It’s the start of a new term, maybe even a brand new start all together if your course starts this term! So what have you learnt so far that you will be trying to do more of or better than last term or less of than last term?
For me, it is the start of my dissertation term. This time last year I was packing my stuff up at home between hospital visits to check in on my Dad after his heart attack, in preparation for moving back to campus to start my masters degree. I had been out of higher education since I completed my PGCE back in 2008 – that is 8 and a half years! I had obviously still been in education after that for a while but as the teacher or coach/trainer depending on where I was working, I had been on training courses myself, but nothing like what being back in higher education was like at all!
To be fair, a year ago I had far too much time on my hands as I had just quit my job before Christmas 2016 so had signed up with an employment agency, who were on site, so that I could do some temporary jobs while I was on campus and therefore earn some money to help pay for living costs. Back then, one of the first things I did was head to the library and borrow a huge pile of books so I could get a start on reading them. I am not the fastest reader, especially when it comes to text books, I like to have time to absorb it all so also need a fairly quiet environment as well. I spent a lot of my time before term commenced thinking about reading and prep for class, I did a bit of reading but not as much as I would have really liked given how much free time I had!
When I got my class schedule, I was disappointed to find I was only in uni 1 day a week for 1 module, and 1 week where we had a solid week of 9-5 lectures for the 2nd module. So, I put this into my Filofax so I would know exactly where I needed to be each week – it turned out to be the same place and times etc so wasn’t too hard! This meant I could also write in ad hoc temp work as and when I was offered it, so it did work out well, although I had FAR too much free space on the day to view pages I had printed, as I thought I would be in uni several days a week. I did end up going into the lab in uni several days a week once we had been given access to the main program we needed to use amongst others for our coursework so I could learn how to use it. I f I was meeting up with my lab partner, I could also write that in so I knew what I was doing when and didn’t double book myself or forget anything!
When I was given the deadlines for the coursework, and the exam dates obviously those went in my Filofax as well. I like that I can visually see how far away they are and if any other appointments are scheduled that could get in the way of a group meeting or lab session.
And for all of my reading and revision notes went in an A4 exercise book that had blue lined (or squared) paper in it, and I used lots of coloured pens to keep my revision interesting rather than dull.
For exam revision this term I also used my whiteboard and flip chart pad to not only make big diagrams to help me remember things like this OSI Model, but also I could use the whiteboard itself to write a list of stuff to do and check them off when I had done them, then wipe them off and start a new check list when I had completed everything.
Over the summer I got myself a new job, it was still a temporary one, for up to 12 weeks – which tied nicely in with the start of term, it was again through the on campus agency, but this time rather than apply for a job they posted out to us all, I was personally recommended for it! I started back in July and term started again back in October, it is now nearly the end of January and I am still there, 6 months on! Financially, this has been really helpful as I have actually been able to pay my rent, time spent on my uni work however, has flipped 180 and rather than spending most of my time on my work, I have spent very little time on my work in a lot of ways. I have attended class and the labs, but I have not been able to study during the day or attend extra labs like I did during the first term. I got my work done but it wasn’t as good as it should or could have been. I get my results back on the 8th February for the past term so hopefully I won’t have done too badly…
This term, partly as it is my dissertation term, but also partly because I know I did not put in as much as I should have done last term, I am trying to get a head start on things. So, I have got myself a 2018 yearly wall planner so I can see what I have going on where. I have so far written on the main key term days (so far the Easter Holidays) and I will add the deadlines for my dissertation module to it once we’ve had our first class on the 2nd February. I have added a few dates that I know for work related things and more will be added over the next few weeks as I have a meeting with my boss this week, I am assuming to talk about plans for the next few months. Adding this information is going to be imperative so I can plan to do my dissertation work around my job, or rather and more hopefully this term I can plan my job around my dissertation more!
I have also already purchased a book about dissertations that will hopefully guide me through mine, I got this particular one (Dissertations and Project Reports A step by step guide – Stella Cottrell) because I had one of the other study books by the same author and publisher and found it very helpful to me. I have started reading this already and have been answering the reflection questions at the bottoms of the pages to get thinking about where I am at in relation to the questions in the book. I have just stuck them on the wall in front of me for the time being but I will probably move them as I get further into the book and replace it with a gantt chart that I will plan out for my dissertation.
I also need to sort out exactly what I am doing for my dissertation! My course leader gave me nearly 20 papers to read over the summer as he would like me to do something for him and a project he is working on, however I am concerned that the area this involves is not something I have a background in so although right now I could tell you exactly what all those papers he got me to read are saying needs to be worked out, I could even possibly make a few suggestions as to how that could be worked out, the thing I can’t do is to work out the thing that needs working out! It is just beyond anything I have done before and although I have shown that I am fairly good, my results for my first term showed that I was “…more than capable…” my course leader said, that still doesn’t negate the fact that I have no idea what so ever how to even go about resolving this issue let alone actually being able to resolve it!
So thankful that I have the papers on my iPad Pro, combined with the GoodNotes app and my iPencil means I can take notes directly on to the PDF and I can use the coloured overlay of my iPad to change the colour of the page to blue so I can read it without having to try and faff around with the actual page colour of the PDF – it has become quite a life saver this past term! I still wish I had the larger 12.9″ iPad Pro, but I guess my 9.7″ one is slightly better for portability!
I also have a program in my armoury that will help get me through my dissertation, and because the dissertation will be written in sections rather than in one long document I just know that this is going to be the best ever way to get all the little bits done and dusted – and everyone else is going to be wondering how I did such a great job of keeping everything in the right order and not a jumbled mess! More on that another time though as I want to explore the iPad version as well, I have not played with that version yet, but I have used the main program on my Mac enough to know how helpful it is going to be on its own – if I can combine the iPad version as well then I will be even more excited!
Are you doing your dissertation this term? Maybe you finished yours last term or last summer, if so what items did you find helped you get through your work? Let me know in the comments!
Here are some of the items I mentioned in my post that I have purchased and will be using this term to keep me on track with my dissertation, maybe you can also find some of them helpful: