Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Studying for your exams

I'm hearing a fair bit of pre-exam anxiety out there, so I thought that I'd offer some suggestions to make your process of studying a bit smoother.

I found these basic guidelines from the University of New South Wales. Forget about the first section, but sections 2 & 3 (Preparation & Revising to remember) are quite good.

In abscence of previous exams, it might be a good idea to ask yourself when studying - "What questions are likely to be asked?". This is a useful technique which was not discussed in the guidelines above. Create a list of questions that you can ask yourself or others. This is particularly useful if you have a study group. Then you can ask each other the questions that you've made. In a group of 4/5, you can easily build up quite a few questions.

To guide you in creating these questions, I can tell you that the questions in the exams will mostly tend to either test your understanding of key ideas/principles/models, or test your ability to relate your understanding of these things to massage practice (often through the use of cases).

Over the next month I will make available to you a number of cases that you can use to apply the theory that you've learnt in Stress management & Intermediate massage.

In the hopes that it's useful to someone I'm going to outline my typical study process here...
  1. Organise my notes so that I have all of the information which has been provided. (Most of your notes are already "filed" for you via the course blog. If you haven't already done this I suggest going through your emails to record discussions, and getting some kind of organisation for electronic files)
  2. Create an overview of each subject which states all of the main topics in each subject
  3. Write study notes which summarise the main ideas in each topic in sufficient detail so that I don't need to go back to the original notes. This process ensures that you understand the content.
  4. Take note of the areas which the lecturer has focussed on more, and prioritise these in my study
  5. If you don't understand anything, keep at it until you do. Seek other perspectives if your notes don't make it clear. Talk to your lecturer, your classmates, surf the net.
  6. Memorise important pieces of information (e.g. if you think that I might ask you what are the 5 principles of palpation then memorise this).
  7. Create diagrams to represent relationships.
  8. Try applying the concepts to the types of examples that you are likely to see in the exam. This is a bit trickier for you because there aren't any previous exams, but I can say that the case studies that you've had so far are along the lines of what you should expect.
  9. As you become more familiar with the material you should be able to reduce your study notes down to key concepts. This happens because learning involves making connections between related ideas. When the links are strong enough you can represent groups of knowledge with a single statement.
  10. Before the exam allow yourself some mental space to prepare yourself for performance. For some people this involves not studying at all on the day of the exam. I usually liked to quickly skim over my revised study notes just before going into the exam.
This process is not for everyone. You will have learnt a bit this year about how you learn effectively. Use the knowing now.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Completing study skills

Here's a list of what you need to work your way through to complete Study Skills.

Task 6 - instructions.

Task 7 - You will need to work your way through the Setting Personal learning goals module to complete this assessment task, and if you have not had much experience of academic writing, the Academic writing learning module is highly recommended.

Task 8 - This task is supported by the learning module - Time management.

Task 9 & 10 - If you've completed the previous learning modules, you should be prepared to complete this one. It's good to allow some time between Task 7 & Task 10 (if that's possible) so that you can get feedback on your essay writing style.

Please let me know when you've completed Task 6.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Week 7 & 8 - Setting Personal Learning Goals

I notice that no work has occured in the Story of Stuff Google document. You may have set up another Google doc and forgotten to share it with me, but your Task 6, which was set last week is due at the end of this week. Please let me know ASAP if you have any queries.

The other task for this week and next week is to work your way through the learning module - Setting Personal learning goals, however you'll struggle to complete both of these tasks if you haven't yet started on Task 6. The setting personal learning goals module supports Task 7.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Week 7 - Academic writing & APA referencing

The other participant in Study Skills is falling behind. As a result, I've decided to split the class in two. This blog is now purely for your benefit Erna. :o)

The learning module for the week is

Task 6 (which was originally supposed to be due at the end of this week) was designed as a collaborative exercise, and this is no longer possible. As a result, I'm going to set you a new task 6.

Your task is to
  • Watch the Story of Stuff and take notes (if you haven't done this already).
  • Pick out one of the main points which the author makes which you're not 100% convinced by, and research this point using the internet. Find at least three reputable sources of information which relates to this point.
  • Either set up your own Google document (by logging into any Google service, then selecting Documents from the top left hand side of the screen) and Share it with me (by clicking on share once you're inside the document and adding in my email address as a collaborator). Or use the one which I've set up already.
  • Then write a short essay (1 page or so). In this essay you should
    1) Summarise the main points which the author makes in the video
    2) Include discussion on whether the point which you investigated is supported or not by the research which you've done, and on the quality of the sources of your information
    3) Reference information according to good APA style.
    4) Follow principles of good essay structure (Intro, body, conclusion | Write, then rewrite to improve linkages & flow)
The due date for this essay is the 19th of September.
As a result the due date for Task 7 will need to be extended to the 18th of October.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Academic writing

You should by now have a whole new appreciation of the learning process, and some strategies which you can use to enhance your learning. Take the opportunity over the next couple of weeks to apply these wherever possible to your learning in other areas. You'll probably find that some of these strategies work for you, and others do not. It's all part of the journey.

This week, it's time to start learning about Academic writing.

Tasks for the week

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Week 5

This week the topics scheduled are
  • Approaches to learning
  • Introduction to principles of sustainability
Due to delays on the part of one of the participants of this course, Introduction to principles of sustainability will be delayed until further notice. The hand-in date for Task 6 will also be extended.

So, continue with the Approaches to learning module. This should be finished by the end of the week, and Task 5 is also due this week.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Week 4 - Approaches to learning & Introduction to principles of sustainability

This week we're starting on introducing the more traditional study skills.

Tasks for the week

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Week 3

By this stage you should be getting fairly familiar with how the technologies supporting the course work, and have submitted Task 1 & Task 2. If there's anything that you're not feeling comfortable with yet, or do not feel that you understand, please get in touch with David ASAP to clarify things.

This week the following tasks are scheduled if you have not yet completed them.
  1. Visit the computer health and safety website that has been recommended to you, and that you are familiar with what it has to say about the use of a computer

  2. Complete the learning module - connect to and surf the internet - unless you feel that you have fairly advanced internet literacy

  3. Submit Task 3 by attaching it to an email - sorry, I realised that some of the text in the last assignment had not been changed & said to submit it to the assignment drop box. All assessment tasks that can be submitted by attachment to an email should be.

  4. Elluminate session to ensure that you are able to access elluminate and use both the chat and the voice functions. Please let me know when you are available this week for this session, and I'll set one up to suit your needs. This is Task 4.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Introduction to Study Skills

Here is an outline of the Study Skills course for the second semester.

Alan - You have completed some of the learning modules and assessment already. As discussed there is no need to redo these.

- Following is a link to the Otago Polytechnic online course hub

Please make sure that you save this website to your favorite/bookmarks. This will become more relevant later in the course, but you will need to know how to access pageflakes to get information on your assessments for now.

Alan & Erna
Have a look at the Pageflakes course hub. I'd like you to notice the box in the right corner of the screen. There's a link there called "Assessment". If you click on that link it will take you to box.net, where our assessments are now stored. There's a folder for Study Skills. If you click on that folder, you'll be able to access all of the assessment tasks for Study Skills.

To download any of the files to your computer right-click on them and select download.

To open any of them left-click on them.

You might notice a folder called marking schedules. This folder contains information on what you will be marked against. I strongly recommend that you mark yourself against these marking schedules before handing in your assessments. There are no marking schedules for the written answer tasks because giving you our marking schedule would effectively give away the answers. :-)

Something else I will strongly recommend at this point is downloading the first couple of assessments and getting started. I will be in touch early next week.

Please let me know if you have any queries or difficulties. My contact details follow

David McQuillan
ph - 479-3618
email - david at tekotago.ac.nz

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Welcome to Study Skills

This is the course blog for the Otago Polytechnic Study Skills course.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Essay form

Some people have asked for some feedback on their essays.

I plan to get your assessments back to you in the next couple of days, but as the majority of the essays that I've seen have the same types of weaknesses, I thought that I would let you know what to watch out for.

An academic essay (or paragraph for that matter) has a specific structure that you should adhere to. Basically introduction, body, conclusion. Most of you are following this to some degree, but there are some things you can do to improve the structure of your essay.
The introduction should generally introduce the subject of the essay, and all of the main topics that you discuss in the body of your essay without going into too much depth.
  • In general not enough linkage is being made to the topics discussed in the essay.
  • In some cases, people are putting material into their introduction that would fit better within the body of the essay.

The conclusion should express the general gist of what you've been saying , and should relate to all of the key points that you've made in the body of your essay.
  • Again in general people are not linking their conclusion strongly enough to the body of the essay.
This type of structure is not the way in which most of us think naturally. For this reason it's a good idea to start with a brain-storming session to gather information, then to decide what the best structure for your information is.
  • Many people seem to have just started writing at the top and finished at the bottom
  • Others have taken the bullet points on the assessment task as the order of their essay.
Once you've written your essay, you're not finished. You should go over the essay a couple of times at least to polish your language.
  • Can you make the points in your essay any clearer?
  • Can you improve the flow of your essay?
  • Can you strengthen the linkages between introduction and body, conclusion and body?

    (these all become easier with practice)

APA Referencing

Most people could do with some extra focus on their referencing. APA referencing form is very specific. The only way to learn how to do it correctly is to refer to a quick-reference guide every time you do it. By the end of the course you may feel that you are able to reference some types of material without a guide, but you will likely need to refer to your guide when the source is not a common type of source. I still refer to my quick-reference guide on a regular basis.

Remember - to reference correctly you must make a reference list & must also use also "in-body" referencing. You will need to refer to your guide when you reference in-body as well as in your reference list, as the method of in-body referencing varies depending on the type of source.

Some nice work

All in all, I'm enjoying reading your work. There has been quite a bit of self-discovery going on in the class. :-)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Week starting 5 May 2008

Your group research project on the topic related to The Story of Stuff is due by Sunday of this week. I'm looking forward to seeing what you've come up with here.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Week starting 14 April

No big changes this week. Your group should have met together at least once by now, and you should be making some progress towards the completion of Task 6. Remember that I've extended the deadline for this assessment to 11 May.

I realise that a lot of you are feeling under pressure at present with many assessments due. This might be a good time for some of you to reflect on your time management over the course so far, and if it would have been possible to be more effective in this. Luckily you now have the tools that you need to do this effectively going forwards given some practice.

Hang in there, and remember that there are supports available to you if you need them. As well as myself and your fellow students there are also
  • The Learning Centre - Academic support
  • Class reps
  • 2 Free massages in the student clinic
  • Student counselling service
  • OPSA
  • Computer support (Helpdesk, Open Access Suite, Community Learning Centres)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Week starting 8 April 2008

The introduction to principles of sustainability module has now moved to the group project stage. You should all have now received notice of the group that you have been assigned. If you haven't please get in touch with David ASAP.

With respect to the rest of the course, just keep on working through the learning modules and assessments.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Introduction to Principles of Sustainability


  • Progress of the class
  • Introduction to Principles of Sustainability
  • Elluminate (again)


In this type of online learning it’s usual to feel a bit overloaded with information to start with. This has been coming through in some of the feedback that I’ve gotten from you - Too many different things to keep track of, hard to find your way around, etc. Luckily, this does get easier after a period of time, which some people are already finding.

On the upside, many people seem to be enjoying the fact that they can study at a time that suits them, and some people are enjoying learning about the use of computers, or having new online experiences.

I’ve started receiving assignments in from some people - thanks for that.

If you’re falling behind please take steps to remedy this now before it gets too late.

If you’re struggling with technology, please ensure that you plug into some of the support options which are available to you. Me, helpdesk, community learning centres, etc.

Introduction to Principles of Sustainability

This week we will start our Introduction to Principles of Sustainability module, and this will run over the period 17 March - 4 April.

Task 6 requires you to watch an online video - The Story of Stuff, takes notes on it, then work collaboratively with your classmates to build up a comprehensive set of notes on a page within the Google Group. To access this page log into the Google group, and look under pages for The Story of Stuff.

Please note that the task says “Add two points to the google document”.

  • I have had to change the task to working on a Google group page rather than a google document (as stated in the assessment task)
  • Do not add more than two points. You’ll make it more difficult for your classmates.

Later in the week I will assign you to the group of students which you work with in the second part of the assessment. At least one person in each group will live outside of Dunedin, so that you will need to use the online communication options available to you.


I sent an email out to the people who have not yet attended an Elluminate session last week, and only two of these people have gotten back to me - thanks Shannon & Hannah. I’m planning to run one more introduction to Elluminate session. So that we can organize this I need the dates & times that you are all available. Can you please answer the email I sent you ASAP.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Week 3 - Consolidation

Main Topics
  • Where are we in the course?
  • Online communication difficulties
  • Elluminate
  • Assessments, Policies, Information
  • Windows Live Spaces

Where are we in the course?

I would like to get started on Introducing Principles of Sustainability either this week or next week, but before we start on this, people need to have some familiarity with searching for information on the web. This is one of the reasons that I’ve asked you to complete a survey for me.

At this point, 6 students have answered my email. The results are telling me

  • The online learning experience is well within these students capabilities
  • These students are progressing through the learning modules well, and are mostly about where I expected the class to be
  • All respondents have completed the connect to and surf the internet learning resource

I’m not sure that these students represent the entire class, so I’ve decided to hold off on making my decision until we have at least 12 responses (half the class).

Can you please make it a priority to visit the survey, and give me your perspective?

In the meantime, I suggest that you should continue spending time working through the learning resources, and completing your assessment tasks.

Please note that the learning resources - Use a Wordprocessor & Use local & distance library services have not yet been completed. I’m getting there.

Online communication difficulties

There has been one comment that at least one of you is finding it difficult having to keep track of so many different websites, and how they all relate.

To clarify things - the communication channels that we are using are email & Pageflakes. Pageflakes is now the primary channel. The email group is now primarily used for discussion.

In addition to this, there are websites that you will be directed to from Pageflakes (Blackboard, elluminate, etc.). From time to time you will need to return to a website periodically (e.g. Pageflakes, Study Skills). If this is the case, you should save the site to your favourites.

So all you really need to keep track of is your emails & Pageflakes. During your study you will build a library of internet resources (in your favourites) that you can use to help you when you need them (e.g. Study Skills pages).


Wednesday, 12th March 1-2pm

Click on this link to login to the session
(at least 30 minutes before the session starts)

From the responses I’ve had, it seems that Wednesday, 1-3pm is the window that is available to all of us.

The purpose of this session will just be getting you familiar with getting access to and making use of the communication tools in our virtual classroom. It is a requirement of your assessment you are able to log in, and communicate using both the text and the voice functions of elluminate. If you’ve already done this, then there’s no need for you to participate. If you’d like to anyway, you’re welcome of course.

We may need to schedule an evening elluminate session for those part-timers who are working during the day (I'm talking about you Sam). :-)

Assessment, Policies, Information

There is a page of information containing information that you might find useful being constructed on WikiEducator. (Remember to add it to your favourites)

  • General information on the course
  • Assessment schedules
  • Departmental policies & forms

Please note that this is a work in progress. If you go looking for something which isn’t here, please get in touch with me & I’ll see what I can do.

Windows Live Spaces

I’ve had three people reply to my request of “friendship” in Spaces. This really means that you are happy for me to visit your space, and receive updates about what you’re posting to it. If you’ve got a request from me, can you please reply to it. If you haven’t got a request from me, can you please “Invite” me.


It's getting to the point in the course where I really need to know what stage you are all at in order to give directions. I've put together a survey to assess this.

Could you please go to this survey, and fill it out.
I'll get back to you later this afternoon with what you need to be getting on with this week.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Week starting 3/3/08 – Expanding the communication channels


The class is predictably at different stages in the process of moving through the Study Skills course. Some are finding it fairly comfortable, and slow-going, whereas others are struggling, and feeling out of their depth. Such is the way with computers. I’ve intentionally kept the main communication channel to the email group up to now.

Aim - Expanding the Communication Channels

This week I’d like to expand things to include the pageflakes course hub, MSN Messenger and Elluminate.


How much time are you spending on your studies at present?

This is a full-time course, which means that you should expect to spend approximately 40 hours per week on it. You might choose to study from 8am – 5pm every weekday, or you might choose to study at other times that suit you. At present that time should be split between Study Skills & Basic Massage. Over the next week you should aim to spend approximately 30 hours (6/day) on Study Skills and 10 hours (2/day) on Basic Massage. The study skills workload is clumped at the start of the course to give you some time to get familiar with the technology platforms that we are using, and to gain some skills for learning.

After the next block, Anatomy 1, Bioscience 1, Communication 1 & Fundamentals of Massage will start which will mean that you have less time for Study Skills.

Weekly Tasks

This week you’re going to get some experience of communicating using MSN Messenger & Elluminate.

Windows Live & MSN Messenger

If you’re still working your way through getting familiar with emails & Windows Live don’t panic. This course is designed to be largely self-paced. If you’re really struggling, consider booking a time at one of the Community Learning Centres for some face-to-face support. Also remember that Helpdesk (479-6039) should be able to help you with any problems using Windows Live or MSN messenger.

Once you’ve set up your Windows Live account and have MSN messenger working on your computer, you should aim to keep these open as much as possible when your computer is on. To do this, open a separate tab or window for Windows Live. Messenger has it’s own window. Please note that using MSN is not assessed or required in this course, but it is highly recommended. It is an invaluable way of communicating with classmates & some lecturers. If someone sends you a message via MSN your computer will inform you of the message.


Our first Elluminate meeting will be on Wednesday at 1pm. To login to the meeting you will need to have completed the following Wikieducator Learning Resources.

Here is a link to the meeting. To go to the meeting, either click on this link or right-click on it select "copy link" and paste it into your web browser. It's a good idea to do this at least 30 minutes before the meeting. If you have any trouble connecting, please send an email through the course email group.

Can you please email me directly (davidm@tekotago.ac.nz) to let me know if you can or cannot attend. I may be able to reschedule it so let me know what times suit you.


You should also be starting to work your way through Approaches to Learning.

By the end of this week I expect that most of the class should have completed Task 5, or be well on their way to this. Again don’t panic if this isn’t true for you. It’s not the end of the world. Just make sure that you’re putting in the time that you need to put in and getting the support that you need.

Support Options

Me (479-8378)
  • Email group
  • Wikieducator
  • Direction

· Helpdesk (479-6039) for any issues related to

  • Windows
  • Windows Live
  • Your computer
  • Using Elluminate
  • Using Blackboard
Community Learning Centres or Open Access Suite
  • Face-to-face computer support for the same types of things that Helpdesk supports