This blogpost was written by Olga Rodriguez Falcon, Lecturer in Learning Development.
Whether this is your first year at St George’s or you’re now continuing your studies, there are always lots of uncertainties and worries when starting a new academic year. This year particularly so, since you’ll probably need to adapt again to new ways of learning after a long period of mostly online study. Having ambivalent feelings on this, at the same time excited and worried, is very normal. We’re all feeling them, and it definitely helps to know you’re not alone in feeling this way. These are some of the questions that might be going through your head right now:
Is there anything I need to be doing to make sure I’m on top of things from day one?
Should I change the way I usually take notes and revise this year?
Is my academic writing good enough for the type of assignments I’ll have this year?
How can I know whether I’m on the right track with my studies?
Getting together with your peers to have honest discussions on these questions will make them less daunting, and you might end up going away with some very useful tips. At St George’s, there is also a dedicated team of Learning Developers that can offer you support and advice on how to maximise your learning and explore any study issues.
First, have a look at our Canvas page: Study+. You should be automatically enrolled as a St George’s student. There you will find lots of very useful self-directed resources that will help with your studies. For example, there is a whole section dedicated to ‘Effective Study and Revision’. This section is very popular with students and can offer ideas on how to approach the material differently, so that you understand it and can apply it to different contexts – instead of just remembering it to pass exams. There are also sections on ‘Academic writing’, ‘Referencing’ and other relevant topics to university study. Try to spend some time going through some of them.
Our team also offers one-to-one appointments. During these appointments, you can discuss in confidentiality any issues you’re having with your studies. We can offer support and advice on a variety of topics, including effective study strategies, writing academic assignments and English language help. And the good news is, this year we can offer both in-person and online appointments so we can accommodate the needs of your specific circumstances. You can book an appointment via Study + (Click on ‘Academic Success’) or directly using this link: https://10to8.com/book/sgul/
Finally, if you have a quick enquiry for us that might not require a one-to-one appointment, or you’re not able to find a date and time that suits you, you can contact us directly using this email address: AS@sgul.ac.uk. We check this email regularly and try to respond as soon as possible.
In this post, the Learning Development team, who run the Academic Success Centre and Study+ on Canvas, offer advice on adjusting to remote learning and continuing to engage with your course in the era of social distancing.
The last five weeks have seen unprecedented changes to life as we know it, with inevitable disruption to your studies and daily routine. Teaching, learning and assessment are now continuing remotely, and as we all shift to this new way of working, it is necessary to reflect on and adapt our study practices to fit with the new environment.
It’s easy to think that, with restrictions on socialising and being outdoors, we’ll now all have lots of extra time on our hands and you’ll find it easy to smash through all your work. Maybe you will, but don’t fall into the trap of expecting too much of yourself and then getting demoralised and demotivated if you can’t meet unreasonable expectations. Be gentle with yourself, and acknowledge the impact anxiety and disruption can have on your work rate. Now more than, ever it is important to get organised, prioritise tasks, and ensure a healthy approach to study.
2. Plan your days
It’s difficult when working from home but try to emulate your daily routine from before the lockdown. Treat studying as you would a job, getting up and going to sleep at your usual time on weekdays. It may be tempting to study in your pajamas, but getting washed and dressed every day will help you feel more engaged and connected to reality. In terms of what to study and when, it is important to break tasks up into manageable chunks, and set yourself achievable tasks for each (short) study session. See the Study+ page on Organisation and Time Management for help with this.
3. Find a dedicated study space
As far as possible, try to set up a dedicated study space in your home, and use that space only when you’re studying. This will help get you into professional mode, and create a separation between your home and study life. If this isn’t possible for you, can you follow a schedule where a space (e.g. the kitchen table) is used only for study between certain hours of the day, after which you’ll put your materials away and return the space to its usual purpose?
If you’re asked to attend an online seminar, try to do so from a private space without those you live with passing through. Try too to work from a table and chair as much as possible rather than a sofa or your bed – following the usual habits of professional life will help you engage better in these unusual circumstances, and help to prevent stiffness and backache.
4. Don’t try to study through your mobile!
As more of your learning moves online, it will be important to ensure you have access to the best computer set up you can manage. A good internet connection and up-to-date computer/laptop/ tablet are essential – speak to St George’s Learning Technology Services (LTS@sgul.ac.uk) if you have any concerns about this. Although it may be tempting to access Canvas etc. through your phone, such a small device is not conducive to good learning or healthy posture, so please try to avoid this. If possible, it’s also worth investing in a USB headphones and microphone set, as these make the online experience more immersive, removing distractions and thereby improving concentration.
5. Take regular breaks
Most people can’t concentrate on one task uninterruptedly for more than about half an hour. Don’t expect yourself to be able to work non-stop from 9 to 5, it’s important to take regular breaks. The Pomodoro Technique utilises principles from educational psychology to recommend concentrated study period of 25 minutes at a time, followed by a 5 minute break, with a longer break every two hours. See if this works for you – we’ve found it really helpful, particularly when struggling to get started. It’s easier to tell yourself you’re going to read a textbook for a 25-minute-stint than to sit down thinking you’ll get through the whole thing before you stand up again.
6. Aim for variety
You may find that the majority of your learning will necessarily be coming through your computer. However, staring into a screen all day every day isn’t good for anyone, and is unlikely to promote effective retention of information. Aim every day for some variety in what you’re physically doing. If you’re watching lectures or reading online, can you break this up with times of physically making notes on paper, or talking through your learning with somebody else? Many people find it easiest to synthesise their learning in a visual form, creating a mindmap or diagram of large concepts. See the ‘After’ section of our Learning From Lectures resource for examples of visual notes you could produce on scrap paper. If you haven’t already, it’s also worth reading through the Effective Study and Revision page, for ideas on how to be ‘active’ in your independent study.
7. Talk to whoever’s around you
Learning is an inherently social activity. We learn most effectively when we’re discussing ideas with other people, asking and answering questions, and confirming understanding through debate. If there’s somebody at home who can help you with your study, ask if you can talk things through with them (they don’t need to have any prior understanding of what you’re studying) for five minutes at a time. If you can explain something clearly to somebody with no prior knowledge, that’s a sign you’ve fully understood it yourself.
8. Stay connected to your classmates
Try to stay engaged with peers on your course. It can be really helpful to impose some ‘accountability’ on yourself through agreeing targets or deadlines with peers, and then checking in regularly. For example, you could text a friend to tell them what you’re planning to study on a particular morning, and then video chat with them at lunchtime to compare notes on how the morning went (as well as having some important social downtime) – all the better if they’re working on the same topic as you. You might like to think about setting up a study group using one of the many options for online videoconferencing or chat software. Everyone should be able to access Microsoft Teams through their St George’s email address, or you could use your existing social media channels. Within any new group, it’s useful to discuss the purpose for meeting – what are your priorities and aims, and does everyone agree on these? Set small targets for each session, rather than a vague ambition to ‘do’ a whole topic.
9. Be active when you study
In a face-to-face lecture, there is a time pressure for the lecturer to convey as much content as possible in only 50 minutes. When studying remotely, this time pressure doesn’t need to apply. Just as when reading an academic paper, it’s useful to pause and reflect on what you’ve read at regular intervals. When following a lecture on Panopto, aim to stop it every 10 minutes or so to ask yourself what you’ve understood from it. This is more productive than aiming to take notes as you listen, and encourages more genuine engagement. Try watching short blocks of the video, and then intersperse this with something more active: writing a summary paragraph or series of bullet points on what you’ve just learnt. Better still, write questions about what you’re still curious on – taking ownership and determining your priorities, rather than passively receiving information. If you’re using this approach, you may find there’s no need to take lecture notes at the same time as listening. Although it may take longer to keep pausing the video, you can be more confident that you’re retaining the information if you’re actively engaged with it.
10. And finally… we’re still here for you!
While the university campus may be shut down, remember that most of your learning resources, and particularly St George’s Library, are available via remote access. You can use Hunter to access thousands of learning resources from home, or contact the library for one-to-one support from a Liaison Librarian. The Academic Success Centre, which provides one-to-one advice on study strategies, has moved to remote appointments. Click here if you’d like to book one of these.
Welcome to St George’s to all our new undergraduates and postgraduates and a warm welcome back to all of our returning students. After your summer adventures, we hope you have a great start to the new academic year! This time of year can feel quite hectic and there is a lot of information for you to absorb, so here are some things to keep in mind while you settle in to University life.
Your Library Induction
The Library now has a home on Canvas, St George’s Virtual Learning Environment. All new students will have been given access to the Library module, but if it’s missing from your Dashboard our previous blog post will show you how to self-enrol.
You can find the Library module here. There are separate resources, created by your specialist Liaison Librarians, for St George’s students (IMBE) and St George’s/Kingston students (FHSCE). When you click on the appropriate banner you will find an “induction” section, which pulls together all the important information you need as a new student and takes you to your induction quiz.
The quiz is a playful and interactive way of engaging with the Library and getting to know the resources and services we have. It has been put together to show you, as new healthcare students, how important it is to access and use up-to-date information as you are on your way to becoming qualified professionals. It only takes about 15 minutes and you need to complete it before Monday 14th October, after which you’ll be automatically entered into our prize draw! This year we have got great prizes from businesses in Tooting and beyond…
If you attended your induction week welcome lecture, you’ll have had a virtual tour of the Library via our new welcome video. We had a great time creating this video for you over the summer, shot in the library with REAL Librarians.
If you’d like to meet us face-to-face for a brief overview of the services we offer, we’ve also organised a series of short Library tours.
The next set of tours will be running on:
30th September 12 pm and 1 pm
1st October 12 pm and 1 pm
2nd October 2 pm, 3 pm and 4 pm
3rd October 12 pm, 1 pm
4th October 12 pm, 1 pm
Ask at the help desk for more information! The Library tours are a great chance for you to become familiar with the space, get more information on using the Library and ask any questions you might have.
What you can expect from us
The Library supports you throughout your studies, both in
person and online. The Library and computer rooms are open 24/7, all you need
is your student ID.
The help desk is staffed every weekday 8 am to 6 pm and this is where you can get help with passwords, your Library account, finding books on shelves and pick up your reserved books. The Research Enquiries Desk (RED) is staffed Monday to Friday from 11 am to 2 pm with Librarians who offer support if you have research questions, need help searching databases or with referencing.
Your Liaison Librarians also offer tailored, embedded teaching and training sessions throughout your degree, and run a programme of bookable Information Skills sessions throughout the year. If you’ve got a question for your Librarian, or would like to book an appointment, you can contact them by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
We know you can’t always be in the Library, so if you need support while you’re away from St George’s, check out our series of LibGuides. Here you’ll find subject-specific guides for your course (e.g. Medicine, Midwifery, Biomedical Science, Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy). These all follow a similar format and give you an overview of which textbooks, journals and databases are most relevant to your course. They also guide you through evaluating information and referencing correctly.
As well as these subject guides, the Liaison team have also developed support for specific resources (e.g. RefWorks) and for using the Library. Library Essentials will be especially useful for getting to grips with our services and Library StART can help you with finding appropriate resources for your academic writing.
Throughout your studies, you also have access to the complete Microsoft Office Package and to tailored training on Office 365 (email ITTraining@sgul.ac.uk for more information). Additionally, the Library functions as a base for the Academic Success Centre, where you can get help with academic writing, effective revision and note taking. They offer 1-to-1 support and lots of online resources, available via the Study+ module on Canvas. The Careers service is also based in the Library, have a look at their online resources and to book an appointment with them.
What we expect from you
To keep the Library as pleasant a space as possible, for all users, we expect you to follow the Library’s rules and regulations. Full details of our expectations can be found on Library Essentials, but key points to remember include:
Always having your student ID card on you
Not eating in the Library
Taking phone calls outside the Library entrance
Respecting the function of the different study spaces, such as the silent study area.
We’re also trying to improve the availability of study spaces and discourage users from “desk-hogging”. A new Study Break Pass scheme launches on the 1st October: find out more information about it here.
As you can see, we have got lots on offer for you and we are here to help should you have any questions or need extra support. Have a fantastic year at St George’s!
Remember the complete your induction by doing the online quiz and with a bit of luck, you will win one of our amazing prizes! Follow us onTwitter, Facebookand Instagram, for a bonus entry into the prize draw and for regular updates!
This week we have a guest post by DrRosie MacLachlan, Lecturer in Learning Development
You’ve reached the end of a very busy term, and are looking forward to some much needed rest and relaxation. But for many courses, January means not just short-lived resolutions and depleted bank balances, but also assessment deadlines and exams. So how can you make the most of the winter break, taking well-deserved time off to recharge, while also making sure you come back ready to smash those January deadlines? Here are some top tips that we think may help:
Think about your environment
After several hectic months, you may feel you’ve finally settled into an effective study routine. Maybe you’ve found your perfect library desk – distraction-free, and not too noisy – or achieved domestic harmony with housemates keeping you well fed during study sessions. Suddenly, at the end of term, everything changes. If you’re going to be elsewhere during the holidays, don’t let the new environment disrupt your flow; make sure you take some time to think about where you can study. Even if you’re only staying somewhere for a couple of days, choose a space and make it your study zone. Find a table you can work at with no distractions, whether in a local coffee shop or a corner of your bedroom, and train yourself to associate this space with work.
Library Tip: The Library is closed from Friday 23 December 3pm and re-open Monday 2 Jan 9am-9pm (self-service). Computer rooms are accessible throughout this period with a valid ID card.
Make a plan
Let’s be honest, this really has been a busy term. You probably don’t remember everything you’ve heard in every lecture, and the temptation for studying over the holiday may be to plunge straight back into those notes. However, you’ll find you can study much more effectively if you use the extra time to take a step back and consider the long view. How do topics you’ve studied this term connect to each other? Where are there gaps in your knowledge, and can you best fill them? Use your first study sessions of the holidays to review what you’ve achieved so far, and be strategic about what you need to cover next: study smarter, not harder.
For lots of people, this time of year is all about catching up with old friends – and renewing family tensions. While you may not be able to control any noisy relatives staying in your house (see tip 1, about finding a good study environment), just as many social distractions are likely to come from your tablet or smart phone. Having a productive break is all about achieving balance: spend time with those you love, and spread the online cheer, but make sure you can focus when you need to. If you struggle with online distractions, programs like Cold Turkey and FocusMe allow you to block certain sites and notifications for a set period of time – turn them on for an hour’s study, and then reward yourself with 15 minutes of social media.
If you do have a full house this holiday season, make the most of it. For those preparing written assignments over the break, getting your ideas down in words can be made much easier by first talking them through with someone. This doesn’t need to be someone who knows much about the topic at hand, just someone who is prepared to listen to what you say, and question you on anything that isn’t clear. Equally, if you need to revise for a multiple choice exam, prepare flashcards with all your key definitions and ask somebody else to test you on them. So, next time somebody at home politely asks how your course is going, grab them!
Finally, make sure you do take time to relax over the next few weeks. Holidays are great for spending time with loved ones, and if you have something special planned give yourself time to switch off and enjoy it. Remember too that short mid-winter days affect energy levels – it’s important to listen to your body and rest when you need it. Make sure you spend some time outside during daylight every day, and don’t forget that (much as we may hate to admit it) there’s life outside your course and St George’s.
Dr Rosie McLachlan runs the Academic Skills Centre in the Library Foyer
The Academic Skills Centre drop in is now closed for Christmas, and will re-open on Monday 9th January.
Please email Rosie at email@example.com for a booked appointment or alternative support during this period.
Working with Ka-Ming Pang (Librarian) or Janette Myers (Senior Lecturer in Student Learning) you will:
Promote learning activities to your peers
Review or evaluate learning resources and activities
Design learning materials
For example: write a review of an information skills session or a Study+ Resource, livetweet a workshop or training session, take part in a Library or Study+ focus group or a survey.
Is this part of the George’s Award?
Yes it is. The number of points depends on the level of involvement and time needed. See the Study+ Learning Advocates page in Moodle for the list of possible activities with allocated George’s Award points: bit.ly/sgullearn
How to get involved
Contact Janette Myers or Ka-Ming Pang (depending on the activity) who will register you as a Learning Advocate and give you guidance on how to take part.