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H817 - study habits Week 4

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Last day of week 4: an intensely busy week at work and I also pulled a back muscle. Even so I managed to engage in my studies most days, although not usually first thing in the morning as originally planned. Still, I am on here now!

I recently changed my weekly schedule and moved cleaning the kitchen to Sunday afternoon/evening instead of Monday morning. This was partly because I had a new kitchen installed a few months ago, and found I was spending two hours lovingly polishing my dual fuel Belling oven instead of half an hour quickly flicking a cloth at a surface then diving into my emails. (One cupboard was particularly easy to clean in the old kitchen as the door had fallen off so you didn't need to do it at all.) This made me pressured and anxious on Mondays, whereas doing cleaning on Sunday, I can take my time and wake up on Monday to a sparkling clean kitchen; this feels like a fresh start to my week. (In the past I have kept cleaning to weekdays because I wanted to mark out the weekend as family/leisure time.)

This means I have a clearer timetable for study time so I hope moving forward to be able to do my morning stints.

The other thing which has kept me engaged so far is the group work on H817. I disengaged from group work on earlier modules partly because I fell behind, and this made it difficult to have conversations in the chat threads or weekly forums; also because there was incidental racism in some of the materials and therefore comments by other students. I wanted to study online education, not battle with racism but obviously with my expertise in the field, I became interested in tackling this problem. Rather than do this by arguing with my fellow students, or having long discussions with sympathetic white allies among my fellow students, I withdrew from student group work and raised the matter within the university, with some success (in the end).

As part of H817 is a groupwork project, I knew I would have to engage with fellow students. From early on I suggested we set up a WhatsApp group. There are some other people from the Open University in my group, and I have always been keen to develop better networks across the MAODE programme with fellow OU staff. The WhatsApp group does help, as the messages pop up on it with fellow students saying they have been on and done something to our groupwork exercise, and then I am tempted to nip in, have a look and do a bit more work myself. This reinforces the impression I had from moderating WhatsApp groups for my own students: it isn't a space where intellectual debate takes place (although there was one early interesting discussion on the WhatsApp chat). It does encourage students to go into the official forums, wikis and other resources in the OU module website and engage. (Four out of the six people in my group are on the WhatsApp.)

I'm struck by how much can be achieved in a step by step, little by little way. Several people popping in and spending 10/15 minutes each contributing to a written exercise builds the piece up well. Sometimes it's been hard to hold back and leave gaps for the others to fill, but I hope I've been good about that mixed.

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Black cat sitting up in bed with a pink blanket

H817 study habits

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In H817, the latest (and last) module I study for my Masters in Online and Distance Education, the blog is again suggested as a means of reflective writing. Having somehow dragged myself through my Masters studies by my fingernails, and knowing that 'time management' is a major issue for most of my own students, I thought I would reflect on ways of ensuring I set aside time for study.
As I remarked once, to do 'time management', you actually have to have some time to manage. For many of us doing part time studies, we are squeezing our study time in between often long hours of work, parenting, caring for elderly relatives, supporting our friends and relatives ... We have to be highly disciplined about ensuring we do manage to look at the study materials.
Another case in point is my student Emily, who has been furloughed for the moment. Initially she thought with lots of time at her disposal, getting ahead in her studies would be simple. However she found to her surprise that she lost motivation. We talked her situation over and thought perhaps it would help her too to be quite disciplined about study time.
A bonus of not having much time to study, is that you are always keen to get back to it. Sometimes I've had to leave an exercise half finished, and I have found that this means I am more likely to get back to it the next time I have a moment, than if I neatly finish off each page and leave it before starting a new one.
For H817, my intention is to put half an hour or an hour into study every morning, before starting any work.
First week's experience - I put in half an hour on the student forums in the middle of one day, reading others' introductions, responding and writing my own. This took longer than I thought it would, and cut into time I'd meant to spend with my daughter, which I would rather not do. I want to try not to fit in study around times which are meant for her, as I know this will just make me feel the strain of being torn between two things.
I also tend to take longer than half an hour/an hour because I do get into my studies and want to finish off each page. I'm going to try out keeping to a time limit, rather than a limit of pages I read in the material, so that I don't have that anxious feeling that I neglected something else in selfishly pursuing this highly appropriate professional development activity!
One thing I do which helps, is glance over the week ahead. I orientate myself, getting a sense of what pages are going to be more timeconsuming, and which I can work through quickly.
Another tip comes from my colleague and friend Melanie Rimmer's YouTube video on the Swiss Cheese method of study. If I don't finish the work in a week, I will move on to the next week regardless, rather than fall behind because I'm trying to read everything.
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