Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hitting the Books

I had someone ask if I could relate my study strategies and organization for school and I'm more than happy to, although I'm not a pro by any means. My first time in college, I went the traditional way and attended class on campus and did not have the best study habits. But this time around, I have attended all my classes up to this point online. Taking classes online is a whole different animal than attending lectures. You basically have to teach yourself the material in many cases, and that can be really challenging. Online classes really require you to put in a solid amount of effort.

First off, all my textbooks on on my ipad. I save a ridiculous amount of money on texts each semester (for instance, my Microbiology book was $190 at my college bookstore and I got it for $35)  and they're a lot more easily searchable than traditional books. It's also really easy to carry with me and study whenever I have a minute free.

I tend to start out most classes with two binders. One is a nice binder that can handle lots of use and abuse, and the other is a cheap storage binder. I put the syllabus, assignment schedule with due dates, and all current course work up to the next exam in the nice binder. As I do the coursework I print out any notes, vocabulary, and power point documents and keep them in the binder along with the coursework. I also print out any quizzes I take and correct any answers I got wrong.

Yes, I print out a lot of stuff. I like to be able to reference everything I worked on for a chapter in the same spot. It really helps for retaining material and studying for tests that cover specific areas. Very quickly I got tired of three hole punching and I started buying pre-punched printer paper. That and a wireless printer for my laptop make things a whole lot easier.

I keep all the material in that binder up until a cumulative exam or midterm, and then I transfer it all to the storage binder and start fresh with the nice binder again. That makes it easy to flip through and find things without wading through unnecessary material, but everything is still available and sorted for me nearby if I need it.

I also use an app for my macbook called "Schoolhouse". It's a lifesaver. At the beginning of the semester, I enter in all my assigned work and tests with due dates for each class. I can easily see at a glance what is due in a given week and know how to prioritize my work. It also lets me enter in the grade weights and calculates what my score is in a class as I go along. Having that reminder on my computer is great and a good back up for my forgetful mind.

When I have a writing assignment due, I always title it with the assignment and class name so that it's easy to find later and so that all the assignments for each class show up together.

I usually sit down on Sunday night and look at what's due in the coming week. Most of my classes assignments open on Sunday or Monday and close the following Sunday or Monday. I usually flip through the readings for each class to get familiar, and print out any power points or notes I'll need. Then I mark the chapters. I try to read through them at least two or three times throughout the week. It varies greatly depending on the class...some are all reading and taking tests, some are all projects, and some are lots of little assignments. But I try to portion out my week to work on each assignment throughout the week in small chunks so it doesn't get too overwhelming.

The only other thing I would recommend is trying to work slightly ahead so that if things get crazy it doesn't make you fall behind and you have a little cushion so that you don't have to stress.

Again, I'm no pro. But I know that going back to school has been great for me. Working hard at something and achieving a good result makes me feel great, and as crazy as things are when I'm juggling school and kids, I think it makes me a better parent. My kids understand the value of school and hard work, and they know that honoring commitments to a class or anything else even when it's not the most fun thing around is very important because they see me do it every day.

If you're starting school this semester, I wish you lots of luck!

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