Going back to school can be a daunting experience for anyone, but for some returning to study after many years in the workforce or at home with the children brings its own extra anxieties.
We question ourselves – what am I doing? what if I fail? what if no-one likes me (just another advantage of the online training environment)
Having returned to study twice now in the last three years, I can assure you there really should be nothing to fear. With a little planning and preparation returning to study can be a pleasant and reward experience.
Here are my top 5 tips on getting the most out of your return to study:
1. Find a quiet space – If you don’t have one, make one
It is important to have a dedicated study space. As a parent, I find it important to have an area which is away from the day to day family space, but not far enough away that its hiding and I forget to visit it every couple of days.
I also recommend investing in a decent set of headphones, even if you are not a fan of listening to music while studying or working, it is amazing how many people will leave you in peace when you have these little guys handy.
2. Know your style
I don’t mean are you a tweed, denim or leather jacket person, I am talking about understanding your personal learning styles. Are you auditory – learn by listening, visual – learn by seeing or reading, are you tactile/kinaesthetic – learn by action and doing; or, like me, are you a combination of both?
For me I learn by the old school pen to paper method, I need to write my own notes or use highlighters for key points, I also learn very well by throwing myself in the deep end and just ‘doing’.
While my son has grown up learning through technology, a generation where they see the lesson and whatever is not retained can always be found later on Google or YouTube.
It is also beneficial to understand the best times of day for you to study. Do you function best as soon as you wake, or do you retain information better after the sun has gone down for the evening?
Understanding your personal styles will go a big way towards helping you succeed.
3. Plan & Prioritise – You can study and still have a life
Going back to study doesn’t need to be the end of your social life. With prior planning and a little preparation up front, you’ll be amazed how much you can achieve.
Set yourself a timetable – Take a look at the requirements, timeframes and deadlines of your course. Print out a calendar (yes paper format) and map out where your assessments are, and all your personal commitments, including some ‘you’ time. This will help you prioritise the big rocks.
Once you have identified all of the big rocks, look at what you can do in 45minute blocks across your week. I know for me, working any longer than 45 minutes at a time without getting up for a brief stretch has a significant impact on my ability to retain information, remain focused and motivated.
Slow and steady – Cramming or rushing through your studies is a sure-fire way of creating stress and mental burn out. We like the term ‘micro-learning’ here at ATOL, short sharp bursts of similar and related content.
By breaking the content, or assessment, into smaller milestones the task ahead becomes more manageable. You will also feel better seeing that you have reached each small milestone, rather than the overwhelming of knowing how far away the end goal is to come.
4. Review & Revise -
Another little trick we offer at ATOL is the ability to review both your content and results at any time throughout your course. Referring back to previous topics often reinforces or helps to clarify new content.
By reviewing and revising, learners have the ability to gauge their own personal progress. It is also an opportunity to highlight any areas of uncertainty which remain and areas of confidence.
I like to make sure I lock in at least 10-15 minutes of revision at the end of each study session, the outcomes of this revision then form the focus of my next study session.
5. Reward yourself – you deserve it!
Rewarding yourself not only offers an opportunity to keep yourself motivated but also to catch up on those things you have sacrificed to get here.
To make up for this every achievement should be acknowledged, with a tangible reward.
- Finished a module – treat yourself to a coffee break.
- Finished a unit – take a walk in the sunshine.
- Completed an assignment – catchup on that TV series you swapped for study.
- Passed the assessment – That deserves a cupcake or two.
- Completed your course – Celebratory dinner with the loved ones!
No matter what the reward, know that you have earned it. Be proud of what you have achieved and don’t be afraid to acknowledge it!