Home study is the choice for lots of people who want to gain a qualification, perhaps to change careers, or go on a course, or simply because they want to know more about a subject. For some, an evening class or daily attendance at college is not feasible because of other commitments. Many take up home study after they have left school, and have limited time available, say after work, or while children are at school. For those beginning a course of home study it is important to take a little time to think about how to make the most of that limited time available. At Oxford Open Learning we want to make sure that our students know how to make the most of their study opportunities so that they can get the best out of our courses. This is the first of three short articles on how to make the most of your study opportunities.
Managing your study time
For each term of your course of study, enter all assignment due dates and dates of exams on to a calendar. Update the calendar regularly. Also record dates for any associated activities: visits to sites of interest, TV programmes, talks, or planned tutor meetings by phone. Make sure your tutor contact times fit in with your other commitments and do not coincide with, say, children coming home from school, or a work commitment. Try to find some regular times to set aside for study so that you can make steady progress.
On Sundays, review your calendar for the week. Make a note of any extra time you might have available to set aside for completing study assignments that are due. Review your study to date and see where you may need to ‘catch up’ or can get ahead if you know your other commitments will mean you have less time later on.
At the end of a day or study session, note down any study points that you want to review with a tutor, re-read, or need to check, perhaps using information online, or in a local library. Try to find a suitable time for this.
Find a good place to study
Not all study activities demand the same level of focus. Sometimes you can read on the bus or the train, in the park or the garden; sometimes there’s a good programme on TV on a topic within your field of study, or a film or exhibition that will provide an opportunity to explore a theme, period in history, or scientific idea. Searching online can be productive (and can also waste time!). Most subjects also demand periods of concentration in order to learn new ideas, grasp methods, plan assignments, collect data, analyse, record, interpret and evaluate data or lesson content, practice new skills and complete assignments.
Most people find that it helps to have a ‘study place’. This might be a quiet room at home that’s not too hot or too cold, has good light for reading and writing, a comfortable chair and a table or desk at which to work. For some people, home offers too many distractions, and the local library offers a better place to work. Others again, will use several study places: library visits, spending an extra hour after work at the office, the kitchen table, a long train journey. Finding what works best for you on a regular basis will help to establish a good work pattern.
In the next two articles in this series on home study we will look at setting goals and study habits.
In the meantime, if you have any queries about your course, or would like to find out about our courses, please contact us at Oxford Open Learning. We will be pleased to help you with your home study.