has larger and more flexible time frames for assignments due to the students it targets. Don’t fall into the trap of student syndrome. Allocate your time in a way which you’d expect an internal class to and stick to it. Just because you have a week longer to do something doesn’t mean you should start a week later. Some distance courses will give you access to all the course material from day one so make use of this and plan when you’re going to get things done. This is one of the real benefits of mixing distance and internal study, it means you can shuffle work around tighter internal deadlines meaning less of those stressful weeks with multiple assignments due.

While these 3 tips may seem obvious, it’s important to remember that distance study puts some of the onus on you to make sure your study is structured. Doing your distance study the same as any internal course is the best way to ensure you don’t accidentally prioritise other internal courses or just forget about it all together.

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