Wednesday 28 September 2016

How to build good learning habits for your college studies

Don't depend on lecturers to chase you for your assignments

Mary O'Rawe

Published 17/08/2015 | 06:00

Mary O'Rawe, Lecturer in Management and Strategy at the college of Arts and Tourism, DIT. Picture: Damien Eagers
Mary O'Rawe, Lecturer in Management and Strategy at the college of Arts and Tourism, DIT. Picture: Damien Eagers

Be prepared to expect a different learning environment at college. You'll hear a new vocabulary like 'independent learning,' and 'self-directed learning', meaning that your lecturing team will support you to take charge of your own learning. You may not be chased for assessment materials if you do not submit them, or emailed if you do not appear for an in-class test. You'll be encouraged to move beyond rote learning and to start thinking around the material and the subject area. To step up to this independent learning, the following are important.

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* Attend your induction or orientation. This is the most valuable start you can give yourself. You'll meet your tutors and the lecturing team, and most importantly, the other students. You'll be better prepared when lectures commence. If you miss the orientation, work harder to catch up during the first couple of weeks, and make the effort to introduce yourself to your tutor. Don't fall behind.

* Know exactly what is involved in your course and its component modules. Get your facts straight, especially if it is not your first choice and you haven't looked into it in detail. What are the modules? What's compulsory, what's optional? Is there a minimum threshold (mark) that you must attain to pass? You may be able to get exemptions in some modules if you have completed something similar before. These are all regular queries which your tutor will be able to answer easily.

* Attend everything - this is the deal-breaker. Research has shown a strong correlation between attendance and success. You will build good learning patterns, know what is required and build a good relationship with the lecturer.

Q Manage your timetable. Courses differ - you may be scheduled for 35 hours a week, and a pal might have 15 hours. Expect gaps on the timetable between lectures. How will you fill this? Of course, the lecturers will hope that you will head for the library and engage in that 'self-directed learning'! But, getting the college experience is important too. The more you feel supported and engaged, the easier it is to succeed.

* Your first year will be so much richer if you engage in extra-curricular and co-curricular activities. Grab opportunities to volunteer, and undertake additional elements. Jump into everything you can. Start thinking early on about internship and career opportunities, particularly if your course is vocationally-oriented.

* College work is not like school work. A different set of academic skills and literacy skills are required. Many colleges will help you in this regard, either informally or formally. Increasingly, there may be an app developed to point you in the right direction, e.g. DIT's 'Get Smart!' and 'Prep for DIT' apps. Academic learning is so much more than Googling, so make friends with your librarian.

There's no magic wand for success. In that respect, college is the same as school. But, make sure you engage with everything, and don't be afraid to look for help if you need it.

Irish Independent

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