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info_outline Classroom courses and CBEs are running from our centres and will gradually return to full capacity with additional measures to minimise the spread of the virus. See our COVID pages for details.

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The remote learner - tips for self-study

Learn Better Self Study Options
Stuart Pedley-Smith
By Stuart Pedley-Smith, Kaplan Head of Learning LinkedIn

COVID-19 is forcing everyone to make changes to their everyday lives.

For many students, the exam you’ve been working towards may have been cancelled, and you might find that your tuition provider is no longer running face to face courses.

Although these changes mean you’ll need to do things differently, the way we learn remains the same. In fact the biggest challenge you face is wasting time.

More ways to study

Luckily there are more ways to study remotely than ever before. This includes: live broadcasts using Webex, Zoom (similar to our Live Online platform), pre-recorded content you can work through at your own pace (such as OnDemand) and distance learning (independent study, using paper-based materials).

However, whichever one you choose you’ll need to adapt well to self-study.

With this in mind here are a few tips.

Create a learning space - when they study, most students prefer a quiet place with little distraction. This may be difficult in a busy household, but try and find a space and use the same one every day. If noise is a problem, consider a headset with low volume music playing in the background (classical, instrumental). Avoid listening to songs with lyrics, as it can break your concentration.

Next, remove as many distractions as possible.

This will of course mean putting your mobile phone away. Also, turn off any alerts, the noise is enough to create what is called a “dopamine bump”, a short pleasurable sensation which will make it almost impossible for you not to check your messages.

Contrary to popular student culture, multi-tasking doesn’t work. You may feel as if you’re watching Game of Thrones and answering objective test questions at the same time. In reality you are simply swapping attention between two competing activities, which is tiring and reduces levels of concentration.

There is a lot of evidence to show that exercise helps improve concentration and the ability to focus on specific tasks.

Don’t study for too long or cram - Cramming can work in those later stages of revision, but the problem when learning and not revising is it overloads short term memory. This can result in you forgetting something from the day before.

Little and often is the secret to effective study. We don’t have any hard evidence as to the optimum period of study, but most believe something around one and a half hours works best. After your session make sure you have a reasonable break, 10, 20 or even 30 minutes, grab a cup of coffee or take a walk outside. It’s important to physically move.

There is a lot of evidence to show that exercise helps improve concentration and the ability to focus on specific tasks.

Question practice is key - Although attempting questions can seem disheartening, especially if you get something wrong, it’s one of the most effective ways to learn. The process of answering a question involves what we call ‘retrieval practice’. This is where we force the brain to think back over what has previously been learned, and therefore transferring knowledge into long term memory.

Lists are a great way of dealing with worry, simply write down what you are worried about and turn it into an action.

Keep in contact with others - fellow students can be a real help when it comes to clarifying problems or just giving moral support. Also don’t forget your tuition provider, they will be only too pleased to support you, with many providing forums, technical help and contact with your tutor.

Develop a positive mindset - working alone can result in moments of self-doubt which can turn to worry and/or stress. The important point is that both of these are perfectly normal reactions to a challenging situation.

There is a view that worry is simply the way in which the brain moves something up your list of priorities. Lists are a great way of dealing with worry, simply write down what you are worried about and turn it into an action. Remember a certain amount of stress can also be good, it’s continual long-term stress that can cause problems.

Drink lots of water and, as mentioned above, build exercise into your daily routine. It’s a great antidote to stress and who knows, you might not only pass your next exam but end up with a six pack as well.

This blog is written by Stuart Pedley-Smith, Kaplan’s Head of Learning.