Back to study? Prepare for success

Back to study? Be prepared

You’ve made the decision to upskill and gain a qualification?

Take the time to plan for success.


This week’s post is about planning to study. Many people look at their resumé and then decide one way to update it is to enroll in a course. If it has been a while since you formally studied take the time to get organized, as planning is essential for success.

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!

Benjamin Franklin

Step 1:

Have you allowed time to read materials and watch lessons?

If you’re taking an on-line program you need to set aside time where you can actually treat the on-line lessons as if you are attending lectures and tutorials. While on-line study is flexible it does require a lot of self direction and planning.

Universities usually expect students to attend at least a two-hour lecture and a one-hour tutorial each week. Considering a diploma level course is equivalent to first-year university, this time should be set aside as a minimum. A graduate program would also have similar requirements.

Don’t forget it is also expected that readings and assessments would be completed on top of this, and that can be an additional ten hours per week.

Step 2:

Are you familiar with your computer?

An essential part of your time can be taken up trying to figure out how to use your computer to present an assignment. If you wait until your assignment is due  you could spend more time playing with the various settings and learning how to do this, than you spend researching for information and learning about the topics. So what essential tools am I talking about? Here’s a few for you to look at:

  • Insert a Cover Page – this should not have footers and headers on it.
  • Footers and Headers – your name and a page number should be on every page, with the exception of the front cover.
  • Insert an Auto Table of Contents – there is a tool that does this and with the click of a few buttons a beautiful table of contents will appear,  which is easy to update as you make changes within your document.
  • Insert Page Break – don’t tab down to move on to the next page. Use the ‘insert page break’ tool. By doing this, the next page’s content will always stay at the top of the page and you won’t have to keep adjusting it.
  • Captions – all images, tables, diagrams and charts should be labeled. PCs and Macs do this slightly differently; however, there is a built in feature on both systems that will help you to do this. This feature will also adjust the label, so if you move figure 1 to figure 2’s location, it will automatically adjust the label to the correct number. Additionally, by using this feature you can easily produce a List of Figures or List of Tables, as required.
  • Smart Art – When you need to produce a hierarchy chart or flow chart use the built in tools. You can create fantastic professional looking tools that really make a plain page go from ‘ok’ to ‘wow’ in minutes.
  • Referencing – The dreaded referencing does not have to be difficult; our students at diploma level and higher are encouraged to use Mendeley. However, your computer does have a built in referencing tool. Again, the location depends on whether you are using a Mac or PC product, but it is there. It takes more than a paragraph to explain, but do explore this feature.

Step 3:

Have you organized your tools?

I’ve mentioned the importance of using your computer effectively and planning time to study, but like anything else you need some basic equipment. If you bake a cake you need to have the right dishes and ingredients. If you are building a shed you organize the timber, the drill, hammer and nails. When studying you also need some basic tools. It amazes me how many people, over the past years at university or in vocational programs, turn up for a class without any notepaper, pens, or electronic equipment. I have another forum where I will present some good apps for studying. In this forum I will list some basics of good old-fashioned stationery. Here’s some ideas:

  • A diary – electronic or paper.
  • Pens – coloured pens are great to help draw diagrams and emphasise key words.
  • Highlighters – don’t overuse them. If you highlight everything, you won’t be able to see what is important and what isn’t.
  • Notebooks or a binder with tabs and paper – there’s so many different styles and they can be picked up at an affordable price.
  • Post-it notes – I’m not a fan of highlighting a book, but I do like to make a note on post-it notes and place them in a book. I also like to use them in a diary, as they can be moved from one page to another.
  • Index cards – these are good to write a key word on one side and a definition, formula or description on the other.
  • Pencil case a large one with pockets can be useful. Include a small stapler, or mini hole punch, even scissors and a role of tape.
  • A pull along bag ­– not everyone has the luxury of a spare room to convert into an office, but a small travel bag can be used as mobile office. Essential tools can be placed inside the bag and you can take this to the library or a spare room, or even the outside deck. You can include a travel mug and coffee or tea sachets. I would also suggest a small bag of gold coins, as many libraries have coffee and tea stations, where you can buy coffee and tea with gold coin donations. Power cords and charger cables can also be included in the bag and it saves constantly looking for where you placed them.

If you would like a copy of our “Back to Study” handbook, which will be available soon, please let us know via the link below. It will be full of handy tips and hints for students of all levels.

We are also holding workshops and study preparation weekends in Cairns and Brisbane, as well as a selection of other locations, between now and Christmas. If you would like to join one of these programs click the expression of interest form and we will be in touch.

As always, we can deliver these programs at your school or workplace. Contact us for more information.

Julie Edwards has many years experience in education and holds a variety of higher education and vocational education qualifications, including: Masters of Lifelong Learning, Graduate Certificate in Tertiary Teaching, Graduate Certificate in Training & Development, Bachelor of Arts, Diploma of Training and Assessment Systems, and Certificate IV in Training & Assessment.

Julie recently presented a workshop at the Hawaii International Education Conference on using traditional board games as a teaching tool for high school students.

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