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FEATURED BLOG POSTS

Peta Brady, Open2Study blog writer

Making your way back into the workforce after an extended break can be a daunting task, but it needn't be that way. After all, you're not out of the market, just a little out of practice. It's natural to feel as though your skills may have deteriorated or are no longer relevant, or to worry about facing rejection as you go through the application process.

These thoughts and emotions are entirely valid, but it's important to remember that you have many viable skills and attributes that potential employers are looking for. The key is to reconnect with your 'work' self, and focus on exercising patience and persistence.

Working on a notebook

Ready for success? Try these top 5 tips:

1. Revive your professional profile

Now is the time to make sure you are as appealing as possible to potential employers. Set up or update your LinkedIn profile with a new photo and summary, and change your status to 'seeking employment opportunities'. If you completed any training courses during your break, add those to your profile as well.

Your CV will also no doubt need some attention. If you've been out of work for a while, it's a good idea to focus on your career achievements, rather than drawing attention to gaps with a chronological format. And don't forget your soft skills—you may have been out of work, but that doesn't mean you have been doing nothing. What about those books you balanced for your sister? Or the contractors you oversaw during a home renovation project? These skills are all relevant and can be included on your CV.

Assorted social media icons

2. Upskill, upskill, upskill

Applying for work can be a slow and tedious process, so why not spend some of your non-job hunting time expanding your skill set? There are a number online sites providing free or low cost training courses that you can do from home, and you'll finish your day with a nice feeling of accomplishment.

You can also approach friends and family for potential work experience opportunities—even if the role is not what you want long term, you may find just getting back into a routine will give your confidence a much-needed boost. Another option is to apply for temp work, which again, although temporary, will help you get back into work mode.

3. Network

When you're out of work for a long time, it's likely you will lose confidence and potentially your ability to interact with others on a professional level. Networking is a great way to get these skills back up to speed, so put yourself out there and attend meet ups, workshops, conferences—basically anything relevant to your desired position. You never know, you just might meet your future employer!

Team meeting

4. Believe in yourself

Because if you don't, how can you expect anyone else to? Think of yourself as a product to be sold, and talk yourself up! You're not "unemployed", you're "in between jobs". Try to put a positive spin on things that may otherwise be viewed as negative.

Woman running in a canyon

5. Be 'interview ready' at all times

If you've been "in between jobs" for some time, it's more than likely that you're not in much of a routine. Try to establish a new routine that gets you up and out of bed early, and allocate time each day for job searching, upskilling, networking, and following up any 'warm' leads.

Brushing up on your interview skills will also build confidence. Research the company you are applying to. Check out the interviewer's LinkedIn profile. Be prepared to answer questions about your career breaks, without dwelling on the gaps in your CV. Instead, redirect your responses to focus on the projects you have been working on while looking for work.

Man in a suit sitting at a desk

Above all, remember you are still the same person you were before your break, with the same skills and attributes—something the right employer will recognise!

This post is by Open2Study's blog writer, Peta Brady.

Peta BradyPeta Brady is a freelance copywriter, editor, social media enthusiast, and general grammar pest. She loves writing scribbles and correcting errors, as well as changing her hair colour every five minutes and eating all the foods in Melbourne.

Contact Peta at www.theword.bird.com.au or on Instagram @thewordbird_.

Peta Brady, Open2Study blog writer

Well, we're back on the health train! In our last post, Planning to succeed: a student's guide to healthy eating, we touched on the benefits of healthy eating for students, and how to shop for the right foods to get you through those long study sessions. In this next instalment we'll be continuing down the same path, encouraging a healthy lifestyle by providing you with some quick and easy, budget-friendly recipes for the freezer to keep your body fuelled and your brain focused.

Ingredients and a recipe

Let's start with a few basics. One thing a dedicated student definitely needs is a well-stocked pantry full of healthy staples. Think wholegrain pasta, brown rice, lentils, beans, quinoa, noodles, an assortment of herbs and spices, and condiments such as chilli sauce, mustard, and soy sauce. Once you've got your basics you'll find it much easier to whip up something tasty and healthy to eat, so those ramen noodles you've been hoarding will (hopefully) be a thing of the past!

Now for the freezer. A full freezer is one of the easiest ways to make sure you always have something healthy to eat, even when you're strapped for time. Stock up on frozen veggies like peas, beans and corn, and portion out meat and poultry into freezer bags—this way you can buy in bulk and save money.

Another great way to stock your freezer and ensure you always have a healthy meal at hand is to do a big cook-up each week (or whenever you can spare the time); preparing bulk meals in advance to portion, freeze, and defrost whenever you get hungry. And with cooler weather heading our way, what better time to get into the kitchen and cook up some of our warming and budget-friendly, freezer-friendly favourites.

1. Spaghetti bolognese

Spaghetti Bolognese is a classic for a reason—it's simple, quick, and totally delicious. And with beef mince being such an affordable ingredient, this one will suit every budget. Once you've cooked your sauce, simply divide into containers (plastic takeaway containers work a treat), label and freeze for up to 2 months. All that's left to do is cook some pasta while you defrost the sauce. Easy!

Hot tip: To change things up a bit, add a tin of red kidney beans, smoked paprika and dried chilli to your defrosted sauce, heat and serve over rice. Voila! Chilli con carne.

Spaghetti Bolognese

2. Tofu and chickpea curry

Now one for our vegetarian friends, or for anyone who likes a good #meatfreemonday. This simple tofu curry is not only delicious and healthy, but a great one for the freezer as it doesn't contain any coconut milk—which can be rather uncooperative when it comes to freezing. You'll find that pretty much any tomato-based curry will live happily in the freezer, so you can have a bit of fun experimenting with different ingredients.

Hot tip: If you can't live without meat, simply substitute the tofu with diced chicken for the same delicious result.

chickpeas

3. Pea and ham soup

Another excellent contender for the freezer is the humble pea and ham soup. While some soups (generally those containing dairy or potato) are not ideal for freezing, this pea and ham soup will keep well for at least a month. It's an easy choice for those times when you're running a bit low on supermarket supplies, as it can hold its own as a standalone dish and will keep you full for a long time.

Hot tip: For a vegetarian version omit the ham, add an extra clove of garlic, and bump up the greens by adding some broccoli and baby spinach. If you want to get fancy, serve topped with some crunchy homemade croutons.

Soup

Yum, right? I don't know about you, but I'm feeling hungry. And hopefully you're feeling inspired to start thinking creatively about even more ways to eat healthily on a budget. Happy cooking!

This post is part of our healthy lifestyle series from Open2Study's blog writer, Peta Brady.

Peta BradyPeta Brady is a freelance copywriter, editor, social media enthusiast, and general grammar pest. She loves writing scribbles and correcting errors, as well as changing her hair colour every five minutes and eating all the foods in Melbourne.

Contact Peta at www.theword.bird.com.au or on Instagram @thewordbird_.

Peta Brady

When you're time-poor or on a budget, eating well can seem like a real challenge, and reaching for the takeaway menu or ordering Uber Eats is tempting. This is particularly true for students with a heavy workload, however, not eating healthily can impact our ability to focus. So how do we fuel our bodies with good food, without eating up valuable study time or blowing the budget? The good news is, it's simpler than you might think!

Rucola salad on a plate with a spoon

With a little forward planning and thriftiness, you can master the art of healthy eating, without having to become a master chef. Planning your meals ahead of time, buying in bulk, and repurposing leftovers are all easy ways to make sure your body is properly fuelled for study success. And planning meals ahead of time means you only shop for what you need, waste less, and focus on healthy seasonal food.

Before you hit the supermarket, why not visit a local farmers' market? Markets are generally cheaper, and the produce fresher—which means more nutrients for you at a better price. Stock up on fresh veggies and fruits, then head to the supermarket for essentials like beans, grains, pasta, and condiments. When it comes to meat, look for cheaper cuts—these are great for slow-cooking and freezing into meals such as curries, stews, and pasta sauces.

avocados
Open Universities Australia’s Brain Food: on a Budget video series explains the connection between energy, nutrition and wellbeing.

With food sorted, consider what you're drinking. Like most students, you probably consume a lot of coffee—which is fine in moderation, but can have adverse effects in large amounts. A good alternative is green tea, which also contains caffeine but is known to improve brain function. Alternate with plenty of water throughout the day, and stay focused with a range of healthy snacks—nuts, blueberries, bananas, or vegetable sticks with hummus all provide a healthy boost of energy.

Cup of tea
Open University Australia’s short video about tea explains when to drink them and what they can do for you.

So there you have it! A few simple tricks to improve your general health and help you save money, that also increase your ability to power through those long study sessions.

This post kicks off our healthy lifestyle series from our guest blogger, Peta Brady. Up next, Stocked up: quick and easy recipes for the freezer.

Peta BradyPeta Brady is a freelance copywriter, editor, social media enthusiast, and general grammar pest. She loves writing scribbles and correcting errors, as well as changing her hair colour every five minutes and eating all the foods in Melbourne.

Contact Peta at www.theword.bird.com.au or on Instagram @thewordbird_.

Sammi Morgan

Open2Study is for everybody - and you don't have to study alone! We spoke to Helen McSkimming, library officer at the City of Onkaparinga's Willunga Library, about the passionate photographers that teamed up to complete our Art of Photography course. Helen explains how Open2Study is the perfect vehicle for public libraries to deliver adult learning programs - and treats us to some stunning student work showcasing the beautiful McLaren Vale wine region.

'Busy Bee' by Lloyd
'Busy Bee' by Lloyd

What gave you the idea to trial Open2Study as a Group Collaboration Project within your library?

My interest in providing adult learning opportunities in public libraries was fostered whilst undertaking my Masters in Library and Information Studies program. More recently I began looking at MOOCs, and I considered that they may provide a perfect vehicle through which public libraries could deliver adult learning programs.

'Damselfly' by Aidan
'Damselfly' by Aidan

Why did you choose the Open2study MOOC?

I thought that a MOOC on photography may have wide appeal in my community and I set about finding an appropriate course. I chose 'The Art of Photography' from Open2Study. The Open2Study platform provided many advantages. It was helpful that it was an Australian site and that I could easily communicate with the online facilitators. The website had one of the best layouts, clearly showing the structure of each course in terms of hours required, number of tutorial videos and number of assessments. A bonus was that each participant who completed the course would be able to download a certificate at no extra cost. It was convenient for me that Open2Study courses are repeated on a regular schedule so that I could easily complete the course myself before facilitating it for the participants.

'Herons Awake' by Tineke
'Herons Awake' by Tineke

What did you want to achieve?

I was looking for an interesting course which would have wide appeal, but I wanted to test the model of using MOOCs to deliver adult learning programs in public libraries. I also wanted to test whether this type of course would fit into a two hour weekly time slot which could be facilitated at a comfortable pace for the participants.

'Kangaroo Watch' by Chris
'Kargaroo Watch' by Chris

How many people were involved?

A total of 12 people attended at least one of the sessions. Nine participants completed the course and received a Certificate of Achievement from Open2Study. The majority of participants were in the over-50s age group.

'Lagoon at Victor' by Pauline
'Lagoon at Victor' by Pauline

How did you make Open2Study fit into your plans?

The Open2Study platform provided an excellent framework for the course, the lectures were of a very high quality, and the assessments were valuable in reinforcing the learning. During each 2-hour session, we watched the 10 videos on a big screen together, and then each participant completed the pop quizzes and the assessments individually on their own laptop. Although our schedule was quite tight, we found time to have some afternoon tea and lots of chat as well. Participants discussed the material from the course, and also shared their photography knowledge and experience. I created a Flickr page for our group to which the participants could upload and comment on each other's photos.

'Miners Belts' by Kym
'Miners Belts' by Kym

Did you achieve what you set out to?

Yes. At the completion of the course, I asked each participant to complete a feedback form. One of the questions I asked participants was to rate their experience in the course on a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high). Of the 8 respondents, all scored 7 or above, with 3 recording a score of 10!

'Pelicans at Goolwa' by Leonie
'Pelicans at Goolwa' by Leonie

What did the students say was the best thing about participating in this course?

  • Learning new skills and networking with other keen photographers
  • Meeting others and interacting with them in learning
  • Talking to others in the same position
  • The enthusiasm of the lecturer and meeting other interested photographers
  • The lecturer was easy to listen to, explained well. I felt engaged, I wanted to learn more
  • Sharing ideas, learning new things
'Wash Day View' by Daphne
'Wash Day View' by Daphne

Do you see this as an opportunity to be run on a grander scale?

Definitely, I think the success of the pilot has demonstrated that facilitating a MOOC in a public library provides an ideal model for delivering adult learning opportunities for our customers.

Do you plan to continue or trial a new course?

I would like to trial different topics using this model. I am now looking for other courses but I am attracted to the Open2Study platform because of its very clear structure and guidelines.
Following this course, I gave a presentation to my library management team. They were very enthusiastic about the project and have made a commitment to run a pilot MOOC in each of the 6 branches in our library service in 2017.

Any hints or tips for anyone else who would like to run an Open2Study Course in a group setting?

I found fantastic support from the P2PU team in the USA especially via the 'P2PU Learning Circles Facilitator Handbook'. If you are interested, you can find the handbook at the Peer 2 Peer University's website.

 

Enrolments for the next round of The Art of Photography are now open, along with over 40 other Open2Study courses.

 

Open2Study would like to thank Helen McSkimming, the City of Onkaparinga's Willunga Libraries and the students that participated in this course (Lloyd, Elaine, Pauline, Daphne, Tineke, Vicki, Chris, Leonie, John, Michelle, Kym and Aidan) for participating and allowing us to share this. If you are interested in running group projects and need to contact Open2study please use the orange feedback button on www.open2study.com.

Sammi Morgan

When it comes to MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) we’ve all heard the question: ‘Why can’t the study I’ve completed online via a MOOC be accredited to my degree?’ Students across the world are enrolling in MOOCs by the millions and they all seem to want the same thing: credit for their hard work. Well look out MOOC lovers – one of Open2Study’s presenters has listened and answered his students’ plea!

Dr David Salisbury, AKA Dr Dave, is an Open2Study’s presenter who has incorporated his ‘World Music MOOC’ (www.open2study.com/courses/world-music) into the curriculum at James Cook University (JCU). They’re offering marks for students who download and supply their certificate of completion. “The fact that you’ve essentially completed all the aspects of the course I think is really positive… I give them an extra 10% [credit], which for students who are on the borderline of a grade can actually mean they get a better grade,” Dr Dave explains.

 “In a classroom I often only get two or three people answering questions. But in an online environment, there seems to be a higher percentage of people that will get involved. Maybe it has to do with the fact that they are not sitting in front of their classmates directly. So some of it is a bit about breaking down the walls of anxiety… You really have the opportunity to express yourself in a non-threatening situation,” says Dr Dave.

Dr Dave’s course at JCU addresses four main world music elements in four modules (rhythm, melody, harmony and texture) and runs for 10 weeks where he delivers 9-10 lectures. Eight of these lectures are focused on culture –the last four traditions are taught in class, whilst the first four traditions are introduced in the Open2Study MOOC:

“The advantage of that is because in the Open2Study MOOC there are quizzes at the end of every topic, and a quiz at the end of every module. So it gives us the kind of review process that I think is really helpful,” says Dr David. “I’ve had students give me some very positive feedback about that very aspect. I’m also aware that I now have, in some ways, a brand name worldwide. Dr Dave is now a known brand throughout the world!”

Not only has Dr Dave already implemented credit for completing the MOOC at the start of his course, he also has plans to continue doing so. “I would like to include credit via a MOOC for the second half of the course. But I also have other subject areas that I’d like to look at. I believe in Florida there’s actually legislation that essentially designates that students have achieved an accredited online course, or a MOOC course, will get credit towards their degree that they’re involved with in the Florida state system”.

When I asked Dr Dave on his thoughts about use of MOOC’s being used on a grander scale, he was a big advocate for it. “I’d like to see more of it,” he says, “It’s an absolute no brainer as far as I’m concerned.”

So the future is looking good for MOOCS – and it’s not just Dr Dave that is pioneering this new pathway. Open2Study is also working with other providers to drive this initiative, and introduce this accreditation through Open Universities Australia’s undergraduate courses. The more we talk to students and Universities about free online learning the more the vision becomes clear; free online learning is proving to be a great pathway for students into accredited courses; it also proves to be a very engaging, augmented learning experience.

 

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.