Lachlan: What you need to know about mixed mode study
'So you only have eight hours of uni a week? You must have so much free time.’
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this assumption. My response? ‘Well, no, actually… not at all.’
Not only does each course at uni generally require a number of hours of extra work each week plus assignment work, you, my friend, are forgetting that I am also doing a couple of my subjects externally. For the courses I study on-campus, some of my weekly workload is covered in class during lectures and tutorials. For my external courses however, I need to find the time in my own schedule to cover off on all the readings and course materials. Mixed mode study has a lot of benefits, but it also has its challenges. If you’re considering a combination of on-campus and online study, here’s what you need to know.
Why mixed mode?
There can be plenty of reasons why someone would study a mix of external and on-campus courses. You might be trying to balance a job with your study and don’t have the flexibility in your working hours to make it on campus multiple times a week. You might live out of town/ and want to limit your travel time or, as was often the case with me, external study might be the only way a particular course is offered. Mixed mode also offers a solution to tricky clashes in your semester timetable.
Mixing up your study style.
Studying externally can have its own unique challenges. You have to structure and plan your time, make yourself sit down and watch that whole two-hour online lecture and rely on emails and StudyDesk forums to ask questions. Doing a mixture of external and on-campus courses, I could really see the different approaches to study needed. For on-campus courses, I could have conversations about the course content and ask questions of my lecturers and fellow students. We could go over and over the same point until I felt I understood it.
When studying my online courses, however, the learning was left more up to me. Any questions I had, I spent a lot of time editing before posting to the forums, making sure I liked the phrasing, that there were no typos and that I asked as many concise questions as possible. I still had the same support from my lecturers, I just needed to be more proactive in asking for help when I needed it. Studying a mixture of modes meant I found myself having to switch between two very different mentalities and two approaches to learning.
Keeping online courses in the mix.
Another thing I noticed while juggling online study with on-campus was how easy it was to forget about my online courses. I did my best to plan my time, incorporating the online subjects, but after a number of full days spent on-campus at uni (mostly resulting from a spread out timetable and other commitments on-campus or placement days) I felt like I had filled my quota of uni for the week. Having lectures and tutorials to remind me of the on-campus courses and nothing physical to remind me of the external ones meant it was so easy to forget about them. Of course, when this happened it resulted in having to spend time catching up.
Mixing up your schedule.
Finding the balance of how much time to spend on each course to fit in with all my other commitments was hard. Some weeks I had less hours of study because I had forgotten about a course, and then the following weeks I had more as I tried to catch up. Those weeks where I had less hours of study I would often think “I do have some free time, I might make more commitments, only to find myself struggling to meet these commitments the next week.
Eventually, I learned my lesson. I put up physical reminders of my online courses, and made sure the weekly schedule I made was also clearly visible. A steady routine was helpful too. For example, one semester I committed to watching a lecture for my online course as soon as I got home from an on-campus tutorial. Another semester I used the time I had between two on-campus classes to head to the library and fit in a study session for one of my external courses.
It took me a while to successfully juggle on-campus and external subjects and to have the right mindset and learning style for mixed mode study, but with a little trial and error I soon got the hang of it. If you’re trying to fit study around work, travel or a tricky timetable, I’d definitely suggest giving mixed mode a try.
To read about other students’ experiences studying online, visit USQ’s Social Hub. If you’ve studied a mix of online and on-campus courses, how did you find it? Do you have any tips for other students?