Since another academic year is dawning upon us, this piece is dedicated to alternative learning. Think studying has to consist of reading notes at your desk over and over again? Well, think twice! Learning can actually be fun, and although you should read your notes, applying this black and white method exclusively, isn’t likely to yield grand results. A colourful array of resources exist, you just have to seek them out. It might seem counter-intuitive to look for material before even beginning to study, but I can assure you it does pay off in the end! Not only do you learn during the search, but the benefits of individualised studying are endless. The sections below give you some pointers to get started. However, bear in mind that some methods are more suited to certain fields, and learning types than others.
It may sound obvious to mention YouTube, however I would like to stress that it can be an amazing learning tool! You can watch lectures on any topic imaginable, as well as find tutorials on every subject. If you’re a film lover, or just enjoy a good documentary-why not watch something relevant to your studies? Another extremely valuable resource I would like to mention here is TED (=technology, entertainment and design). If you’re not familiar with TED talks, you must give them a try! Initially the non-profit started out as a conference, and nowadays you can find various videos of expert talks on a variety of issues. iTunes U, which is integrated in Apple’s iTunes store, is also a service providing free educational resources. Similarly the online service Lynda.com, now a part of LinkedIn, offers a range of video material and courses taught by industry experts. The downside however is that a paid subscription is necessary, although you receive a free trial. The last service I would like to mention here is SlideShare, now also a part of LinkedIn. It’s a platform that allows you to view and share professional presentations, infographics, documents or videos on any topic. Personally I find SlideShare incredibly helpful, especially whilst prepping for exams, as there are so many great PowerPoint slides available.
Along these lines, there are many other educational platforms easily accessible through the internet. If you’re not so much the visual type, a quick google search will turn up plenty of free podcasts for you to try. Further, some universities offer a ‘Listen Again’ service so you can listen to your own lectures again wherever you are (hint: bus journeys are great for this)! Otherwise you could record yourself reading out your notes, so you can listen to them easily. In case you would like to test yourself on a certain subject, you’ll be able to find numerous free quizzes online, that also provide answers.
In terms of extra written material, there are more than enough resources you can consult. I recommend at least having a glance at other texts as an alternative to your main books, as different styles may be easier or to understand or even just more fun to read. Apart from your institution’s library, you can also find textbooks online. Academic journals are always a good choice, and should also be accessible for free through your school. If you’re an avid reader, you’ll be delighted to hear that you’ll definitely be able to find interesting non-fiction books of relevance. You do need to pay attention to the credibility of your sources, but that doesn’t mean you can only use strictly academic material! Blogs can be very helpful of course, as well as select magazines and news articles. As an example, one of our lovely Sociology professors made us aware that the Rolling Stone Magazine often publishes valuable content, in an easily understandable, more journalistic style.
Often, learning with a study partner or in groups can be incredibly beneficial. You can just grab some of your friends for a study session, or even put together an ‘official’ study group with peers from the same course or module. Additionally setting up a group chat or page on social media, to use as a discussion and question-answer forum, can be helpful as you can ask questions as you go along. If you think you need more ‘one-on-one’ time and can spare some extra cash, looking for a tutor is also an option. Other students may provide tutoring services for a small fee; alternatively you can contact an agency, or even receive online tuition. You’ll also be able to find a variety of short courses available to enrol in online, or in person. Though costly, taking additional courses will not only help with your studies, but also look amazing on your CV.
Learning opportunities are around every corner! Take a look at upcoming exhibitions, talks, seminars and industry-specific events that may be relevant to your course. The last tip I have to offer is to simply change up your working space! See if you can study better in different places, try the library, reading rooms, empty class rooms, or even better (weather permitting)-take it outside! Changing your environment may help fight boredom, and studying outside in the grass or on a bench makes everything more enjoyable.
Alexandra Kimbo (23)
Student: Media, Culture, and Society