Successful students will spend at least some of their time learning how to learn. Learning isn’t just about taking in information. It involves a set of skills that students will develop over their university career?and beyond.
There are endless sources of study skill guides. There is an endless variety of students. How do you find the guides that speak to you? You just keep digging.
Before you spend a dime on books or manuals to improve your study skills, start with the free stuff. Athabasca University, along with retired Professor of Psychology, Virginia Nilsson, developed a Study Skills Series specifically aimed at independent adult learners.
Although the series is a bit dated?the last revision was in 1999?there is value here for the online learner. The Study Skills Series comprises seven learning modules in pdf format and is worth skimming through to find what works for you. The modules, found on this AU Learner Support Services webpage, are summarized below.
This module introduces the Study Skills Series, and is a good place for the novice online learner to start. In the Getting Started module, you can assess your study skills and identify areas needing improvement. The final pages list a number of books on study skills, many of which are available through the AU Library.
don’t be daunted by this 40-page pdf. The first nine pages introduce the Study Skills Series again and can be skipped if you already read this bit in the Getting Started module. The Time Management module guides you through setting priorities?not just for studying but in all areas of your life. Many of the last pages contain sample schedules. Although the Study Record schedule initially looks a bit busy, it is worthwhile to adopt this to keep track of how much time you are really spending on studying. It may be less than you think.
Reading to Remember
Again, skip the first nine pages of this 32-page pdf (unless it is the only series module you read.) The Reading to Remember module helps you evaluate your current reading effectiveness and assists you in developing more effective reading strategies. After reviewing the SQ3R and Learning Pyramid systems, this module leads you through some speed reading strategies.
Start on page ten of this 23-page pdf. The Note Taking module covers five note-taking strategies: the Outline Method, the Cornell System, Mind-Mapping, Note Cards, and Underlining. Note taking is a critical skill, so find the method that works for you and your exam preparation will be less daunting. I found the section on Mind-Mapping rather thin, and recommend you check out any of Tony Buzan’s books on Mind-Mapping for more in-depth coverage.
Start on page ten of this 23-page module. There is definitely value in this module, but it only scratches the surface. The writing you will do throughout your university career is complex and worthy of a great deal of your time. After you’ve read this module, I recommend an in-depth visit to AU’s Write Site. Even if you hate writing essays?we all do?you cannot spend too much time honing your writing skills.
Surviving the Slumps
Most of us will hit a slump at some point. The Surviving the Slumps module is a survival guide. This module assists you in identifying your individual slumps: the causes, the underlying problems, and potential solutions. Sometimes these methodical steps are exactly what you need to see the way forward.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a student who enjoys taking exams. As the Exam module points out, exam preparation is not just studying. It’s also understanding the structure of the exam, information which can be gleaned from your course manual or from your tutor. The more you understand about the exam’s structure, the more prepared you will feel on exam day. The Exam module includes a helpful Pre-exam Checklist and a list of Exam-day Tips.
The Study Skills Series from AU’s Learner Support Services is worth reviewing. Whether you read carefully or skim through for value, this free resource should not be overlooked. The modules can be read individually or as a series. Each module concludes with a bibliography of other resources. Not every learner resource is going to help every student?we all have different study styles?but the more resources you check out, the more chances you’ll come across learning tips that will help you succeed.
Barbara Lehtiniemi is a writer, photographer, and AU student. She lives on a windswept rural road in Eastern Ontario