A pair of reading glasses is laid upon an open book.

Last week was the second week of classes and the first real week of the semester. Both classes I’m taking are online and asynchronous, so the first week was mainly about introducing ourselves, while the second week was when the real work of the classes began.

When I was in grade school, I hated doing homework. Now that I’m in classes that are online and asynchronous, everything is homework. There are no classes to attend. Most of the activities for both classes are reading chapters and journal articles, then writing about the readings in response to some questions or prompts. Both classes do have projects, but they’re due later in the semester, instead of having mid-term or final exams. But everything I do for the classes is done at home.

One thing I’ve noticed about the classes I’ve taken in grad school is there are no tests. Part of me thinks it’s particular to my field of study. Formally, the program I’m in is called Instructional Systems Technology, or IST for short, but the field itself is known by many names, including Instructional Design (ID), Educational Technology (EdTech), and a few others. However, I don’t recall taking any tests when I was working on my TESOL certificate, so maybe it has less to do with the field of study than the fact that grad school classes are normally smaller, so the professors can spend more time evaluating student knowledge without needing to resort to tests. Working on projects is a form of problem-based learning, and they allow students to learn authentically. That is, they learn to do authentic tasks that might be done by professionals. Tasks from the classes I’m taking might be done by professional instructional designers or education technologists.

Since it’s been a few months since the spring semester ended, I have to get back into the habits of studying. I plan on writing about my study habits at Academic Floss in a few weeks, but for now it’s sufficient to say that my current study habits are far removed from the ones I had as an undergrad, or even as a grad student in a TESOL certificate program. So much of the content is online and in digital form, it’s hard to compare my current study habits with my old ones. Plus, I’m older and presumably wiser now, so I’ve learned a few new tricks along the way.

There is one skill that’s been a constant, even as far back as my undergrad days, and that’s time management. This involves a bit of introspection and estimation. With estimation, I can look at an assignment and guess how long it should take to complete. With introspection, I’ll know how much time to devote to actually doing the assignment. In grad school, we have to do a lot of readings. For instance, In the past week, I’ve read three chapters and three journal articles for the two classes. I usually plan on at least two to three hours for each reading. This includes reading, highlighting, and making notes. After doing the readings, we have to discuss them in Canvas (a Learning Management System (LMS) used by the university). Writing my response to the readings usually takes another two to three hours, though this is for all the readings, not for each article or chapPhoto by Pixabay from Pexelster. We’re also expected to read what the other students have written and comment on them. I think this is how the professors evaluate how well we understood what we’ve read. Time management skills help me allocate time for reading and writing, but they become more important when working on the class projects.

Sometimes the projects require working with partners, so we have to take time to meet, then we have to make time to do our individual parts of the project, then we have to meet again to bring the parts together. If it’s a semester-long project, we might have to meet every week or so to go over our work, and plan for the upcoming week. Before the pandemic, this usually involved meeting in-person, but now we just use Zoom or Teams to meet, which is far better. There’s no more need to reserve a room, then commute back to campus to meet. Everyone can meet in a videoconference from the comfort of their own home.

Time management is such a useful skill, it lets me know I’ve spent enough time blogging for now, and need to do some more reading for an assignment due on Tuesday.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels


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