Higher education requires a lot more dedication and discipline when it comes to studying and producing work. Although you will have to work on your deadlines (mostly) alone and complete the readings, when it comes to independent study there are pros and cons.
Firstly, independent study is a term you may hear often when applying and attending university, and in it’s simplest form it refers to studying on your own and can extend to you conducting your own research. Independent study will become a part of your student life when you begin completing deadlines, research and understanding the core topics from your course. This type of study is expected of you in higher education, but university shouldn’t be full of the same thing day in and day out.
When we investigate the advantages and disadvantages of independent study, we are not only exploring studying without given direction from your tutors, but also working alone.
If we look at independent study we can see that your work will solely reflect your work and what you need to focus on. You will be able to utterly close yourself off from distractions like, friends, family, and other students. The biggest advantage is that the work that you really need to get done, or revise, will get done.
When you start studying by yourself you will have key goals and directions that you want your work to go towards. If you are a part of a study group your ideas can become lost in translation, or dissolve completely. Individual projects are a chance for you to show what you, alone, are capable of, and this is what counts, as well as will reflect in your grades.
Your coursework and project work is a perfect example of you being able to study independently and research further into your subject area. The good side is that once you start researching, you’ll find yourself exploring deeper into your subject and find gems that your tutor may not even know about! And when you have started investigating textbooks, journals and statistics, you’ll find that you’ll gain a better understanding of your topic, which will help you in your work.
Strengths and weaknesses
Nobody is a better judge than you yourself. Your personal tutor, lecturer and classmates can have a go of telling you where you need to focus and what areas you need to improve on. However, you are the one that knows how well you work, when you work best, and what lies you are telling yourself! If you know that you lack in taking notes, completing the readings, or referencing properly, then you are the one true person who can change this. When you work alone you can be completely honest with yourself and this honesty is the only thing that will affect your grades.
One issue with working on your own is that you don’t get the opportunity to discuss topics and theories with other students and your teacher. Ideas won’t bounce off of each other and all suggestions have to come from you. Discussions, especially during classes are great for you and other students to get involved and have debates about current topics. Other perspectives will be represented and these can be handy when you are arguing a case in an essay.
Sometimes, you’ll find yourself stuck during an essay or throughout a project and won’t really have anyone at hand to go to for help. If this does happen you can speak to your classmates – but they might keep their best ideas close to their chests! – and arrange a one-on-one tutorial with your lecturer.
There may times when you find what you are studying difficult to comprehend; it happens to the best of us, however, working with other people is the chance for you to talk about any problems you have. You can talk through your misunderstandings with your friends and classmates, or wait until someone else in class asks the same question you have! If you are shy about talking about what you don’t understand, then you can speak to your teacher after class or book a one-to-one session.
Sharing is caring
Groupwork is a great opportunity for you to share the load and concentrate on one area of the project. You no longer have to complete the entire piece of work by yourself! Even if group work assignments are bigger, more difficult and require a separate set of skills – like statistics, presentations and film-making etc. it is the chance for you to focus on one section and not worry about the big picture for now.
There will be days when you don’t want to work at all, or you’ll feel that the entire world is on your shoulders, and if that does happen there is no bigger motivation than other people! If you are a part of a project, you know that you can’t lag in the work department if it affects other people’s grades. Or if you have weekly study sessions with classmates and you don’t want to let them down. If you’re studying affects other people, then that motivation will be a constant!
There are advantages and disadvantages to independent learning at higher education, and even though they are very diverse the most effective types of study is by using a mixture of different methods and this too, can lead to the question “What should students expect from university?”. There is group work, tutorials, study sessions, independent and learning support. Explore all different kinds of studying techniques and see what one is most effective and has the best result.
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