This autumn I am starting a module on the Masters in Online and Distance Education. I do, of course, have substantial practical experience in online and distance education - as I have been teaching for the Open University for over ten years. While doing professional development (on the e-LATE(D) and Tutor Moderator courses), I enjoyed reading up on the pedagogic theory behind my teaching and even writing up some of my work.
If I am not careful, the ironing, washing the floor, playing with the cats, watching cat videos on Facebook and ferrying my daughter to her after school clubs can take over my life. Like all of us, I need a community within which to find support and challenges so that I can continue with this scholarly activity. I hope that the Masters degree will provide a learning community within which I can further develop my thinking and practice in online and distance education.
To begin with, I have been getting into the swing of learning by doing a less important subject over the summer. I started doing some Welsh courses, with the OU's free short Open Learn module: Discovering Wales and Welsh. I used some YouTube videos on Welsh too, and have learned to say: "Great!" and "Interesting", and some other handy phrases. I wasn't very good at signing in to do my Welsh studies every day but I started to get myself into the habit.
Now I'm setting aside time each morning to study. Once I have made sandwiches for my daughter, and breakfast, fed the cats, done any necessary floor washing, I have decided to put in an hour or two on my studies every working day. There isn't very much to do yet, so I just sign into my StudentHome page and explore for ten or twenty minutes, check out the Forums and then do some other learning activities before getting on with my day.
Many of my own students are New to the Open University. I sometimes think that the main lesson they learn on the Level 1 modules I teach is how to learn. They come to a better understanding of the amount of time they need to put aside for their work, and when is the best time in the day for them to do this. Many of them start by putting aside a whole day for studies, but find that this lovely large block of time can quickly get colonised by other activities. I recommend them to do their studies in a 'little and often' way: short bursts of time every day, rather than one whole day in the week.
At a recent Day School, one of the students was someone who herself advises people on time management. She gave us a good tip: the best amount of time for most people to do work is 90 minutes: that is the optimum time for humans to concentrate. I mean to do good bursts of focussed study, but not to let these drag on. It can lead to shoulder and back problems as you crouch over your computer for long periods of time, and if I do 120 minutes today, and get tired, I might be put off from doing any studying tomorrow. If I do 90 minutes today, and 90 minutes tomorrow, I will do 180 in total.