In recent years, Distance Learning has grown from a fund generating machine of major universities to legitimate educational institutions that meet specific needs of the student. Most often, you will see that the majority of distance learning students are adults with full time jobs and families. Their specific need is time, a precious commodity that distance learning institutions are providing by offering flexible class schedules and assignment postings via the internet.
For most students, college is an exciting time. It is a chance to exit the world of mandatory classes and rules and to take part in the concept of full responsibility for your actions in your education. Adults returning to school after a long hiatus of family and employment may find the concept of being graded and having to follow strict guidelines and instructions to be a nerve wracking experience. What follows is a simple guide to help students along in their education by assisting them with an easy re-integration into the educational system.
As distance learning is primarily processed over the internet, through computer usage some of the ways in which one searched for references and material are different. With the wide world of the internet available at your finger tips; with so many different web sites available on topics ranging from aardvarks to zealot, how can you ensure that you’ll find the necessary material for your purposes?
Conducting successful library and internet searches are quite easily done. The trick here is ‘keywords’. Everything about internet searches is about what words you use and how you use them. You want to start with your main idea. Let’s say that you’re trying to find information on outsourcing. In the search field type in outsourcing. You will get many results. It looks daunting, but the process is to narrow your search down to certain words that are required to be in your result(s). Now you want to narrow the search down to the benefits of outsourcing. So, you’ll enter ‘outsourcing benefits’ (without the quotes, this is something we’ll talk about later). In the results you see another term called offshore. You learn that offshore outsourcing is the full name of the phenomena that is commonly called just outsourcing. So, you’ll enter ‘benefits offshore outsourcing’ and this is how you narrow your search down to finding just what you need. You may know more than one keyword when you start. That’s fine, enter as much information as you’re looking for. Some people even start with typing in a full question (without the question mark) and then narrow from there. Now that you understand the concept of keywords and how adding or removing keywords can change the results you get in a search, it’s time to learn about little used search criteria.
These criteria are called Limiters. Limiters are used to include, or disregard words or topics. Limiters include AND, OR, NOT and Quotation Marks (“”). AND, OR, and NOT should be self explanatory. AND includes the words you’ve selected. If you enter benefits AND outsourcing, then each result must have those words within it’s content. OR works the same way but the results should include either benefits or outsourcing. If you were to type in ‘benefits AND outsourcing NOT offshore’, your results should include both the first two words but not offshore. This is one way to ensure that results that are returned may discuss domestic (or inshore) outsourcing.
The last limiter we’ll discuss is the quotation marks. If you have a certain phrase that must be used, you would use quotation marks. This is not the same as using AND. We’ve discussed using ‘benefits AND outsourcing’. these return content containing both words, but what if the results are not exactly what you’re looking for? Try typing (including quotation marks), “benefits of outsourcing”. Now every result must contain this phrase. Using keywords and limiters will take time and practice. As you get the results for each new search you do, by reading the link description and summary you’ll begin to see how you can adjust your search parameters and narrow down the wide field of searching on the internet.
Now we’ll move to the next subject of distance learning survival. There are those people out there that are looking for the quick and easy way to do things. Make money quickly, get through school quick and easy, write their papers quickly and easily. The truth is that you can learn to do things quickly and easily and still remain honest in your endeavors. When you are writing for a class and you have a 1700 word essay to complete, the temptation to find your subject on the internet and copy it, or even to buy a paper and use it can be strong. The problem with doing things this way is that you venture into the realm of plagiarism. My warning to you is that plagiarism can cost you, not only your education, but future job opportunities. Plagiarizing your work puts a mark on you that lasts long after you leave your educational institution.
So, you’re wondering, now, why I just showed you how to quickly and easily do internet searches on topics that you will have to write about and then say not to use that information. Plagiarism is not about not using information that you learn from books and the internet. It is about claiming work as your own that is not. Plagiarism is such an important topic that even to read something on the internet and “rewrite” it in your paper is still a case for dishonesty. Plagiarism is avoided in only one fashion; the use of citing and references.
Citing and Referencing the web sites, books, and academic papers that you read to form your own work allows you to avoid plagiarism, rewrite what you’ve read into your own words, and give credit where credit is due. Think of it this way. You write this great paper for your thesis, it gives you an incredible grade and you’re proud of your work. Then a couple months later you’re browsing around on the internet and you find that your paper has been copied and is part of someones blog or maybe you see that your paper has been copied and put up for sale. You’ve just been a victim of plagiarism. Think about how you would feel and remember that when you’re using information from other sources, there had to be someone that was proud of their work too.
The difference between citing and referencing is where it goes within your paper. Anytime you are in the process of writing and you paraphrase or directly quote information from a source, you must first cite it within the text and at the end of your essay must be a reference list with the full reference of your citation. As an example, if I were to use information that I read from an essay by Dan Drezner entitled “The Outsourcing Bogeyman”, then when I write that direct quotation or paraphrase, I will need to cite the reference by including the authors name and the year of publication. At the end of your essay you will need to reference the whole citation like this:
Drezner, D. (2004). The Outsourcing Bogeyman. Foreign Affairs, 83(3), 22-34.
This reference includes the authors name, publication year, title of his work, and also what pages you used in the reference. What this does is direct the reader exactly where to read if they want to follow up on your paper. This may be time consuming to you now, but you’ve just avoided plagiarism, written your paper, gave credit to your citations authors, and provided additional reading for the person who developed an interest in the subject through your paper. There are different formatting procedures that can be used. I won’t discuss that here because you will learn the format procedures in-depth in your classes.
You’re well on your way to conducting excellent internet searches and now you understand the benefits of avoiding plagiarism, but what does it all mean if you have trouble studying? When you say the word study, most people will picture a person with their nose stuck in a book, hair standing on end, focused attention, chewing on the end of their pencil. Studying can be a frustrating concept. The truth is that studying the right way is the only way to learn without frustration. So, you ask, what is the right way? My answer is, “I don’t know what the right way for you to study is”.
Right about now you’re thinking to yourself, “Why should I read this guide if the guy cannot tell me how to study.”. You should continue reading because nobody can tell you how to study, that is, except you. Yes, that’s right, you are the only one that knows how you best study. You may not realize it now, but that’s why you should keep reading.
Effective studying begins with defining your learning style. Taking assessments will allow you to whether your learning style is verbal, physical, or mental. For example, some people study and learn through communication. Some people feel that silence is necessary and cannot study with distraction. Others find that they study better when the material is related to physical activities. Which one are you? Take an assessment and find out.
Once you understand the way that you study, then you can begin to learn how that learning style should study. Do not be surprised if your learning style turns out to instruct you to turn up the music when you study, or to go to a museum, or to call up your girlfriend, or father, or friend to talk to them about your material. There are literally hundreds of different ways to develop effective learning habits and only you can decide which one is proper for you. Discovering this understanding will provide you a whole new way of studying that allows you to retain information and more of it.
Learning how to manage your time wisely is the most important aspect to this student survival guide. When you think about everything you’ve learned thus far, you begin to understand that everything takes time. It takes time which needs to be fit into the chaos of your day. Already you may be working, maybe you have a family and children or maybe you work, spend time with friends and go to school. Whatever your personal situation, time is a precious commodity and only by organizing that time can we get the most out of each day.
One way to get the most out of each day is to develop a Time Management Log. You may think date book, the little books that are separated by each day and times during the day. If you are used to these, you can begin with that. However, a time management log is more than a date book or day planner. This log is where you block time, each day, for daily events. Block time for school, time for work, time for leisure. And learn to set each time to its self and allow only that purpose to be pursued during that time frame. People that work at home can best attest to the fact that time management is necessary. If you have children and you work at home, the biggest obstacle to your time can be the children. Setting boundaries and giving everyone around you the understanding that this time belongs to this event allows you to prioritize your time and achieve everything you must do each day.
Along with time management is an equally important task. Setting priorities. This is much harder than it seems. Too often we are distracted, or we just don’t feel like doing something when it must be done, so we put it off. Procrastination is an enemy of a student seeking to achieve their goals. By setting priorities, you will be able to manage those things that are most important to you, leaving time for the least important things at the end of your day.
For example, one of the toughest choices adults face everyday is the priorities of children, family, and work. But, you ask, aren’t children and family the same thing? Yes and No. Your children are your family, but they are the most important aspect of the family unit as they depend on every action and event in your life. Yet at the same time, work is important because without it, your family does not survive.
So, developing an understanding of what is most important to you, setting your priorities and making a physical list of what is most important to accomplish each day will greatly increase your chances of success. Once you are able to set your priorities and properly manage your time, you set yourself on a path to achieve your goals. As with anything, your path to success will be littered with obstacles. The trick is understanding what are actually obstacles to your success.
Obstacle is defined as something immaterial that stands in the way and must be circumvented or surmounted. Merriam-Webster goes further to define it as something that impedes progress or achievement. Why have I listed two definitions? The actual definition states that an obstacle is something immaterial. The second definition says that an obstacle is something, anything, that impedes progress or achievement.
This is an important point to understand. When you are on your path to success, things that you may never have thought of as obstacles will impede your achievement. Your children, your friends, phone calls, etc. It is very important to understand that, yes, your children and friends can be obstacles to your success if they cause you to manage your time unwisely. If you should be writing a paper, yet you choose to go to the movies then you’re allowing an obstacle to appear. Setting priorities and managing your time are effective tools in removing obstacles to your success.
All the points in this essay are tips that will greatly increase your chances of achieving a degree via distance learning. At the same time understanding and utilizing these points will greatly decrease your frustration, which could lead to abandoning the path to success. Proper internet searching, academic honesty, learning your study habits and developing effective study skills, managing your time, and setting your priorities are all part of the basic student survival kit. The one skill that will help you the most is only attained by understanding and developing these skills. That skill is confidence. With these skills you will be assured in facing your education with confidence and the path to success will stretch before you like the yellow brick road.