If you choose to study for a complex degree, it can take time and commitment, especially if all or most of the learning is online. Besides motivating yourself to study, often before or after work, and around other commitments, you need to remember numerous facts and details. How can you retain these and get the most out of a challenging degree? Here are some suggestions.
Learn the best study time for you
You will need to try out different times of the day and see which works best for you, not just because the time is convenient, but also when you seem to more easily absorb knowledge. For some students, this can be when they are more relaxed in the evening. For others, it might be in the morning before starting work.
For challenging courses, such as the Master’s in Software Engineering online offered by Baylor University, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. However, by studying at a time when your mind is most likely to retain the knowledge, you will improve the benefit you get from the course and the limited time you have available. This doesn’t mean you can’t study at other times, but if there are things you’re struggling with, it can help to go over these again at the time which works best for you.
Find ways to make the learning more interesting
You will have chosen the subject you’re studying, so it’s likely to be something you already have a strong interest in. However, that doesn’t mean everything that you study will seem interesting. Some of the more technical parts of the course, or those with lots of facts and minor details, can be difficult to learn.
You can make this more interesting by finding creative ways to recall some of these details. This could include writing them into memorable one-line sentences, or grouping them into funny poems, mnemonics or mini-stories. Find the method that works best for you.
Take regular breaks
Don’t try to cram in too much knowledge at once. This is more likely to make you forget everything. Set aside regular but short sessions and take breaks between these. Doing this will allow you to absorb more of the knowledge and consider how it links to everything you have already learned. Then, when you start your next study session, the information will make more sense in relation to the rest of the course materials.
Start a virtual study group
Studying online can feel isolating, even when you have a tutor and a supportive learning team available to help when you need it. It’s easy to lose concentration. By making use of technology and starting an online study group, you can get to know other students, and share your thoughts on the course topics and anything you are struggling with. Other students will excel in different areas and struggle in others. By making time to study as a group, you can all help each other to learn and improve.
Use post-it notes
If you struggle to remember everything, try not to put too much pressure on yourself. This can only make learning retention worse. Instead, write on post-it notes, and leave these in places around your home where you’re likely to see them several times a day. This will help you memorize the information. The knowledge will eventually be easier to recall without using the post-it notes.
Study in a quiet place
There is nothing worse than reaching a part of your course which is difficult to understand and being surrounded by noise and people who are busy doing other things. Each simple conversation and person walking past you can become irritating and distracting. If you’ve chosen a challenging qualification to study towards, make sure you find somewhere quiet for your study sessions. This will make it easier for you to absorb and learn.
Find ways to practice what you’ve learned
One of the best ways to retain knowledge is to put your learning into practice. With a degree, you will usually get the opportunity to take on work experience. Alternatively, you could use interactive software to experience (as close as possible) how to use what you have learned.
If you decide to look for a work placement, try local companies where you don’t have far to travel. These businesses may be willing to help give vital experience to local people to help the community rather than people with no connection to the area.
Take notes and read aloud
If you’ve ever read a paragraph of complex text, sat through a tutorial or listened to an audio recording, then struggled to recall anything about it, you will understand how difficult it can be to retain complicated information. That’s why note-taking is so important.
Notes can be helpful to refer back to, but also to help us absorb the knowledge. After seeing or hearing something, it’s another chance to ‘rehearse’ the information. If you’re alone and somewhere you won’t feel self-conscious, it can be helpful to repeat the information to yourself several times and rewrite it in a way that makes more sense. Setting yourself this as a task helps to make sense of the words, rather than just repeating them and failing to grasp the context.
Don’t forget to get enough sleep
Late night study sessions might sound like a good way to find time to study when you have work and family commitments. However, a tired brain will retain less knowledge than a refreshed one. So, ensure you get enough sleep. You will often find you learn more in one hour after a good night’s sleep than in two hours with little sleep.
Many tests have been carried out through the years, and sleep or the lack of it is a major factor in how much knowledge students retain from their study sessions.
Studying a complicated course might seem like an impossible challenge, but it’s not. Once you figure out the best methods of learning for you and set aside time without putting excessive pressure on yourself, you will discover the best ways to retain the things you learn.