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Student Handbook

Student Support

Study Hints

While distance education offers unique opportunities, it also poses some unique challenges. The students who are most likely to do well at distance education

  • have good time management skills.
  • communicate well through reading and writing.
  • are self-motivated and self-disciplined.
  • have good computer skills.
  • ask for help when they need it.

Do these characteristics describe you? If so, dig in and get started. Below are some tips that will help you succeed.

Make a Schedule

A distance education course—whether it's in print or online—takes time to complete. You'll get the best results if you begin your course work immediately after registering and then proceed at a steady pace rather than in stops and starts.

Manage your time carefully by following these tips:

  • Determine when you need to complete your course.

  • Work backwards from there, identifying the dates by which you need to turn in assignments and take exams to meet your goal. Keep in mind that you must complete your course work (including all assignments and exams) at least three weeks before you need your final grade.

  • Set aside specified days and times to work on your course. In setting up a schedule, weigh your other activities and responsibilities, and think about when you do your best work. Use a personal planner if that helps, and by all means, avoid the temptation to skip your regular study time.

  • If you get off schedule, don't panic! Make adjustments that will enable you to get back on track.

Study Tips

Memory is learning that persists. In order to combat forgetting, develop the habit of reviewing your course materials regularly and purposefully.

Devote some time daily, even if only a half-hour, to your course work.

Don’t try to cover too much material in one sitting. Short study sessions will benefit you much more than long, mentally fatiguing ones.

Actively think about the material you’re studying. Ask yourself questions about it, fixing one thing in your mind before moving on to something new.

Take frequent study breaks to refresh yourself mentally. Occasionally get up and move around to get your blood circulating.

As you study a lesson, look for its main points. List them or arrange them in an outline, and then study the points until you can easily recall them. You’ll soon find yourself using the main points as hooks upon which to hang details.

Before going to bed at night, spend a little time reviewing what you learned earlier in the day.

In preparing for an exam, remember that this isn’t the time to be cramming unlearned material. It’s the time to synthesize what you already know.

Keep your review sessions brief. Set a time limit for the review and stick to it.

Outline and organize from memory.

Recite key points and concepts in writing or out loud to yourself or to a friend.

Reading Tips

To read successfully, you need a strategy. Try the following techniques to improve reading comprehension:

Pre-read. With pre-reading, you skim the material, looking at titles and headings, the first few paragraphs of each chapter, chapter summaries, boxed or highlighted information, and pictures, charts, and captions.

During the pre-reading phase, be sure to read your learning guide so that you know what your instructor thinks is important. Also, think about what you already know about the material. Enter the reading using your own experience and knowledge.

Read thoroughly. Question as you read. Don’t take items at face value. Highlight what you think is important. Don’t highlight facts—you can review them later. Rather, highlight arguments, examples, and those things that jump out at you.

Highlight vocabulary, and look up any words you don’t know. Also highlight examples or case studies, that is, the content that makes the material relevant to you and that enhances your comprehension.

Review and study. Review after you’ve completed your reading—maybe several days later. Don’t try to do everything all at one time. As you study, use the learning guide to remind yourself what the learning objectives are.

Review your materials periodically throughout the course. Periodic review helps you build your knowledge and eliminates the need to cram before exams.

Writing Tips

There are few things as daunting as facing a white, empty sheet of paper or a blank computer screen and trying to find the right words and ideas to fill it up.

Keep it simple! It’s unnecessary—and often counterproductive—to use big words and long sentences. Varying sentence structure and length can reduce “choppiness,” but when in doubt, opt for shorter, simpler messages.

Get to the point. If your main point doesn’t appear until paragraph four, you have a problem. Get to the point; then lead your reader through your supporting information.

Read it out loud. After you complete a written assignment, read it out loud to check whether it makes sense and flows well. If you trip up while reading it, rewrite your assignment to fix the problem.

Do a double take. When reviewing what you’ve written, put your grammar and spell check functions to work—keeping in mind that those functions aren’t infallible. Also, make sure that your response answers the question you’ve been asked. If you’re using words you aren’t sure of, check their meaning. It’s nice to use impressive words here and there in writing, but your efforts fall flat if you use the words incorrectly.

See also study help.