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FEATURED BLOG POSTS

Michael Sands

At Open2Study, we love meeting our students. They come from all over the world, from all walks of life, with one thing in common: a love of learning. Here we chat to Michael Sand, a Student Guide and Open2Study regular.

Wisconsin, land of ice and snow

Image via Flickr

I grew up in Kenosha, Wisconsin the land of ice and snow. Now I live in Lehigh Acres, Florida by way of 25 years in Rhode Island.

I have a high school education. I have taken many seminars on the labor movement for my past involvement in UNITEHERE a labor union. I went as high as Vice President from New England.

I found Open2Study by searching online for MOOCs. I take courses on a couple of other sites along with auditing courses at OCS. I may be retired but I never want to stop learning. There is always something new and I want to know it all.

There is one big benefit in accessing new information online; that would be cost. You get to learn about a subject for free and find out if it is the right one for you. If not, just choose a new class next time and it just might be the one you were looking for.

I have been truly blessed to find Open2Study because they made me a Student Guide. I have always enjoyed helping people which is why I got involved with the union. As a Student Guide I try to give students encouragement that they are doing the right things to get ahead in their life. A good education is the most important thing that you can give yourself to get ahead in life. Have you seen any lanterns in the forums? That may have been me giving you some encouragement from someone who has been around a little more. As a Student Guide I also go through the community forums to see if I can be of any help.

"A good education is the most important thing that you can give yourself to get ahead in life."

The forums take the place of discussion in the traditional classroom. As such they are an important part of the whole learning experience. I urge each and every student to join them. You might just be able to help someone else. Seeing others points of view is what learning is all about.

Everyone has their own study technics. I use my Nexis 7 tablet to do all my studying on. I'm usually on my recliner with my headphones on. I try to get on the forums everyday to see what other students are saying. On Friday evening I watch this week's videos. On Saturday and Sunday I do the further reading for the week.

My one tip for someone taking their first course online is use the forums. You will get advice from people who have a little more experience than you do.

I have a little advice I'd like to give you. In today's world a good education is the most important thing you can have. I urge you to find a subject you like here on Open2Study and then go for it. You will never regret an education.

My next course on Open2Study is going to be one I had to drop out of because of work requirements a while back; Sociology.

Jennifer Piper

The Open2Study team loves getting to know our students, so when we heard that student Clare Farrelly had won a photography competition with some of her work from The Art of Photography, we had to find out more.

Catch A Drop Of Sunlight by Clare Farrelly

Catch A Drop Of Sunlight by Clare Farrelly

"The author has seen something a little different. Well done."


Tell us a bit about yourself – where do you live, where did you grow up, what do you do for work and fun?

My name is Clare and I am the eldest of six. I live in the beautiful Hunter Valley in New South Wales, Australia. I have always lived in the same town. In my seventeen years I have had many hobbies some of which are writing, sketching, stamp collection, reading, raising chooks and blogging, but most of all photography. I have done a more in-depth course after the O2S one and since then have done a few photo shoots for people, which is both a passion and a job for me.

How did you learn about Open2Study?

I learnt about Open2Study through an online homeschool group. Some friends had also done a few courses.

Please tell us about the recent competition, in which your photography was recognised. What prompted you to enter the competition?

I have entered photos in the local show since 2006 when I was just starting to take photos. The very first time one of the two photos I entered got a first. Since then it has been an annual event I look forward to. This year I did the best I ever have, getting seven firsts. There are lots of different photography sections and the one I entered photos I took during this course, is called; Creative Photo.

Which photograph/s were recognised?

My photograph Splashes Stilled placed first and the judge commented, “Beautiful image. Water looks like molten glass. Good composition exposure and texture. Good colours with no distraction.” My photograph Catch A Drop Of Sunlight placed second with the following comment, “The author has seen something a little different. Well done. Good choice of colours of the tweezers, which contrast well to the sunlight. The image could have been improved by cropping out some of the light at the top of the image.” Cup Of Light placed fourth, highly commended.

Splashes Stilled by Clare Farrelly

Splashes Stilled by Clare Farrelly

"Beautiful image. Water looks like molten glass."


How did the forums and other social networks help with your photography study? Do you still interact with other students in the Google+ Community, or other forums?

I greatly appreciated the feedback I got on my photos I posted to the Google+ Community during the course and I followed some of the advice to touch up the photos I entered (which was within rules, it stated photos could be manipulated). Now I still occasionally go on and comment on other people's photos. Being able to see others' photos was encouraging and I enjoyed looking at them and commenting.

The Google+ Community was probably the very best bit about the course and the interaction with other real people and being inspired and likewise inspiring others. I highly recommend this to anyone taking the course I did.

What was your study schedule like? Did you have a special study time and place?

I watched the lectures during the first half of each week. I like to be on time, so I often ended up ahead and waiting for the next week of lectures to become available. I went out and took photos nearly every day, which is no unusual thing for me and it still isn’t. I just used the family computer in the lounge room.

Cup of Light by Clare Farrelly

Cup of Light by Clare Farrelly


What are your tips for someone about to start an online course?

Make sure you have time for it; it is no good to be trying to cram all that information in then rushing off to do something else. For a photograph course in particular you must try to do what the lessons teach and get to know your camera, take photos and experiment with different ideas.

Make sure you keep up to date with it all and if possible get ahead so you are not under pressure. It is easier to work in a stress free environment. At least develop some sort of schedule and set yourself some goals.

Be self-motivated.

I would also check out the website, and just have a look at how it all works and where things are. Find the forum and help places and just get to know the site.

What are you planning to study next?

I am not studying anything in particular at the moment. As of yet I don’t plan on studying anything in particular soon, I am trying to get into photography as a bit more than just a hobby. Courses are really good for learning basics but nothing teaches like experience.

Enrolments for the next round of The Art of Photography are now open, along with 47 other Open2Study courses.

Jennifer Piper

It’s National Mental Health Week in Australia, so we’re bringing you a series of tips on how to keep your mind healthy. Here’s some of our favourite ways to keep a steady mind, at work or study.

chocolate can help relieve stress

Image via Flickr

Super snacks

Did you know that some foods can actually improve your mental health?

Our favourite is probably dark chocolate. A square or two of dark chocolate can help to regulate your cortisol levels (a pretty nasty stress hormone) and calm you. Honey has been found to reduce depression and anxiety levels by acting on inflammation in the brain. Mango, as well as being a delicious excuse to take a break (they do take a while to peel) contains an amazing substance called linalool that can also help you manage your stress.

Wash it all down with a cup of green tea, containing L-Theanine, to minimise anger and frustration and bring the meal together.

Brain breaks

Sometimes, the best way to get away from stress is to reduce stressful thoughts. A five-minute guided meditation, that you can cue up on your phone and do at your desk, can help recenter your thoughts and set you up for the rest of the day.

There’s an interesting exercise used as part of mindfulness, in which you close your eyes and pay attention to each part of your body, in turn. Not only does it give your brain something to focus on, other than your worries, it can also help you to identify parts of the body that are holding tension, and then release them.

Decent distractions

If your worries are too loud to get away from, sometimes a distraction is the best option. You can try counting backwards from 20, to distract your mind and give it a break from tracking all the worries running around your thoughts.

You could also have a go at creative visualisation or guided imagery. That’s where you spend a few minutes imagining all of the details around a scenario that you’d really like to happen. Maybe it’s diving into clear, cool water in a tropical paradise, maybe it’s bursting into song on the street and having everyone around you break into a perfectly choreographed dance routine. Whatever it is, picture all of the things you can see around you, as well as the smells and sounds, and then let your imagination take you on a little holiday from reality.

Mini massage

You don’t need to book into the day spa down the road to get a little massage into your day. When you find the tension turning into a headache, apply some pressure to the fleshy bit on your hand, between your thumb and forefinger. This acupressure point will hurt a bit when you press on it, but it’ll probably ease the pain in your skull. You can also slip off your shoes and rub the bottom of your feet over a golf ball, for a little self-delivered foot rub.

Nice noises

One of the senses we don’t often consider, when it comes time to relieve stress, is hearing. Just listening to a favourite song can take you away for a few moments, and if you find a song that always puts a smile on your face and gets your toes tapping, you can use it as a sort of emotional trigger to bring you back to your happy place.

There are also some great applications and websites that offer a variety of ‘white noise’, to give your subconscious something to concentrate on, other than your worries.

Change of pace

Sometimes, just giving yourself a break from the environment causing the stress can allow your mind time to find its centre. We love taking five minutes to walk around the block. Not only does the sunshine and fresh air give you some much needed Vitamin D and oxygen, but the physical activity stimulates blood flow and helps to improve your overall mood.

If you can’t get out of the office, stand up and have a stretch, then sit back down and close your eyes for a few moments. Shutting out the stressors, even for a few minutes, can make all the difference to your day.

Put it all together

Of course, the very best option is to use a combination of these things (and any other favourites you might have) to lower your shoulders, calm your nerves and make the day run faster and more smoothly.

What’s your favourite way to reduce stress at work or study? Tell us in the comments below.

Polly Foster

We’ve all been there – you start off your new course full of excitement and enthusiasm, then a couple of weeks later you wonder why you ever started. It could be that the course is more demanding than you expected, or perhaps life got in the way and you feel you don’t have the time to dedicate to the course any more.

sometimes you just have to keep walking

Image via Flickr

Whatever your reasons, here are some tips for getting back on track.

Remind yourself of why you started in the first place

When you were browsing Open2Study’s huge list of classes, there must have been something about your current course that caught your eye and made you choose it over all the others on offer. Perhaps it was related to a project you’re a part of at work, maybe you took it in the hopes of changing career, or maybe you just enrolled for fun because it looked interesting.

If you can think back and remind yourself why you started the course in the first place, it might rekindle your passion for the topic and inspire you to keep going and achieve your goals.

Block out time to dedicate to your course

If it feels like you’re slipping behind with deadlines and you’re constantly having to catch up, it could be that you need to schedule study time into your week. Set aside a few hours to dedicate to your Open2Study course – preferably the same hours each week so you get into a routine. Let your friends and family know that you cannot be disturbed at these times, so you don’t get distracted. You need to be strict with yourself to make this work - resist the urge to check emails or browse the internet when you should be studying!

In a way, it is a luxury to have a few hours simply to dedicate to yourself and to learning. If you think of these study hours as a treat rather than a chore, you might find you are more motivated to complete your course.

Use the forums to discuss difficult topics

Each Open2Study course has a forum where you can interact with your classmates from around the world. If your passion for your subject is still there but you’re finding one topic particularly challenging, it might help to talk to your fellow students in the forums. Asking for help in this way lets you clarify anything you’re unsure about, and you might find out that other people are finding bits of the course tricky as well.

Although I love online learning, one unfortunate aspect of it is that learners generally cannot ask their tutors questions during the class. The forums solve this problem by letting students learn from each other, and you might find that taking part in this community helps you persevere with your course. 

Read around the topic

As well as asking your classmates in the forums about those difficult topics, you can also do your own research on the course material. This could be as simple as googling the bits that are making the course difficult for you. You could also see if your local library has any books that could help you - that way you’ll be an expert when you come back online!

This might seem like obvious advice, but if you don’t understand something at first, reading information worded in a slightly different way can sometimes make the most fiendishly difficult subject suddenly become crystal clear.

Put it on hold for now and come back later

If you really don’t have time to get the most out of the course right now, there is no shame in taking a break and coming back to it later. This is the great thing about Open2Study courses – they run every five weeks so you never have to worry that an opportunity is gone forever if you decide to leave part way through. There is no point in completing the course but being unable to recall anything you’ve learned because you rushed and were too busy with other things.

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself by stressing out about your course. Taking a break doesn’t mean you’ve failed or given up, it just means that you’ve made a sensible decision to continue when you’re feeling ready.

Have you ever found a course tricky, or difficult to fit around your other commitments? How did you solve your problem? Let me know in the comments!

Polly Foster is a guest blogger with Open2Study

 

This post comes to you from our guest blogger, Polly Foster.

A recent graduate, Polly is currently working at the University of Bath helping students develop entrepreneurial skills. Studying digital marketing part-time and with a passion for education, careers and all things creative, she would love to make a living as a freelance writer.

Would you like to blog for us? Get in touch using the Feedback tab at the bottom right of this website, with your ideas for a blog post (or two) and some links to samples of your writing.

Jennifer Piper

The mood around the Open Univeristies Australia office is pretty happy this week, as we celebrate our 500,000th Open2Study enrolment. We couldn't be happier, or more grateful, to have you all with us as we provide free, online education for lifelong learners around the world.

Penguins love study, and open2study loves penguins

There's so many of you, and we love every single one - Image via Flickr

This is just 18 months after we opened for business as part of the Open Universities Australia family. Our Executive General Manager Jose Herrera Perea says the speed of growth showed the astonishing global uptake of free courses and recreational learning.

'We were celebrating our first birthday just a few months ago in March so we are staggered to be passing half a million enrolments already,' he says. iThe MOOCs movement is all about allowing people to indulge their natural curiosity and learn new things just for the sheer mind-expanding joy of it.'

While we're most definitely an Australian platform, we are thrilled to have a range of international providers, and to welcome more than three quarters of our students from around the world. Did you know that only 21.6% of our current students are based in Australia? The rest come from every corner of the earth, including China, India, USA, UK and Egypt.

We're reaching for the stars with Open2Study

We're reaching for the stars! - Image via Flickr

Jose says there are a couple of reasons for the astonishing success of the Open2Study MOOCs offering.

'We take a strongly student-centric approach in everything we do and the fruit of that is high student loyalty and participation – meaning once students have experienced a course with us, they tend to come back again and again, he says. 'We also work in close collaboration with our partner educators and providers to build each course and ensure it offers a high quality education experience.

'And because we have access to enormous amounts of data from Open2Study, we can take information about how students respond and learn in the online environment, and apply that knowledge to help us improve the learning experience for students across the board.'

So, thank you. Every one of you. This milestone is yours as much as it is ours.

Dancing and celebrating our 500K with Open2Study

Now, everybody dance and celebrate! - Image via Flickr

Polly Foster

As a self-confessed MOOC addict, I’m always looking for ways to develop my learning and get the most out of online education.

 

 

Recently I heard about the concept of ‘learning styles’ – the idea that different people prefer to learn in different ways – and this got me thinking about how students can make the most of their MOOCs by learning in a way that fits with their personal learning style.

This is just one of the ideas I picked from Open2Study’s Becoming a Confident Trainer  – the latest addition to my collection of completed MOOCs. Sometimes you need to take a course to learn how to take courses better!

Becoming a Confident Trainer is an excellent MOOC even if you have no intention of working on ‘the other side of the desk’ as a teacher instead of a learner. This is because so much of the content is focused around how students learn and how to optimise the learning process, and as a learner yourself, this information is invaluable.

One of the most interesting ideas discussed in this course was that learning is enhanced if the student uses a method that works with their preferred learning style. The three main styles are:

  • Visual learners, who prefer to access information through images and pictures.
  • Auditory learners, who learn best when listening to information and talking about it themselves.
  • Kinaesthetic learners, who like getting hands-on and learn best when they can engage practically with the topics they are studying.

You might recognise yourself as having some of the characteristics described above! This got me thinking – how can learners on online courses adapt their learning to best suit their preferred learning style? I came up with a few ideas that you might like to try out yourself.

Visual

If you are a visual learner, Open2Study probably appeals to you because so much of the courses are delivered through video and enhanced by the amazing diagrams and artwork drawn on the transparent screen.

When it comes to revising and memorising what you have seen in the videos, you could try continuing the visual theme and drawing diagrams and pictures for yourself to remind you of key concepts. Using different colours and be as creative as you like – whatever helps you learn!

You could even put your educational works of art up around your house in key areas so you associate the sight of them with objects around your home. So when you want to remember that key fact you keep forgetting, you can use your visual learning preferences to picture where the diagram is positioned in the room. And who knows, the other members of your household might learn something too!

Auditory learnings like to listen to things

Image via Flickr

Auditory

You might be an auditory learner if you always find yourself listening to the Open2Study courses without paying much attention to what’s on the screen. This doesn’t mean that you get distracted easily, it just means you’re a good listener and tend to remember things better when you hear them compared with when you see them.

When it comes to reviewing what you’ve covered in your course, you will probably find you remember more if you talk about the course content with other people – hearing the information again as you speak will help to cement the facts in your brain, and the best way to test if you understand something is to try and explain it to someone else.  

If you’re feeling creative, you could try making up little rhymes about the things you are trying to remember, like ‘In fourteen hundred and ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue’. If you recite these to yourself a few times they will soon stick, and then you’ll have trouble getting them out of your head!

Kinaesthetic

Kinaesthetic learners are always keen to get practical and try out what they have learned – movement is the key to their learning. If you’re constantly itching to try things out for yourself, and you wish it was you completing the tasks in the videos instead of the instructors, then you might find that movement helps you to recall the course content better.

You could come up with hand gestures or other movements that relate to certain key ideas in your course. For example you might mime out the movement of planets around the sun in order to recall the information you learned in an astronomy course.

It could also be useful to try and relate the things you are learning online to activities you do in your day to day life. For instance, if you are learning about the water cycle in a geography course, you could go through the key points while you are going through the movements of brushing your teeth - continuing the water theme but adding movement as well.

Mix it together

It’s worth mentioning that most people have a combination of learning styles, so you might want to try out a variety of techniques to see what learns best for you. Don’t feel limited by the visual, auditory and kinaesthetic headings – try a bit of everything!

Which sort of learning style do you have? Will you try any of these techniques to get more out of your course? Leave a comment below to let me know how you get on, good luck!

Polly Foster is a guest blogger with Open2Study

 

This post comes to you from our guest blogger, Polly Foster.

A recent graduate, Polly is currently working at the University of Bath helping students develop entrepreneurial skills. Studying digital marketing part-time and with a passion for education, careers and all things creative, she would love to make a living as a freelance writer.

Would you like to blog for us? Get in touch using the Feedback tab at the bottom right of this website, with your ideas for a blog post (or two) and some links to samples of your writing.