Introduction to university study (UG & PG)

How to succeed at distance study

The following guidance has been created for you by the Student Learning Advisory Service. For more detailed guidance and to speak to one of our advisers, please book an appointment.

Familiarise yourself with Moodle

Moodle is the University’s virtual learning environment, where you will find all of the necessary information for each of your modules:

  • Familiarise yourself with the content and structure of each of your modules.
  • Make sure you can access the weekly reading materials and guides.
  • Check procedures for submitting work via Turnitin and receiving feedback on written assignments via feedback studio etc.
  • Check Moodle daily for announcements, updates or changes to the module, and to take part in structured discussions.
  • Look ahead at the structure of each module and take note of all important dates and deadlines. These can be built into a study planner to help you organise your time.

Create a study planner

  • Put module start and end dates, exam dates and assignment hand-in dates into your planner (see Time Management for  time planners and time management tools)
  • Working back from each assignment hand-in date, allocate on your planner enough time to complete each of the stages necessary (e.g. research, writing, editing and proof-reading) to complete your assignment on time.
  • Apply the same principle to exam revision. Working back from the exam date, allocate time on your planner to revise everything required in time for the exam.
  • Breaking stages of work into small tasks (e.g. ‘write draft introduction’ or ‘revise theory x’) with short deadlines will help you submit your assignment, or complete your revision, on time. Successfully completing short, clearly defined and ‘do-able’ tasks one after another will also help you build momentum and confidence.

Be organised

Create your own quiet study space where you can concentrate on your studies – ideally with a place for storing your course material (computer, physical files/folders, books etc.). Make sure your personal computer is up to date with the latest software updates and security features. Discounted and free study-related software is available for Kent students on the IT Service webpages, along with a range of free productivity tools to help you work more effectively.  

Get the most from online lectures & teaching

Before the session

Approach your online lectures as seriously as if attending a lecture in person. Prepare by finding out how the lecture relates to the module as a whole:

Where does it fit in? What topic/s will it cover? What questions will it provide answers to? How does it relate to the module readings? How does it relate to upcoming assignments and future lecture topics? 

During the lecture: take notes

Be prepared to take your own notes - see note making for different techniques. Concept mapping can be a particularly useful technique for lectures.

During the session: pay careful attention to content 

  • Introduction to the lecture will highlight key areas of discussion, these might be useful headings for structuring your notes.
  • Main body of the lecture will go into details regarding key discussion areas mentioned in the introduction. Look out for key issues, concepts, ideas, theories, formulae etc and ensure you note them in a way that will make sense to you after.
  • Conclusion to the lecture may just provide a summary of what has been covered, which is an opportunity to fill in some of the missed points in your notes or get a better understanding of how it all connects. If the conclusion is making some kind of final decisions/points, make sure you note this down in a way that makes sense to you after.

Note: if the lecture is recorded, it's worth listening again to check or further develop your understanding.

If watching a pre-recorded lecture

  • Choose a time when you’re able to listen and engage with the topics fully.
  • Temporarily disable notifications from other applications so that you’re not distracted. 
  • Don’t be tempted to tackle another task while listening, you need to focus.  
  • Be prepared to take your own notes - for techniques see note making.  
  • Pause or rewind the lecture to make sure you understand the main points and detail. 
  • If your concentration starts to wander, have a short break – but don’t break the lecture up too much or you will have difficulty getting the overall picture being presented.   

After the session

Check your learning by completing any assigned activities related to the lecture. For example, by participating in discussion forums, or completing any quizzes or questionnaires on that week’s topic.

After the first viewing, review the lecture and your notes. Compare what is said to what you have noted and fill in any gaps, make any corrections, as appropriate. As the module progresses, revisit and work with your notes: regroup information, use colours and highlighters to identify key terms/points and make connections. Fill in notes with examples, facts or case studies to make them constructive. If there is some aspect that still baffles you, seek advice.  

Ask for help

If you get stuck you could look back at your course modules, notes and readings, or contact your tutor or Student Learning Advisory Service for further help. 

Remember the Student Learning Advisory Service (SLAS) is here to support your academic development. We offer individual appointments to distance learners (in person or by phone or Microsoft teams) on all aspects of effective learning and study skills, including maths and stats. For more resources or advice go to the SLAS website. 

Other keys to success

Get started: the hardest part of a project can be starting it, so begin with a small or easy task. Once you’ve got started, you’ll find it easier to keep going.
Stay motivated: remind yourself of your long-term goals and why you embarked on the course. This will help you stay focussed even when things are difficult.
Stay engaged: continuous active engagement with your subject will help you maintain interest and momentum.
Keep in touch: contact your tutor to get advice or to make sure you’re on the right track. Set up social media forums, groups and networks with students on your course to share experiences and swap tips.
Work efficiently: study when you’re at your most focussed and alert to ensure that you apply the necessary level of concentration to your work.
Stay organised: make sure you have all the resources you need to hand; think carefully about what you want to achieve and plan accordingly.
Reward yourself: if you’ve achieved your aims for the day or week.  

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