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Academic Success Resources

Independent Study Resources - Academic Success Resources

 

Academic success doesn't just happen; it takes effort, dedication, and consistency. The good news is that students can learn and improve the skills needed to support their success. Each student must identify learning strategies that complement their natural learning behaviors and talents. Some skills will be easy to pick up and apply, while others will be harder to master and require a commitment on your part to be consistent and improve. Once you have developed a set of learning strategies that work for you and make a habit of applying them, you'll find that the time and effort you invested results in more effective and efficient study time. Below you will find strategies that have worked for other LSC-Montgomery students, as well as resources from learning experts.  

Study Tips

General Study: Tips & Resources

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Top 10 tips for Success in Any Class

  • Manage time wisely. Schedule enough time in your personal calendar to study materials and complete assignments. If you are in an online class, treat these blocks of time as seriously as in a face-to-face class. Add assignment due dates to your personal calendar and keep a close eye on them. Set goals for what you will accomplish daily. 

  • Establish a regular place to study. Find a place where you feel comfortable concentrating on something for an extended period of time. Make sure your study space is equipped with all of the resources you will need when you are working on coursework, including a good internet connection, access to power, paper and pen/highlighers, water, snacks, and freedom from distraction.

  • Stay organized. Organize all your work in a way that makes sense to you. It is wise to keep a copy of anything you submit in the event a technology problem requires you to resubmit it. Take good notes while doing your readings or watching online lectures.

  • Make a study plan. Set out a clear and achievable study plan and stick to it at least 95% of the time, allowing room for the unexpected. Write out a weekly schedule with dates and times and set a certain amount of hours per day or week into your schedule for studying. Schedule in healthy habits. Healthy eating, exercise, and social time are important for your overall health.

  • Use LSC's support resources. Make sure you use all available student resources. Take time to click on each tab on your school's website and D2L to see how to navigate them and what they have to offer. Also, check out your library, writing center and tutoring online resources.

  • Take notes. Write down or highlight important points and then put them in outline form when finished reading. While hand writing notes helps with information recall, keeping notes in a digital document allows you to use “Ctrl” & “F” to quickly find needed information when taking online quizzes and exams. There are apps that can convert hand-written notes to digital text.

  • Make studying enjoyable. Use whatever incentives make your learning environment enjoyable for you, i.e. happy or mellow music, coffee, etc. Take frequent, short breaks to rejuvenate your brain. Decide on a task, set a timer for however long you need (ex. 25 min.), and work! Take a break when the timer goes off. Reward yourself when you do well (get an A on a paper or complete a challenging project). It’s easier to stay motivated when something you enjoy is waiting for you at the end.

  • Connect with others. Make it a point to meet other students in your class. Create a study team of friends and have regular discussions, help each other with proof-reading, tips and exchange of resources. Meet up periodically to see how each is doing and discuss challenges. Even in an online class, online portals, discussion boards, and Facebook can help find students in the same course.

  • Eliminate distractions. Consider turning off your cell phone to avoid losing focus every time a text or notification pops up. If necessary, try downloading a website blocker to eliminate distractions that compete for your attention while studying. 

  • Develop and use effective communication skills.  Use the tools provided by your school to communicate with your professors, such as email, discussion groups, in-person and online office hours, cell phones, and texting. In an online class, may never meet professors face-to-face, but they will be your primary resource and first points of contact in a course. Introduce yourself to them and ask questions when you are unsure about anything.

Adapted from:  7 Tips for Success When Taking Online Courses; 21 Tips for Online Class Success; Online Student’s Manual for Success

Websites

Books

  • McGuire, S. Y. (2018). Teach yourself how to learn: Strategies you can use to ace any course at any level. Stylus Publishing, LLC. | Available at LSC-M Library
  • Newport, C. (2007). How to become a straight-A student: The unconventional strategies real college students use to score high while studying less. Three Rivers Press. | Available at LSC-M Library
  • Oakley, B., Sejnowski, T., & McConville, A. (2018). Learning how to learn: How to succeed in school without spending all your time studying; a guide for kids and teens. Penguin.
  • Weinstein, Y., Sumeracki, M., & Caviglioli, O. (2018). Understanding how we learn: A visual guide. Routledge. | | Available at LSC-M Library

Online Learning: Tips & Resources

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Advice from a LSC-Montgomery Professor
  • Be patient with the technology.It's possible that your professor and your classmates may be less experienced with technology. If you know what you are doing, volunteer to help the professor and classmates. If you don't know what you are doing, sit quietly and be patient.
  • Use LSC's technology support. Find the email or phone number of the IT people and keep it handy. Some things in distance learning are professor error and some are IT fixes. Be ready to contact both.
  • Let your professor know if something isn't working in the class (an assignment isn't open even though your professor said it would be open, a link isn't working, whatever), do not assume it will magically start working. That calls for an immediate email to your professor.
  • Communication is key. When I teach, I can see your face. I can see you nod when you understand and crinkle your brow when you don't. I can't see that online, and even in a synchronous video chat I'm likely to miss it because scanning a screen isn't the same as scanning a room. If you do not understand something, it's imperative that you reach out to your professor.
  • Stay on top of due dates. If you are a last-minute kind of student, break that habit. At the very least go into D2L and open the assignment, check to make sure any links work for you, that you have access to all the material you need to do the assignment, etc. You won't be able to quickly poll your classmates about a quiz or in-class assignment before the prof walks in the door. And you might have multiple things all due at the same time if everyone reverts to a "Sunday at 11:59 pm" due date. Time management is going to keep you sane. I something happens that will disrupt your work, email to your professor BEFORE a due date. Check out the STAR Center's Academic Skills Video Series for help developing your time management skills.

Websites

Managing Study Time: Tips & Resources

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Pomodoro Method

The Pomodoro Method uses intervals to help structure your study time and ensure you are able to maximize your study time. There are four basic steps to the method:

 

  1. Set a Goal: Identify a goal for your study session. For example, read a chapter, answer the review questions, or review your notes for a test.
  2. Minimize distractions: Silence your cell phone (the Focus feature on an iPhone works well for this), close distracting website, and make sure your physical surroundings will allow you to focus.
  3. Study: Set a 35 - 50 minute timer and work towards the goal you set for the session.
  4. Take a break: Set a 5 - 10 minute timer and take a break. Check your phone, take a walk, or get a snack.
Repeat as necessary!

 

Minimize Multitasking

While some pride themselves on being able to multitask, there is a lot of scientific evidence that the human brain isn't very good at it. When we multitask we are attention switching, moving our attention from one task to another, which is proven to increase the cognitive load on our brains. This increased cognitive load increases errors and reaction time when completing a task. Trying to do two things at the same time can also negatively impact our ability to recall information because the information we want to remember from our study session (like the information we're being tested on) gets mixed up with irrelevant information we were using to complete the other task. Media multitasking, like texting or using social media, can be particularly detrimental. Studies have found that students who text or browse social media while studying perform worse on tests and have lower GPAs. The challenge is that our brains really enjoy the distraction of multitasking, so we keep trying to multitask even when we recognize that it negatively impacts our performance. The good news is that the more we practice focusing on one task, the better our brains get at it. Here are some strategies for minimizing multitasking habits while studying.

Strategies

  • Set aside specific time to study each week and stick to it.
  • Find a distraction-free space to study.
  • Use a focus app to prevent you from browsing other sites while studying or turn off your phone/computer.
  • Start small and slowly increase the time you dedicate to focusing on one task. Try the Pomodoro Method explained above and slowly extend the time between breaks.
  • Practice focusing on one task in other areas of your life. Can you watch one episode or make it through dinner without checking your phone or browsing?

Work Referenced

Brown, A. M., & Kaminske, A. N. (2018). Five teaching and learning myths—Debunked: A guide for teachers. Routledge.

Websites

Preparing for Class: Tips & Resources

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Preparing for class

Learning starts before you enter the classroom. Just like a farmer will have better results if she tills the ground before planting, you will learn more during class time if you prepare your mind for what is coming. Here are some simple strategies you can use to make sure you're ready to get the most out of your courses:

 

  1. Preview: Review your syllabus to identify key concepts that will be reviewed during the upcoming session. Complete assigned readings, paying special attention to the concepts that will be covered. Start by scanning the chapter and reading headings and diagrams. Make a mental note of what you think will be covered in the chapter. As you read, take notes, and write down questions you can ask or points you would like to share during class discussions. Take quick breaks while reading to recall the information you have read. Once you are done with the chapter, review the key concepts once more.
  2. Attend: Arrive to class on time and ready to take notes. Since you have previewed the key concepts, you can anticipate which information will be key during the lecture.
  3. Engage: Refer to your reading notes to identify areas you need clarified or points to share with the class.
  4. Review: After class, review your notes and fill in any missing information. Be sure to highlight information that is likely to appear on future tests. Refer to the course materials or visit your professor during office hours to clarify your understanding.

 

Websites

Taking Class Notes: Tips & Resources

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Lecture Notes

Taking lecture notes is an effective strategy for maintaining focus during class and your notes act as a study guide for assignments and tests. There are various methods and strategies for note taking. The STAR Center offers live academic skills workshops that provide an introduction to note taking, including several of the most common methods. You can also access a recorded version of this workshop through the STAR Center's Academic Skills Video Series. Here are some basic strategies used by an LSC-M student that you can start applying now:

 

  1. Use a bullet point system: Bullet points can help you capture and organize concepts thought the lecture. Use larger headings for key concepts and then list sub-points underneath. Underline or highlight concepts you do not understand or would like to explore further. It might be messy at first, but that's ok, you're not done yet.
  2. Review your notes: After class, review your notes to add detail and fill in gaps. It's helpful to review your notes with other students in the class so you can discuss key concepts, which can anchor the information in your memory. Visit your professor during officers to clarify concepts or information.
  3. Rewrite: Rewriting or typing your notes allows you to reorganize notes you added to fill in the gaps and is an effective way to improve recall.

 

Websites

Books

Preparing for a Test: Tips & Resources

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Reviewing Notes for a Test

You can combine several learning strategies to level-up your study skills. If you've consistently taken effective reading and lecture notes, your notes should provide an overview of the key course concepts, with key information you can expect to find on the test. Your notes then become your study guide. Using the Pomodoro method, you can break-up your study sessions into manageable chunks leading up to your test date.

 

  1. Review Key Concepts: Read over the concepts outlined in your notes and make a list of what you want to lean. Creating the list of objectives helps you prepare mentally for each study session since you know what concepts you will cover in each study session.
  2. Create Study Aids: For some information, it is helpful to create flashcards or other study aids.
  3. Study: Set a 35 - 50 minute timer and cover the objectives you set for the session.
  4. Reward Yourself: Take a break between study sessions and reward yourself with a favorite treat or activity. Rewards help you stay on task and teach your brain to enjoy studying. Make sure you are accountable to yourself - don't sneak a reward without putting the work in!

 

You can also check out the Test Taking Strategies workshops or video series offer by the STAR Center.

Websites

Staying Healthy

Self-care: Strategies & Resources

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10 Tips for Self-care
  • Sleep. Have a regular sleep schedule to allow your brain to recharge and your body to rest. Students need 6-8 hours of sleep a night. To increase better sleeping habits, turn off all electronics 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Eat healthy and balanced meals. Eat more fruits and vegetables and food rich in Omega-3 (fish, chia seeds, walnuts, and soybeans) to boost your mood. Replace fast-food with smaller, healthy meals every 3-4 hours and drink 6-8 glasses of water daily. Pack healthy snacks for your long hours on campus. Skipping meals deprives your body of energy, and dehydration can increase physical and mental stress.
  • Exercise. Exercising 30 minutes or more three to five days a week helps relax muscle tension and anxiety, relax negative thoughts, and boost your confidence. As a student, you have unlimited gym access on campus in the Wellness Center. Try other fitness activities, such as yoga, biking, hiking, running, etc.
  • Take breaks to refuel. Study slowly, instead of cramming. Don’t cram a 15 page paper in 24 hours before the deadline.
  • Journal.  Journaling is a great way to process your thoughts and feelings. Creating a gratitude list in your journal to write things you are thankful for shifts your mind to think positively even during stressful times.
  • Set realistic goals for yourself. Set short-term and long-term goals. Use the S.M.A.R.T. goals formula: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Reward yourself when accomplishing your goals.
  • Build a social support system. Creating and maintaining contact with a small group of people you can call on for emotional support or distraction, alleviates feelings of isolation, decreases stress, and promotes overall health. Sign up for study groups to make learning social. To meet new friends, get involved in organizations/activities on campus that interest you.
  • Practice optimism and be kind to yourself.  Practice optimism, such as viewing difficulties as opportunities for personal growth. Be kind to yourself by accepting all aspects of yourself. This will help reduce depression and anxiety.
  • Take care of your personal space.  Having a comfortable, organized environment helps reduce stress and anxiety and helps you be more in control of your life. Also, take time at the end of each day to clean up and de-clutter your personal and workspace.
  • Seek further help when needed.  If you are still suffering depression and anxiety, don’t hesitate to seek help from our campus counselors in Building C. Also, check out the counseling services available in the Montgomery area.

Adapted from:  Ways to Engage in Self-Care8 Quick Self-Care Strategies for College StudentsSelf Care Tips for College StudentsSelf-Care 101

Websites

Books

  • Dellitt, J. (2019). Self-care for college students: from orientation to graduation, 150+ easy ways to stay happy, healthy, and stress-free. Adams Media. | | Available at LSC-M Library
  • Cottrell, S. (2018). Mindfulness for students. Bloomsbury Publishing. | | Available at LSC-M Library

Managing Mental Bandwidth: Strategies & Resources

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Managing Mental Bandwidth

Mental bandwidth refers to the amount of attention we have available to allocate to various tasks or information. Since humans have a limited amount of attention, our performance on one task may be negatively impacted as we allocate attention resources to other tasks (Bharagava, 2020). Too many tasks or stressors at one time can lead to cognitive overload and inhibit your academic performance. Here are some strategies for managing your mental bandwidth:

  • Use a task tracker. You can free-up mental bandwidth by writing-down tasks, thoughts, ideas, or anything that is taking up mental space. Writing it down means you are not using up valuable bandwidth trying to remember. Instead, you know it's there when you need it, but for the moment - you can let it go. Review your tracker regularly to ensure you are getting essential things done.
  • Set Boundaries. Be realistic about how much bandwidth you have available and how much you need to dedicate to the most important things in your life. You may need to say "No." to new commitments or things that do not align with your goals. Communicate your need to reduce or limit the load on your mental bandwidth to those you interact with on a daily basis.
  • Seek support when you need it. The Lone Star College offers resources to help students manage challenges than can steal bandwidth and prevent you from reaching your educational goals.
  • Prioritize Your Physical Well-being. Be sure to get enough sleep, exercise, and nutrition to support your mental health. Learning takes a lot of energy. Your mind and body need the right resources to get you through your educational journey.

Bhargava, Tina. (2020). Overview: The science of mental bandwidth. Everyday Bandwidth. everydaybandwidth.com/uploads/4/5/7/0/45707533/overview_science_of_mental_bandwidth_bhargava2020.pdf

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