Posted in All things 301, student life, Uni work, Written by Stefana

301 Study Skills Online Resources

The 301 Academic Skills Centre has a great variety of services available to all University of Sheffield students such as workshops, 1:1 tutorials, online resources, PASS, and the Academic Skills Certificate. In this blog post, I will be talking about the 301 Study Skills Online.

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Beside all the events that happen weekly during term time at 301, we also have a great variety of online materials. If the workshop you really wanted to attend is not available anymore or if you cannot attend the sessions, do not worry! There is plenty of information on the 301 website that can help you learn the skills you are looking for.

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The topics covered contain useful information about what they are and how they are related to academic work. There are also short videos giving tips and hacks on how to better grasp the subject covered. Useful and relevant resources such as files and templates are available to download. These can help you organise your academic work. Additionally, if you want further information on the topic there are links provided to both internal and external resources.

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Some of the topics covered are:

  • University Study
    • Independent Study
    • Note Taking
    • Reflective Practice
  • Everyday Skills
    • Time Management
    • Reading Techniques
    • Critical Thinking
    • Mind Mapping
  • Communication
    • Group Work and Collaboration
    • Presentation Skills
    • Poster Presentations
  • Writing
    • Academic Writing Overview
    • Essay Structure and Planning
    • Scientific and Lab Report Writing
    • Referencing
  • Research
    • Dissertation Planning
  • Assessment
    • Exam Technique
    • Exam Revision
    • Making the Most of Feedback
    • Mental Wellbeing

If you want to have a look at some of our online resources you can find them on the 301 Website under Study Skills Online.

I hope this was helpful and you will learn new and interesting things when using the online resources!

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Posted in All things 301, Uni work, Written by Jun

How helpful are 301 academic resources to your study?

This is not an easy-to-answer question as the extent to which extracurricular academic workshops are useful really depends on whether you have found your own way to study your subject well. If you have not had a clear mind of how to effectively and efficiently manage your work, obtain knowledge and sharpen your academic skills, please have a serious think of attending 301 academic workshops. From any one of these workshops you can find something useful to a specific area in your study. I am convinced for you that the workshops in 301 are definitely different from other academic training courses you can see elsewhere. I will explain in more details below:

  • All-encompassing information

Image result for workshopsEach single 301 workshop takes place several times in a semester but is focused on the same content of knowledge. This means that you can come to any session on your convenience. In such 1.5 hour, one-session workshop, you get quite a lot useful knowledge, techniques and tips about how to significantly enhance the skills you focus on. During the workshop, the tutors give you opportunities to reflect yourself in terms of your advantages, disadvantages, level of confidence, etc. There are also opportunities for you to share your opinions or work on a task with other people, alongside several individual exercises. By fulfilling these tasks, you will be able to better understand the topic inside out and handle the techniques you learn more effectively.

  • Exclusive workshop slides

Every time after you have attended a workshop, the workshop slide used in the class will be immediately shared with you via email for your future reference. The content of slide is extremely useful because, apart from the content covered in the class, there are also some useful links and tips which the tutors probably did not take time to work out due to the limitation of time. Have a look at these links, and then you will find more useful websites, tools, software, text-based knowledge recommended by 301 team. For example, at the end of the ‘Paraphrasing and Using Academic Sources’ workshop slides there is a page with recommended useful resources wherein two are highly recommended: one is ‘University of Sheffield Library Information and Digital Literacy Resources’ and the other is ‘Manchester University Academic Phrasebank’. Both are commendable, especially the second one – the most value academic writing resource that I have ever seen (from my own point of view, but I believe most other people agree with me at this point).

  • Follow-up 1:1 tutorials

301 Academic Sills centre also provide you with opportunities to talk to the tutors individually through a 1:1 tutorial. This tutorial does not come along with any of the workshops here, but the tutors are very helpful to solve any problem related to or raisedImage result for 301 academic skills centre sheffield from your study in relation to what you learn from the workshops. It is therefore very useful to book a 1:1 tutorial to further consolidate the knowledge your learn from the workshop by looking at a piece of your work together with the tutor to dig up the problems you have and find a way to address so based upon the techniques you learn.

  • 301 study skills handouts

In 301 Academic Skills Centre, there are many free study skills handouts. They are focused on a particular aspect of university academic studies. You can take as many as you want if you think the are helpful to your study. Similarly, the handouts give you background of the concept, essential techniques involved and recommendations.

 

Recommended overall strategy of using 301 resources

Having talked about what you can obtain by involving in 301 academic resources, I would like to say that a good way to greatly make use of these resources is to combine the workshop, 1:1 tutorial and 301 study skills handouts. This is typically useful for those who are weak in one particular area and really want it to be improved. The workshops provide you with general and basic concepts and knowledge, the 1:1 tutorials make you further reflect upon what you learn in the workshops and have more in-depth understanding of the related techniques, and finally the handouts can give you an overview, mind-mapped, and summative information on top of the workshops and tutorials.

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I really hope these information is useful to you. Please do not hesitate to contact us through the email 301@sheffield.ac.uk. You are always welcomed!

Posted in All things 301, Intern advice, Written by James

Addicted to Procrastination

Are you aware of the most recent addiction sweeping the university? Its like a plague, moving from one student to the next. Thousands of marks have been lost because of it. It’s name… procrastination!

Alright, slightly melodramatic, but also technically true. Procrastination is a normal part of life, both in university and beyond. While you might think it a typical ‘student’ thing, any experience in an office or in the field should show you that people are just as likely to get nothing done and something done. The good news is that your experience with beating procrastination in university gives you an extremely valuable set of skills. Just like planning skills, avoiding procrastination where possible can help you save time. A person who cannot manage their money will always be poor, no matter how much money they earn. Similarly, a person with poor time management skills will always be short on time, no matter what they’re doing.

The 301 Service has a workshop dedicated to beating procrastination you can find where available here, along with the rest of the workshops we’re offering that term. If you fancy popping in, there’s also some worksheets available in reception, and where available a 1-1 tutorial can focus on time management. Here however, I’ll summarise the techniques I’ve found the most valuable personally. Your mileage might vary! I’d encourage you to try out as many techniques as possible to find one that works.

And remember that you are only human, nobody expects you to avoid procrastinating entirely! Procrastination is something to be managed, but not something to be entirely eradicated!

1. The Pomodoro Technique

A classic and proven method of avoiding procrastination, the Pomodoro technique has you work in intervals with breaks in between. There are many apps, free and paid, which have built in timers and diaries to help you in using this technique.

The science behind it is that there is no such thing as true multi-tasking. Sure, you can do two things during the same time period, but the brain cannot focus on two tasks at the same time. Instead, you constantly swap your attention back and forth between the two tasks. There is an opportunity cost to this, and you will never use your full cognitive ability on any one task, instead working inefficiently. I’ve tried during my PhD to split writing tasks with playing specific games or watching television. This might be fine for very practical, tedious tasks which don’t need your full attention. For everything else, you’ll either spend time watching the TV, or you’ll ignore it entirely. There is no in between.

The Pomodoro technique allows you to avoid multi-tasking. During, for example, a thirty minute period, you will focus on one single task. Distractions, such as wanting to check your phone, sending or replying to an email, booking an appointment etc. should be written down on a notepad next to you. When the timer is up, you have a short break to address these smaller tasks and distractions. With this, you can hopefully keep the minor distractions to a minimum, as these often become larger distractions. One moment checking my email and I’m online. These machines are designed to make you pay attention to them for as long as possible. With the Pomodoro technique, you can train yourself to avoid that slippery slope!

Social Smoking is Still Smoking… So is Social Procrastination

Do you know somebody, it might even be yourself, who claims not to smoke or drink, but will indulge themselves in a few when they’re with friends who are doing the same? Often, this is just a cover to make ourselves feel better about the activity, which we know might not be socially acceptable. For example, drinking alone often tends to be a sign of alcoholism, but there are just as many people with drinking problems who only drink when they’re in a social setting, and therefore don’t believe they have a problem. Its just that they constantly seek out such social settings.

The same can be said for procrastination. Studying can be a lonely activity, so often its a good idea to form study groups, formally or informally. Don’t get me wrong, this can be a great idea. Not only can it keep up your morale , but you can talk about each other’s work, correct each others mistakes and generally help each other not to procrastinate! However, be wary of falling into the trap of social procrastination. You’re all there to study not to relax in the pleasant surroundings of the Information Commons. Before you know it, your five hour revision session only included about thirty minutes of revision.

Consider taking a set of headphones so that you can cut yourself off from the group conversation in general with music. Then, you can select when you want social interaction. Consider pairing this with the Pomodoro method or similar scheduling systems. You can work together, but also break together so that you stick to working during work time, and enjoy the company in social times. If a group just isn’t working out, then you might consider working alone or with a different group. Just like any other addiction, some people are enablers, and will tempt you (knowingly or unknowingly) against your better nature to procrastinate with all the tools of peer pressure, usually to make themselves feel better about their own. The best way to beat this sort of procrastination is to remove yourself from temptation!

There is no ‘Perfect Mood’, but there are ‘Bad Moods’

Some people like to only study when everything is perfect. The room has to be just the right temperature. One must not be too hungry or too full. There should be snacks of just the right sort, and coffee must be drank at just the right time before the session begins. It must be placed just before other obligations. Two hours before the lecture? I just won’t have enough time to focus. Two hours after the lecture? I’ll be too tired by then. And what if I have to go out tonight? I might as well just watch Netflix instead.

If these sound like excuses, its because there are. If we all waited until the ‘perfect’ time to start working on a project or goal, nothing would ever get done. It is a fact of life I have struggled to internalise that often I will not be in the most productive mood, but most moods can be productive-ish. I might not write one thousand words in one sitting, but I will write one hundred, and ten times that I’ve done just as well as I was when I waited. Recognise those thoughts for what they are, the essence of procrastination. You don’t want to work, so you are grasping for any reason to avoid it. Don’t fall into this trap!

This being said, please don’t work yourself to the bone. There will be times where the work you produce will not be of a good enough quality to justify the pain you’ll inflict on yourself. Your time is better spent on rest, recovery and self care. Procrastination is when you avoid doing work for poor reasons, not when you take the rational decision to take a break from work you would like to do soon because you simply aren’t up for it. There is a happy medium in deciding when to work, and when to take a break.

Planning to Work is not Work.

Planning is an essential part of good time management. With large academic projects, time spent planning is often time saved later down the road. But often, planning to do something can be a way of avoiding actually doing it.

I once knew a friend who would take great lengths to write long plans, colour coded, with time assigned for each element, all first in a planner, then online, then on her wall. She would highlight each reading meticulously and then transfer that to written notes. All this before a word was put to paper. Yet, when it came down to it, all that planning was overkill, a way for her to feel like she was doing a lot, when actually she was avoiding the harder task in favour of one she could do easily. Just like in office settings we criticise the idea of forming committees and having talks and action plans regarding relatively straightforward tasks, so should you recognise when you’re planning for the sake of it to avoid the challenging task of academia.

Avoid Talking Too Much About What You’re Doing

Similarly, you might find yourself eagerly talking to peers about your goals, what your study schedule is like etc. yet find yourself not doing that at all.

Personally, I’ve found myself waxing poetic about the fact that I’m doing a part-time degree as well as working, and how eternally busy I am, while at the same time I tend to spend more time than I’d like to admit relaxing and working on personal projects rather than my academic work. This is because it is a proven fact that we tell our peers about our work seeking validation. Once we receive this validation that we are indeed hard-working people, we have no psychological incentive to actually follow through with our claims. Receiving validation for planning to do something is a replacement for the validation one gets from their peers when they actually have done it. To keep yourself motivated, recognise when you’re talking too much about what you’re going to do, rather than what you have already done.

This doesn’t mean avoiding any discussion of what you plan to do. Rather, recognise when it becomes unproductive to do so, and when its more for the sake of your ego than for any practical reason.

So in summary…

Procrastination is something that everybody does, but like any vice, it can become a problem. I’ve found myself in trouble I shouldn’t have been because I didn’t plan properly. I should have been using these techniques years ago. Sadly, I didn’t, any I’ll never get some of that time I wasted back. Learn from my mistakes and the work of the scholars who have identified these ways we procrastinate and ways we can avoid it, and make the most of your time at university!

Posted in All things 301, Intern advice, student life, Written by Arinola

Making the Best Use of the 301 Workshops

Upon first finding out about 301 and the variety of workshops on offer, I know that the first instinct many of us have is to pick the workshops that seem relevant and sign up to all of them in one fell swoop. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that by itself. However, a couple of things can make that strategy problematic and I’ll share some advice on what you should be doing instead.

If right now, you’re having a look at all the Exam Techniques and Exam Revision workshops we have available and thinking, “sign me up!”, you will find this blog post useful for ensuring that you can utilise the information you gain from the workshops – and smash your exams, of course! 🙂

  1. WHY: Yes, yes. I know you know why you’ve chosen to attend a particular workshop but think about it. Say you don’t have any group work this semester and have always been really unenthusiastic about the prospect of doing assessed group work, so you sign up to attend a workshop on that here at 301, I’m sure you’ll find it useful because I did myself. Now that’s different from signing up to attend that workshop and 9 others because you just like the sound of them. There are a ton of workshops to pick from and they are all great but it is worth considering your reason for attending the workshop and having in mind that your interest will affect how seriously you take the workshop, your willingness to engage with the material and your drive to get the best out of it.
  2. HOW MANY: I touched briefly on signing up to 9 workshops at once and I’ll now elaborate on why that may not be the best idea. Quality over quantity applies a lot here but it’s not the quality of the workshop that is in question at all. It’s the quality of information that you can feasibly get out of, and then apply to improving or developing the skills that the workshops aim to provide support with. How realistic is it that after attending 9 workshops in a semester you’ll be able to successfully
    • get better at presenting;
    • reading quickly;
    • taking notes effectively;
    • working well in a group; and
    • planning your dissertation

and do all of that within 12 weeks! I mean, if you can, fair play to you and please…

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Just bear in mind that you have at least 6 semesters in university and if you prioritise your skills needs every semester, the probability that you’ll leave university having gained all of the skills I’ve listed above is most likely a 100%. You can afford to take time and be deliberate about it.

3. THE FOLLOW-UP: From experience, this is the most difficult part. Nothing good comes easy, they say, but it is so tempting to hope that attending a workshop or 1:1 study skills tutorial will set you right up. You do have to make time and work with the advice you have received so that you can make progress. Revisit the slides you get sent as many times as you need to as well as any notes you take. Also make sure to use the resources recommended to you during the workshop. It’s normal to be eager for a marked improvement within say 2 weeks and to be frustrated if you don’t see any. Take your time and after a while you will be instinctively doing things a different way after making those repeated efforts initially.

I hope you find these tips useful and are having a fantastic Easter break whether that is being spent in the IC or somewhere a bit more fun catching some sun rays.

Posted in All things 301, student life, Written by Stefana

All about PASS: Peer Assisted Study Sessions

Coming to University after high school can be a bit overwhelming. The courses are taught differently and the amount of information you receive every week is greater than before. There are many services around the University to help you cope with work. One of them is PASS: Peer Assisted Study Sessions. If you like studying with other people, then PASS is for you!

The Peer Assisted Study Session (PASS) is a project developed by the 301 Academic Skills Centre in collaboration with a number of academic departments at the University of Sheffield. It provides help and support for students by having a higher year student from the same course share their knowledge and expertise. PASS is a popular learning model used around the globe and there is extensive evidence to support the benefit of studying in such an environment.

What happens during PASS?

All peer study sessions are department specific. A student in a higher level of study from that course will run the meeting. They are trained Peer Assisted Leaders that will help the lower level students during the session using their skills and knowledge. They help the participant students understand their work and reach their own solutions by encouraging group discussions. The informal environment helps students feel more at ease and enables them to engage in fun and interesting conversations with other students from the same department.

Why take part in PASS?

There are many benefits you can gain by taking part in PASS. Since peer assisted learning is a internationally recognised study model, there have been numerous studies that researched the impact of taking part in PASS. Some of the benefits include:

  • A smoother transition from high school learning environment to the University learning environment.
  • Development of communication skills, teamwork skills, and time management skills.
  • Improved academic results

Also, you can gain HEAR Recognition for attending the sessions.

Past participants talked about how PASS helped them be more confident in their own knowledge, achieve better results, and make new friends

If you would like to participate in a PASS session, ask your department if they are currently holding any sessions. If your department does not have PASS session, check the 301 website to see how you could start a PASS group.