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Category Archives: Learn

Getting the best out of study guides

There are a lot of Internet study guide services available today.  If you choose to use one of these services, you need to keep in mind:
1.    Study guides, which are more commonly known as Cliff Notes, should not replace any research that you do yourself.
2.    Not all study guides are created equally.  Some study guides simply collect information from the Internet.  This information may not be accurate, beneficial or analytical.
3.    If the study guide uses references, then you should check to make sure that they are accurate.

Now that you know the purpose of study guides and realized that they are meant to supplement studying and not to replace it, then it is finally time to choose which study guide you should use.  Here is how you should go about doing this:
1.    Each level of education has specific and unique expectations of its students.  For instance, a sixth grader will need a minimal amount of information with very little analysis.  On the other hand, a graduate student will be required to know and analyze a lot more information about a specific subject.
2.    While all of the study guide companies have literature guides, not all of them have taken on other subjects.  Therefore, you would not want to try to find a study guide on a history topic from a company that specializes in literature.
3.    If you are purchasing a study guide online then you should take time to search the company’s web site for articles that are related to the study guide’s topic.  A high quality service will have a lot of additional available for you to find online.  Herein you will be able to research the sources that are cited in these articles.  (*Remember* book notes and summaries are NOT meant to replace actual studying.)
4.    Keep an eye out for value.  There are some study guide web sites that require you to have a membership, while others do not.  If you feel that you will be using this service more than once, then it may be appropriate for you to pay to become a member.  This membership fee is usually between $30 to $100.  You will be able to find other study guide services that will allow you to register for free or to just purchase one study guide.

After you have finally found a good study guide, it is possible that the study guide may still be missing out on some valuable information.  If you find this to be true then you should either email the company or use the “contact us” link on their web site.  In this way you can tell them what they are missing.  Of course, they can only fix or improve things that you bring to their attention.  It will benefit you to do this if you ever plan on using this service again.

Distance learning

Most students have never experienced anything similar to the format of distance learning courses.  This is because the teaching style is more student directed and relies heavily upon technology.  So, if you are not savvy when it comes to the computer and the Internet, then you are not only going to have to learn new coursework but you will also need to learn new skills as well.  Therefore, it is a good idea to see if your local public library or community center is offering classes or workshops about computers and the Internet.  This may seem overwhelming but in reality the time that you spend learning how to use this new technology will save you time overall.

A lot of colleges also offer support for new students.  Some of these schools may have orientation sessions at the beginning of each new semester.  If your school offers this, then you should plan on attending.  You will be able to gain valuable information about the structure of the course that you are about to take and the technology that is used therein.  Besides learning how to use new technology, you will probably also learn how to organize your time as well as get a feel for the teacher’s expectations.

More than likely you will have to write a research paper for your distance learning college course.  If you are taking a class that is within driving distance of your home, you should go to the school to do your research at the college library.  Of course, your school probably also has an online library database, which you should learn to use so that you can save time whenever you are doing research.

Your workload in a distance learning class will be similar to traditional college coursework.  You will need to study the text, then complete assignments and take exams.  So, almost all of your work will involve both reading and writing.  Therefore, you may want to get a tutor who can help you to improve your skills in these areas.  You will also need to make sure to schedule enough time to complete all of your reading.  One thing that may help here is to get your textbooks early so that you can read the first few chapters before classes begin.

Make sure that you also have good time management skills.  You do not want to begin procrastinating, so set goals for yourself and make a schedule so that you can achieve these goals.  It is a good idea to plan on spending 9 hours per week studying for each class that you are taking.  Make sure you do not fall behind.  In fact, try to stay at least 1 week ahead.

Of course, you are not completely alone whenever you are taking distance learning courses.  You can stay in contact with your instructor and ask for regular feedback via a phone call or email message.  Take the time to interact with other students through chats, message boards or online study groups.  Make sure to take advantage of every opportunity you are given.

Deciding which learning alternative is for you

For decades now, each and every day of school has been boring, rote and repetitive.  However, today the traditional school day has been radically altered.  This is because there are numerous, viable learning alternatives available today.  In order to decide which is best for you, it is important to look at both the advantages and disadvantages of each of these learning alternatives.

Correspondence Courses

Traditionally, the lesson materials for a correspondence course would arrive via the postal  mail.  Once the work is completed the student returns the work and then awaits the arrival of the next lesson.  This process would then continues until all of the required lessons have been completed.  Herein the teacher can only be conducted via telephone, e-mail or written letter.  For highly motivated, independent learners this works very well.

Field Trips

Field trips work well with both traditional education and independent studies.  Herein a student visits a location outside of their school or home in order to learn about a specific topic or theme.  These places can include manufacturing facilities, a park, museum, the Zoo, an aquarium, public services facilities like fire stations, TV or radio studios, hospitals or police stations.  This is an effective learning strategy but a teacher or a guide must be available.  It also needs to be understood that setting up these field trips to some places can be difficult or even impossible if a person is trying to learn things by themselves.

Independent Study

An independent study involves designing a project that you, as the student, will then complete by yourself through various means.  This work can require that several intricately interacted facets be completed.  These may include investigative research, writing, field trips, interviews, extensive reading or lectures.  A final production must then be put together.  This can be in the form of a presentation, paper or report that gives all of the details of your work and the knowledge that you have acquired.

Educational Television Course

Today most major metropolitan areas have at least one public broadcasting station that features educational programming.  These programs are usually a part of a college or university’s accredited course of study.  Students record these programs at home to watch and take notes on.  They also study the broadcast material, which is an integral part of their learning.  While this is an effective strategy for highly independent learners, it does not promote interpersonal contact between the teacher, if there is one, and the student.


We likely will never see a return to “traditional” learning as was illustrated above. But with the growing variety of learning alternatives, there certainly is something to suit almost everyone. So get out of your rut. Take a chance – take a course and improve your mind and your life using one of the many learning alternatives available to you. If not, there’s always a M’s Crabapple waiting.

10 Ways to Learn a Software

If you are interested in learning a certain computer software package, then there are some things that you can do to make sure that you do so in a short amount of time and as efficiently as possible:
1.    Install the software package and then look for any README files as these will give you an overview of the software’s features, usages and limitations.
2.    Take the time to run the software so that you can get a feel for the look of the software’s main screen.
3.    Look at the information in the TITLE-BAR of the main screen and the STATUS-BAR at the bottom of this screen so that you can see what operation is being performed.
4.    Look at the main MENU-BAR.  The most common menu items that you will find there are: FILE (operations include: NEW, OPEN, SAVE, SAVE AS, PAGE SETUP, PRINT, CLOSE and EXIT), EDIT (operations include: CUT, COPY, PASTE and FIND AND REPLACE), VIEW (this helps control the software’s view), TOOLS (herein there are operations that are used to customize the software), WINDOWS and HELP (here is where the GETTING STARTED tutorial is located along with a detailed indexed and searchable help and a pop up dialog-box that shows information about the software).
5.    Once you have become acquainted with the menu and the items therein, you should try to find shortcuts for them.  The most common shortcuts include: Ctrl+N – New; Ctrl+O – Open; Ctrl+S – Save; Ctrl+Shift+S – Save As; Ctrl+P – Print; Ctrl+X – Cut; Ctrl+C – Copy; Ctrl+V – Paste; and Ctrl+F – Find.
6.    Now take a look at the various tool-bars that are located beneath the menu bars.  This is where there is a visual shortcut for each desired operation. These include a paper folder for NEW; an opened folder for OPEN; a scissor for CUT; 2 papers for COPY; a paper on clamp pad for PASTE; a floppy disc icon for SAVE; a printer ICON for PRINT; and a book or question mark icon for HELP.
7.    Next you will want to look at the sample applications that are provided with the software.  This will help you to understand what functionality level the package can provide.  Plus, you may find that you do not have to start your application from scratch but instead you can start by using one of the sample applications as long as the source code is available.
8.    The menu-item name will tell you its functionality but you should still try it out.

With a little study and practice you will be able to master a software package.  This is where the built-in help that the package itself provides can be very useful.  If you do find that you still have questions, take some time to go to a Search Engine and look for the material that you need to solve your problem.  There are a lot of web sites that have tips and tricks for various software packages, their programming languages and links to other useful material about them as well.

10 tips for becoming a good life long learner

Lifelong learning is a philosophy of approaching learning as an integral, inseparable part of your life.  It is important to make a plan for this type of learning.  Here are 10 tips to help you formulate this plan for yourself:
1.    Make a commitment to approaching learning as though it really is a lifelong journey.  This does not mean that you have to attend formal educational institutions in order to undertake this process.
2.    Lifelong learning does not follow a schedule like that you had in school, which is why it is so easy to ignore and procrastinate.  However, this does not have to happen to you if you are willing to create a system that works for you.  One such idea is to keep learning journals for each topic that you enjoy studying.
3.    Take the time to create settings that support and inspire you to learn.  For instance, the library, the mall, the park and a restaurant may all cause you to want to learn about different things.  You will also want to learn what supplies help to keep your energy up.  For instance, you may need a quiet environment for some learning while others can best be done in a busy environment.
4.    In order to learn effectively, it is important to figure out how you learn. This is not to say that there is 1 best way.  In fact, you should know that everything can be tied into learning.  Herein it is also important to figure out when your mind needs a break and how you best retain the information that you learn (i.e. by reading aloud, taking notes, summarizing things or sharing with others).
5.    Practice different types and ways of thinking so that you can keep your mind strong and flexible. This is like taking your mind to the gym.
6.    Whenever you are writing something, make it into an opportunity to work toward improving the way in which you use words to construct understandable ideas. This will lead you to be able to think more clearly.
7.    Take the time to listen to a teleclass or a book on tape and then write your own version of it.  This will help you to move it into your long-term memory so that you can use it in other situations.
8.    By experiencing other people’s communication styles and learning methods you will be able to grow, prosper, open your mind and develop new perceptions. Your ability to use these situations as an opportunity to learn means being willing to deal with conflict, criticism and any other points of vulnerability that you may encounter.
9.    You should know that both your physical and your mental health affect your ability to learn.  Make sure that you are able to identify and work through any health challenges in these areas just as soon as they appear.
10.    All of this should be written down as a part of your yearly learning goals.  These can then be subdivided into monthly topics that you make time commitments for.  From there, go ahead and minimize any distractions by tabling the other topics that you want to learn about.  You may wish to write these down in a folder that is for next year.