The University of North Dakota offers several Self-Paced Enroll Anytime (SPEA) courses in addition to the traditional online curriculum. My name is Kate Blalock, and I am a stay-at-home mom who is taking one of these courses for the first time. In today’s blog post, I’ll be discussing study and homework tips for SPEA students.
SPEA courses require students to work independently – they don’t interact with other students and initiate communication with the instructor as needed. Therefore, it’s important that SPEA students have the initiative to create good study habits on their own. My SPEA course instructor has given me many study tools, including PowePoint presentations, chapter review notes, and practice quizzes. Still, it’s my responsibility to plan my homework and create a study plan that works for me.
I tailor my study plan for each class, because every class has different demands. For my SPEA course, I take notes on the PowerPoint presentations before I complete the assigned reading from the textbook; by doing this, I am already familiar with the lesson concepts. I complete the homework using my notes, which is a way of re-enforcing the notes I have taken. To prepare for exams, I review my notes for a few days leading up to the exam—it’s never a good idea to “cram” right before a test. This process has worked out well for me so far in this class.
It’s important to take notes in addition to reading the textbook; you tend to remember more when you actually write something down. Although computer notes are okay, handwritten notes help re-enforce the subject. You can take notes on notecards or in a notebook, as long as they are organized. I prefer to take notes in a notebook, using shorthand and different colored pens to draw my attention to important topics. When taking notes, it’s not necessary to write down every word; use abbreviations and shorthand to make your notetaking quicker.
When developing a study plan, think about how you learn best. There’s no right or wrong way to study; everyone learns differently and what might work for one person might not work for you. If you are completely unfamiliar with the subject material, it might be a good idea to read the textbook first or watch the lecture first, if a lecture is provided. You can then look at a study guide or a PowerPoint presentation if the instructor has provided one.
It’s important to create quiet, comfortable workspace for yourself. Refrain from sitting on the couch in front of the tv, because you’ll be too tempted to turn it on. Don’t listen to music or watch tv while you’re studying, and turn down your phone ringer so you are not distracted. Sitting at a table or desk promotes good posture and allows you room to spread out. It’s also important to take small breaks while studying to avoid getting burnt out. I like to use the “50/10” rule, which allows 50 minutes of study or homework time followed by a 10 minute break where I physically get up from my desk and do something else. Use an egg timer or set alarms on your phone if you find it difficult to keep track of time.
I do my homework for my SPEA course at my home office desk; it’s quiet, organized, and distraction-free. For me, reducing distractions is key. I have a two-year-old son at home, and I wait until he is napping or in bed for the night to do my homework. I have tried to do homework while he is awake, and it is nearly impossible. I have enjoyed the flexibility of the SPEA courses because it allows me to complete assignments and study when I want; if I have a particularly busy week I can work ahead or put off homework until the next week. I prefer to study alone, although I have found it helpful in the past to have a friend “quiz” me in preparation for an exam.
My SPEA course is not as challenging as other subjects are for me, because I already have a base knowledge of management. The instructor gives me everything I need to study, and I don’t need outside help to complete assignments. However, UND offers many different SPEA courses, and if I was taking a math or science course I might need extra help. In a SPEA course you don’t have the luxury of interacting with other students, and contact with the instructor is limited. You need to keep that in mind when choosing a SPEA course; ask yourself if you will be able to understand the subject material on your own. If you think it might be too much of a challenge, consider a semester-based online course or an on-campus course. If you really want to try a SPEA course but need extra help studying, UND has many resources available to students, both on campus and distance. Student Academic Support at UND offers tutoring services, Math and English labs, and links to outside tutoring websites to help you study.
SPEA courses might not be for everyone, but if you are a self-starter with good study skills and a quiet workspace to do homework in, these courses may be for you. In my next blog post, I’ll update you on how my course is going, give an overview of the SPEA exam process, and explain the online proctoring service, ProctorU.