Sunday, October 27, 2013

5 ways to beat procrastination

There seems to be a procrastination theme happening on the StudyBreak Facebook page at the moment so here are 5 ways to beat procrastination and get whichever part of study you are avoiding done.

Here are 5 ways to beat procrastination and get your study done!

1. Set small study goals
What is the task and what do you need to do to get there?
Each day write down two smaller goals to complete. On the same list, write down others things you would like to get done too. Is there washing to do? Do you need to call back Aunty Dot? Do you need to schedule exercise in today? Study just might look like the better option!

2. Reward yourself
When you've achieved your set smaller goals, reward yourself. It might be going to the beach, watching tv or surf ing Facebook. When you've completed a task then it's time to take some time out before starting on the next assignment or exam study. This is the time to reward yourself with an organised social outing, a massage or something else you find relaxing. This will help you re -energise for the next task and reduce your stress.

3. Remind yourself how good you'll feel once it's done
You've already checked your Facebook feed five times this morning and there are no new emails, smothered no needtocheck them again for the next two hours. Mark Twain said 'the secret to getting started is to start'. Remind yourself how good you will feel once you've achieved your study goals. 

4. Talk about your study and get your motivation back
Simply sharing with someone about your study efforts and what task you're working on can clear your thoughts and motivate you to keep going. Especially if the other person gives you encouraging words. Talking out loud about your study can help you vent about any problems and make you realise how much you do know about your topic. 

5. Eat, sleep and exercise
Some people may use these tasks to avoid study but eating a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep and daily exercise will boost your energy levels. Try to exercise before studying and awaken your mind or change your study snack from chips to grapes. Be kind to your body!

How do you get your study started?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Orwell's 6 rules for writing - which ones do you break?

Many students are now writing their final assignment for the year. Some students are studying for their upcoming exams and some students are crazy enough to be enrolling in Summer units!

Here are some writing tips from George Orwell's 1946 article on Politics and the English Language.

The key points from this article:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active. (click here for explanation)
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous (in other words, use common sense when applying these rules)
I'm guilty of breaking all of them and I have found that to not break them, I need to continually practise what I call the Art of Writing.

What 'rules' do you break when writing an assignment?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

What was the title of your last assignment?

After finally deciding on a title for an article I'm writing (see blog post here), I realised that I've marked University assignments without a title or even a cover page. Even this blog post has a title!

Writing an assignment and ensuring that all criteria is covered is brain draining enough so any old title will do, right? For a University assignment - add a title. It doesn't have to be exciting but it does have to relate to the topic of the assignment.

For instance, if you are taking the unit EDSP400 Inclusive and Special Education at the University of New England, assignment one is based on a case study. The assignment title could be:

Classroom Case Study

Pretty boring, right? But acceptable. Let's try:

Largetown Public School: A Case Study

Hmmm, not bad. How about:

Inclusive Strategies: A Grade Four Case Study

You probably get the picture!

Being creative with an assignment title won't get you any extra marks but it is something to think about next time you write an assignment.

What was the title of your last assignment?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

I don't understand the assignment!

The lecturer says one thing. The tutor says another. The course outline doesn't align with the rubric. My peers are saying things differently to what I've done. Aargh, my assignment is all wrong. I'm so confused.

Take a deep breath!

Here are some ways to clear your mind, make sure you're on the right track and complete that assignment.

1. Ask your tutor questions- they're most likely the marker.
Have a list of questions to ask at the tutorial. Or you might like to email the tutor directly or post in the subject's forum if there is one online. 

2. Firstly- have you been to all the tutorials? This is a great time to ask questions and take on board what the tutor is saying. No doubt he/she is giving out tips along the way. Yep, use those listening skills.

3. Check the online discussion board (if your course has one). It's a great place to communicate and share ideas. Have your questions already been asked on the forum?

4. Read the course outline. What does it say the purpose of the assignment is? Circle key words.

5. Check the marking rubric. Read each criterion and what is expected at each level of competency.

6. Write the assignment outline. Check the word length and percentage weighting (marks). 
Introduction- brief overview- what are you going to talk about? 
Body- number of key ideas= number of paragraphs.
Conclusion- link all aspects of the task. Reiterate your point!

7. Write. You may not feel like writing but just write. You have your outline so just write one section at a time and come back to the other parts later. Ask your tutor if they would mind checking if you're on the right track (even if it's just the outline with a few dot points) -some tutors are happy to do this. 

How do you overcome confusion about an assignment?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

What does your study space say about you?

Many of you would have seen my cover photo on eDegree's Facebook page. This has been my 2013 pinboard of motivation. It includes;

- a picture of my family including my gorgeous nieces and nephew
Who else is better to motivate you to achieve than the ones you love most!

- my thesis structure
Although I have finished my Masters thesis - I still keep this up as a reminder of how many 'mini' assignments there are in a thesis. It will stay there until my next research project! For an undergrad degree, this focus could be an assignment outline, either your own summary or one from the course outline.
- my study support page name
This is a great reminder that I am on a journey shared by many others seeking to further their education too!

- writing style guide
There are so many different types of text to write. This one helped me focus on the way I want to write my journal article.

-my semester timeline
This really kept my goals in check. It had what I wanted to achieve each week so that I could stay focussed - and it worked!

-a bull clip
This has all my sons papers with things like his reading eggs username and password. Can't all be about me!

What else do I want and probably should include - a motivational quote. There are just so many great ones it is hard to choose. However, my motto is: Keep It Simple!
Next is my desk space.
My desk space is mostly paper free. Although I still love a notebook to scribble ideas and notes. 

My desk has on it;

-my notebook PC

-a pic of my grad

-a mini trophy I won when I was on prac as a pre-service teacher

-a notebook, APA reference book, book of certificates in a book holder

- my gold pen (my husband bought me this as he knows how much I love to write!)

-a comfy chair -although I confess, I stole this from my husband's side of the study! I really think its time I invested in my own comfy chair!

So, what does your study space say about you? Do you even have one? Although I do work from other study spaces such as my back patio, the University lounge or mum's house, I still like my own study space surrounded by things that motivate me. And I love that it is relatively clutter and paper free.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How to think like your essay marker

Having just finished marking 40 odd assignments for 4th year Undergrads, I would like to share some ways to improve your next mark.

1. Have you answered the question?
I recommend circling the key words in your task question. Re-read your assignment or even better, ask someone else to read your assignment. Has your work been understood?

2. Have you paraphrased your citations?
Read the text and put into your own words what you have read, whilst retaining the original message. Or, you can summarise just the main idea. Either way the source must be referenced. If quoting, make sure it is formatted correctly according to the prescribed referencing style and a page number also needs to be cited. 

3. Have your referenced your ideas?
Where did you get your ideas from? -reference that source. Check that your sources are reputable. Your University's online library is a good start. 
It is acknowledged that students can inadvertently plagiarise. However, plagiarism is  theft and there is a high possibility of getting caught. Universities use software that can check students' work against other material including other students' work. There are different types of plagiarism: passing off another student's work as your own; working in a group of students and turning in similar assignments; submitting work that you have previously submitted; and copying and pasting from an external source. 

4. Have you paid attention to the reference style and formatting requirements?
Check the course outline for your faculty's preferred referencing style. Most rubrics will have marks allocated to correct referencing. This is one area to gain easy marks just by using correct referencing!

5.Have you proofread your work?
The assignment topic may not be the most exciting one, however, re-read your work. Or ask another person to give it a read through. I recommend leaving an assignment 48 hours before submitting just so that you can have a break before one final read-through. You'll be surprised to find what you missed earlier, now that you have a clearer mind.

6.Have you used key authors?
From the literature, who are the key authors talking about the topic? Ensure you are citing credible sources. I suggest using your Uni library's online database. Usually, a unit/course has a list of recommended readings-read these and refer to those that fit with your task. Check the reference list of key articles and books to find more sources.

7. Have you checked the marking criteria?
I can guarantee the person marking your assignment will have the assessment rubric next to him/her when marking. Read the assessment rubric and break down the criteria. Circle key words. Draft an outline from the criteria. Read the 'high distinction' and 'satisfactory' criteria. Mark your own assignment against the rubric when you are doing your final edit.

8. Have you attended the tutorials?
Most likely your essay marker is your tutor. So they will notice if you are the one that leaves tutes early or skips them altogether. If you want to be on your tutor's radar, ask questions (check they haven't already been answered on the discussion board!), get clarification, participate in discussions both online and in tutorials. Be polite too. If you're feeling frustrated about an assignment, it won't help taking it out on the tutor- they are there to help!

When marking, I provide constructive feedback by pointing out strengths and areas for improvement. I strive to be approachable to support and guide students by being contactable to answer student questions via email, on the online discussion board and during the tutorials. 

What makes a good lecturer/ tutor to you?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Should you apply for postgraduate study?

Are you unsure whether you should undertake post graduate study?
Has it been a while since you studied? You've most likely completed a Bachelor Degree and are currently in the workforce so you are an excellent candidate for further study in your field of knowledge and expertise. 

A recent conversation with a friend led me to write this post. My friend wasn't sure whether she should study again, especially seeing as it had been a long time since she had last attended University. She had completed her undergraduate before online learning had come about. These days, enrolling in subjects, signing up for tutorials, searching for journal articles, participating in discussions with other students and submission of assignments can all be done online.

Learning has never been easier. Whether you decide to be an on campus student, an online learner or a mixture of both, studying has never been so accessible and flexible! 

Here are five tips for enrolling in postgraduate studies:

1) Choose your postgraduate study
There are postgraduate certificates and degrees or if you have completed a degree with honours, you may want to look at undertaking research for a Doctorate. Research courses at different Universities as many have studying by distance options. This opens up the choice of available courses.

2) Choose your area of study 
Ask yourself is there anything you would like to specialise in. Carefully check the pre-requisites for entry into the course as some require the area of study to be in the same stream as your undergraduate degree. Many courses can be tailored to meet your learning needs.

3) Choose your mode of study
If you're working full-time, enrolling in 1-2 subjects per semester would be doable. Take into consideration that postgraduate studies are typically shorter than undergraduate degrees. Even if you are an on campus student, there will still most likely be an online component.

4) Fitting Uni in with your life
With your life busy with work, family and social commitments, how do you fit in Uni? Think of your postgraduate studies as a hobby. You know how to learn, you are just having fun in a field that's already familiar. Organise yourself so that you find the balance in your life.  Use a calendar and schedule in the weekends when study is a must and include important birthdays, events etc to work around. 

5) Embrace the new way of studying at University
Teaching and learning at University has changed a lot especially over the last decade. It's okay to feel overwhelmed at first. You will have tech staff at the Univeristy to help you with logging on and email etc. As a postgraduate student, there will be a smaller number of students than in an undergraduate course therefore you'll be able to get to know the lecturers better- even online! They are there to help you! And join a study support network like eDegree for some great study tips  ( yep shameless plug!).

Monday, July 22, 2013

5 tips to get rid of Writers Block and get that assignment done

Stuck in a rut with your writing? Assignment due next week? Here are some tips to get rid of writer's block and start the words flowing again. 

1. When do you do your best writing?
Keep a log of when you produce your best writing. Is it late at night? Do you need silence in your surroundings? Think about the times you have been able to write in the past and try to replicate those writing conditions.

2. Set small writing targets
When tackling a writing task just seems too much, begin with a small goal. This could be as little as writing 100 words on the given topic. It doesn't have to be perfect, just get a few sentences down. If that even seems too big a task, try writing a simple outline that includes different parts of the assignment. Use subheadings to break down the larger topic. You may find that once you get started, you keep going. 

3. Relax. 
You know that you can write. You've done it plenty of times before. Throw the negative self-talk out because you can do this. Relax by making your writing space as comfortable as possible. 

4.Reward yourself
Make writing fun by rewarding yourself. Each time you complete a writing goal, give yourself a small reward. For example, if your goal is to write a paragraph, reward yourself with a coffee. The more challenging the goal, the bigger the reward. 

5.Aim to write regularly
I'm not talking about editing or writing a few words then checking Facebook or the online news. I'm talking about producing new writing for 15- 30 minutes daily. This new writing will most likely be the task at hand but can include free writing on other topics including posts in a blog. The aim is to make writing a habit and therefore through practice, making writing easier and avoiding writer's block altogether. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Save it or lose it!

I did it again. I didn't take my own advice and I lost a piece of work. Save it or lose it! It was only two years ago that I posted about ensuring that all work is backed up properly. Read that post here.

This time I was working on a Prezi - a mind map program I downloaded onto my iPad. Luckily, the work I lost was not crucial and I hadn't spent a lot of my time on it as it was only in the early stages. But it has served as a reminder - save it or lose it!

So here's a recap to ensure nothing is lost by failing to  ctrl + s!

1. save the document or project as soon as it is started.

2. make it a habit to save at regular intervals or as soon as a small block of work is complete.

3. don't just save it on your pc or tablet - transfer it to an external hard drive, usb or even better to the cloud!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Oops, I uploaded the wrong assignment!

Has this ever happened to you? Uploading the wrong assignment for a unit is an easy mistake to make. You have probably noticed that course units within a stream usually have the same letters preceding the course code to indicate they belong to that subject. For example, EDPE243 - ED indicates it is an education subject.

One student, Casey* submitted two assignments for her teaching degree three weeks ago. Today, Casey received her results. One assignment she received top marks and the other she failed. Casey looked at her assessment uploads and realised she had accidentally uploaded the same assignment for both subjects - subjects that had near identical course numbers. Upon realising this, she contacted her lecturer by email who confirmed that she had uploaded the wrong assignment but could only mark what was uploaded. The stress from this mistake and hoping for a solution left Casey in tears and sick to the stomach that all her hard work would go to waste. Casey sent the lecturer a copy of the correct assignment in hope that if anything, she would gain some feedback.

Other students' stories who came from different Australian Universities;

Another student, Danielle* said that she had mixed up two assignments once and it was the lecturers who realised and emailed her to upload the correct assignments.

Jacki* didn't realise that she had uploaded the incorrect assignment until her lecturer contacted her. But the due date had already passed by the time the mistake was picked up. However, Jacki was able to resubmit the correct assignment but with a penalty.

Jo* uploaded the correct assignment but an earlier draft. She had to learn the hard way as the lecturer stated that she could only mark the uploaded assignment as there was no way of knowing if she had used the extra days to complete the task.

Mixing up assignments when uploading assessment because the unit codes are near identical is an easy mistake to make. Here are three tips to ensure that you don't have to endure the same stress as Casey.

1. When saving an assignment, ensure that you use both the unit code, unit name and assignment number to identify it easily.

2. Before pressing 'submit' when uploading your assignment, triple check that it is the correct assignment for the unit. If you are tired (if it is not the due date), leave the uploading until you are feeling more refreshed.

3. Go back into where you submitted the assignment and ensure that it was received.

*names changed to protect identity.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Holiday time - time for a break and to enrol!

Time to enrol
You may be enrolling in units for the first time as a new student or you may be a continuing student. It is most likely that your University has opened their enrolments for you to select the units you would like to study over the coming session/trimester/semester.

Most University courses will have a set outline of core units that you need to complete each year. Alongside these core units, you may be required to choose ‘electives’ from a selection of additional non-core units. These non-core units may build into specialising in a stream within your study area.
 If you are short on time due to work commitments and/or have children, you may wish to look at the unit information to check for
1) any residential schools if a distance student and
2) the required work load of assignments, online work and exams. 
 The most important factor when choosing an elective unit is to choose an area that you will enjoy. Choosing an area that you have a general interest in will motivate you throughout the semester and you will most likely produce better work.
How many units should I enrol in?
This is dependent on a number of things and you will need to consider the following;

1) work commitments,
2) the number of children you look after
 3) the amount of support you have from friends and family and
4) other commitments.
As Confucius said;
It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.”

Remember if you do decide at a later date that your course load is too much, there is time to drop a unit before a penalty applies.
Check your University for further details and enjoy your break!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Back from a hiatus

Well it's been way too long between blog posts and I think it's time to get eDegree back into the swing of things!

Although it's now half way through 2013, it's never too late to start or restart something you enjoy, whether it be a new hobby, career or study path (or in this case, a blog!). 

During my hiatus, I've been a bride, graduate, teacher, research student  and most recently, a  new mum! So, I have many new perspectives and ideas to share and hopefully for those who use to follow this blog or are new readers, you will share some of your stories, achievements and tips too.