Part five of an eight part series, Karen’s Corner outlines advice and insight on going back to school from our very own Dr. Karen Whitham, assistant dean, undergraduate nursing programs.
Going back to school after a 10 to 20 year hiatus is daunting enough, but if it’s your first encounter with online learning, you could probably use a few words of encouragement, along with some helpful study tips. First, let me commend you for taking an important step toward improving patient outcomes. Your degree is not just a piece of paper. It will give you practical knowledge you can use to lower morbidity rates. As long as you remain committed to this purpose, you will be successful!
Pick a time and a place
The beauty of a virtual classroom is that it’s available to you anywhere you have an Internet connection, 24/7. But therein lies the danger! If you’re not careful, you can find yourself at the end of a week having accomplished nothing. Therefore, the most important thing you can do is pick a specific time and place to engage with your studies. You only need to plan for 10-15 hours a week. Shorter, more frequent study sessions are more effective, but you’ll need to find what works for you. If your schedule is always fluctuating, then make it a habit every Sunday or Monday to map out your study schedule for the week ahead.
Go from paper to pixels
You’re probably accustomed to taking notes on paper. However, taking notes on your computer is just as effective when it comes to learning and retaining new information. It’s also an amazing time saver! You can search an electronic document in seconds, whereas looking for information in hand-written notes can be very time consuming. I found it especially helpful to create just one Word document for each course. This keeps everything in one place, making it easy to search and review by topic.
Reach out to classmates
Online learning can be as interactive and collaborative as you make it. The Moodle platform provides a chat room for you to interact with your professor and peers. It’s not uncommon for classmates to exchange email addresses and phone numbers, so that you can form study groups or a study buddy system if you want to, or simply jump on the phone to exchange ideas. Even though some of your classmates may live in different time zones, don’t be surprised if you make a few friends along the way. After all, you’ll find you have a lot in common.