How to Sharpen Learning and Study Skills

The downturn in the economy has resulted in an upsurge in individuals registering for college. The highest numbers of new students, though, are adults expanding their skills to keep their current positions, or training for a totally new career. Many individuals, those both fresh out of high school and returning to school, may lack the study skills needed for college classes. The following tips should be most helpful in gaining or regaining good study skills.

Time Management

Time management is the most essential skill required for a successful online college experience. The key to time management, according to Rosemary Caffarella, is two pronged: efficiency and effectiveness. Efficient time management is characterized by spending less effort on a task, but maintaining a high output. Effectiveness, on the other hand, asks “Is what is being done working correctly”.   If the study process is both efficient and effective, therefore, it will be streamlined so less effort is spent in non-study tasks, while maintaining high study standards and achieving the outcome desired, such as an ‘A’ on a paper or test.

What are some ways to manage time for greater efficiency? Use some sort of calendar to keep assignment due dates on track, be it a paper calendar or the calendar feature on Outlook, which provides the added advantage of the reminder option. Cell phone calendars, especially those on the newer phones, can also provide reminders to keep schedules on track and deadlines met. Also, keep all class materials together. Having everything together, where it is needed at the time it is needed will leave more time for actual class work.

Be Involved in the Class

Know the instructor! Look at the other papers they have graded high and follow their style. Don’t copy them, which goes without saying, but pay attention to whether the instructor does or doesn’t like bulleted lists, or if they like the headings bold or centered, or both. All instructors will follow the guidelines set up by the college (whether APA or MLA), but they all like different styles of writing, and if the student can figure it out their likes and dislikes it can mean the difference between an ‘A’ or a ‘B’. Go to class every day, face time is always impressive to an instructor. Ask relevant questions, those that show the material is being read, studied, and sinking in. Give the instructor something they haven’t heard a thousand times before, it will make their day.

Don’t forget about the other students in the class either, they can provide inspiration, help getting past a writer’s block, or even a shoulder to cry on if needed.

Find What Works

Everyone is different, and each learner has a different resources available online for those who wish to discover what type of learner they are. Once that is known, efficiency and effectiveness will follow.

Beyond learning styles, each individual must find study tactics that will work for them. A tactic that may work for one student would be a disaster for another.  For instance, find a good place to study, one that is quiet and conducive to concentration. Many academics advise that the bedroom is not a good study area, but sometimes that is the quietest place in the house. Each individual will need to use trial and error to determine what works best for them; will mornings work better, or evenings? Many individuals taking classes are employed, so it may come down to a matter of studying when the time is available. Just remember, life happens, so be prepared to be flexible.

Use the Resources Provided by the College

The both the online and physical libraries provided by the university will have the information that you need, and it was built with the student’s needs in mind. It is tailored to the degrees offered by the university, and the sources are academically rigorous and thoroughly evaluated. Online sites such as Wikipedia or other online ‘blogs’ often contain questionable material that cannot be verified as true and authentic, and therefore should be avoided as a cited source. They are not totally forbidden, though, and can be a good place to start to narrow the focus on a topic.

Do the Required Reading

This may be stating the obvious, but the reading assignments are often the key. Instructors teach out of a textbook, and it would only be advantageous to read what the instructor has lectured upon. Pay attention while reading the text, look for bold or italicized letters or headings- these indicate important information. Look within the bold and italicized areas for potential test questions. It may help to take notes from these areas to help in retaining the information. Also, don’t try to read it all in one sitting, take a break and take time to think about what was just read, let it soak in, so to speak.

Now that these tips have been presented, current and future students may take them and use them freely. Time management, involvement, knowing the learning styles, utilizing provided resources and reading, reading, reading, will increase not only success in college classes, but also the overall enjoyment of the college experience.