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Cloud Campus student Larissa Wright outside holding Billy the dog

3 September 2020

Study hints and tips with Cloud Campus student Larissa Wright

We spoke to Cloud Campus student and success coach Larissa Wright and got some great hints and tips for studying online at Deakin. Learn how she stays motivated, manages her time and prepares for exams.

Tell us about yourself.

I’m a mature-age Cloud Campus student, I’m 43 years old and I’m in the last trimester of my first degree – so I’m a bit of a late starter when it comes to academia. I study a Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) and my arts major is creative and professional writing. I’m ‘location independent’, which means I haven’t had a fixed address since I started my degree. I travel around Australia and I live in my van, and I do a lot of housesitting while minding other people’s dogs.

What is your biggest challenge as a Cloud Campus student?

My biggest challenge is that studying in the Cloud Campus can be a bit of a lonely affair! I’ve joined a few Facebook groups, but what really works for me is co-studying sessions. It can be hard to coordinate timing to co-study with classmates, so I get on Zoom with friends who are also studying or working from home. We do stints of time where we work with our cameras on and our microphones on mute, then during breaks we have a chat. It’s been a massive game-changer for me when it comes to procrastination. Having the external accountability of someone’s face in the corner of my screen really helps me.

How do you manage your time?

When I’m doing a co-studying session we use the Pomodoro Technique, setting a timer and repeating blocks of 25 minutes of work with a five minute break in between. I find this really helpful.

I do a whole lot of planning. I know it’s not everyone’s jam, but for me it’s essential. At the beginning of every week I create a detailed schedule of what I’m going to get done every day, so when I wake up in the morning and I’m making my coffee I don’t have to make any decisions. If I leave decisions unmade, I will just sit there and mess around and play on Facebook while I think about where to start. Having a list that’s already laid out for me means that I can just work through it without having to think about it – it helps me a lot.

It’s important to know when you’re the most effective and play to that, instead of trying to force it. I’m a morning person – I don’t bother studying in the evening because I know it will take me three times as long to achieve anything. I make all social plans for evenings and keep my mornings for study.

How do you prepare for exams?

I use a flashcard app called Anki, but there’s lots of other flashcard apps you could use. At the end of each week I make all my notes based on the learning objectives and put them all in the flashcard app, broken down into nice small questions and answers. For example, if the question was ‘what are the causes, symptoms and treatment for Major Depressive Disorder?’ I would break that into three cards. Then I study the flash cards in the app whenever I get an idle moment, starting in week 1 and making it a daily practice. That way I’m studying for the exam throughout the trimester, and by the time the exam comes around everything is firmly entrenched in my long-term memory. Exams don’t faze me and I get great marks on them – I can’t recommend this approach highly enough.

What Deakin resources and services do you recommend?

I use Smarthinking, a free online service provided by Deakin, to help review my assignments. You need to make sure the assignment is ready a few days before the due date, but it’s well worth it. You just send them your assignment and they check the flow of the language, the grammar, and your referencing – which is a big help! I also have the Deakin guide to referencing bookmarked and use it constantly for essays and lab reports. I can get a little emotionally involved in my grades sometimes, and I’ve found the Deakin Counselling and Psychological Support to be really good. Having someone to talk things through with me and just listen to me for an hour is so valuable.

What other advice do you have for Cloud Campus students?

I really recommend downloading your lectures as audio so you can listen to them while you’re doing other things, like washing the dishes or walking the dog – it’s a great opportunity to get the information into your head.

And remember, you should never be afraid to ask your Unit Chair a lot of questions! Ask as many questions as you want! If you don’t want to post your question on the message boards in your unit site, then email it to your Unit Chair. Just always ask the questions – the teaching staff are there to help you.

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