This feels like quite an ironic first post as it has been impossible to find time to write this! The trimester started and I already feel very time poor.
A bit about me: I am in my 2nd trimester of my Diploma of Graphic Design at Billy Blue. I am studying online as I also work full-time so I am really juggling a lot when trimester is on! I think this is a common theme for online students – a lot of my classmates have young children and are also working, in addition to studying, which is very impressive! We all juggle depending on our unique circumstances, and we do so willingly so that we can achieve our career goals.
As this is my 2nd trimester I am feeling better at juggling now than I was at the very beginning. What works for me:
About 1 week before the trimester starts all my classes appeared on Blackboard. I really value this week and use it to get super organised for the semester. I download all the information I need for the trimester for all my classes, including subject summaries, all iMags and readings, assessments etc. I then organised all this information into folders on my computer. This took quite a while but means I don’t need to worry about it for the rest of the trimester.
I don’t know what I would do without my electronic calendar! In the week before trimester began, I also spent time reading all the assessment briefs, and put all the due dates for these in my diary. Now that the trimester has started, I have also put in all the dates and times for the live online lectures (collaborate sessions) with reminder alerts. Again, this is just saving me having to worry about them for the rest of the trimester.
Identifying my best study habits
For me, I am juggling online study with full-time work (Monday-Friday, 9-5pm). Therefore, my only options for study are outside of those hours and the weekend. In the first trimester I found that I am much better working in the morning; I think I am more focused and creative. So, I try to do more morning study so that I am working at my most efficient.
Having a study schedule (and sticking to it)
Online study has really turned me into a very structured person! I have a study schedule and I DO stick to it. For me, this is 2-3hrs study every morning, then work, then in the evenings I either have a collaborate or watch a recording. On the weekends, I devote at least one full-day to study. I usually try to do all my iMag readings and exercises on the weekend, and then my study the rest of the week nicely reinforces what I have read as I apply these to working on assignments or attending/watching collaborates.
Snatching moments here and there
Apart from my regular study hours I try to find ways to snatch study moments while at work – usually during lunch breaks. For example, one of my collaborate sessions is at 12pm so I take my lunch break and attend this (which is also a nice break from work). I also do short internet research sessions or look for design inspiration on Instagram when my mind wanders…which is often, I seem to be thinking about graphic design in every spare moment during the trimester!
Juggling so much work and study can be really mentally and physically tiring. I think it is really important to be fresh in order to be innovative in my designs and assessments. So, my ‘be-fresh strategy’ is to take breaks and enjoy them. I don’t do too much study at nights, so I can go to bed early or even go out with my partner and friends; and I have a “day off” on the weekend where I really don’t do any work or study and relax.
Starting work on assessments from day 1
I feel this trimester more in the know about how studying online works. It really is self-directed learning, with the collaborate sessions there to consolidate the learning materials, lecturers to answer any questions, and classmates to workshop ideas. This means that I can start working on assignments from day 1, i.e. weeks before they are due.
Keeping better records of my research: Evernote.
I use the website Evernote a lot for my online study: I have individual notebooks for each subject, and in these I put my notes from each module, screen shots and notes from the collaborate sessions, or copy text and images from the reading materials. This allows me to be organised (see 1), and add to these when I have spare moments (see 5), as I can also access Evernote via an app on my phone. I also have separate ‘notes’ within these notebooks for each Assessment which helps me keep the research supporting each assessment organised from the start – it’s super frustrating when you find something really good for an assignment and then a few weeks later can’t remember where you found it! (and therefore can’t reference it).
Referencing software: Citavi
Obviously, a large part of studying means completing assignments. And a large component of academic assignments means referencing your material. This can take a lot of time if you are not familiar with creating bibliographies. I use the software Citavi to keep all my references organised and create my bibliography. The features I like: 1) you can import the PDF of an article and Citavi extracts the information needed for the bibliography, and also creates a link to the PDF stored on your computer, 2) or you can just type in the ISBN or doi and Citavi finds the information on the internet, 3) you can then search your library of references, and 4) it integrates with Microsoft Word so you can create your bibliography in the correct APA 6th referencing style as you write. This software really saves me a huge amount of time. Endnote is another good one.
Being nice to myself
I am not superwoman and sometimes it just is too hard to do everything. At the end of the trimester last year I also booked in a massage on the last day as a treat to my aching muscles!
Interested in studying online like Katrina? The following courses are offered online: