It sits in the corner with a visible spine, reminding you of what it is and what you need to be doing. The Open University course book, sometimes thin, sometimes fat, sometimes almost mocking as it reminds you of the “need to read”. There is often such a bulk of information to read it can be difficult to discern what we need to focus on and what we don’t. Chapters can appear in a different light when read in the context of a TMA question.
When I was studying at Open University Level Three, DU301: Making Social Worlds to be exact, we were presented with three books of, it’s fair to say, hefty proportions. Even the postman tottered down the lane struggling under the weight of my cardboard envelope. “These aren’t usually as heavy” he puffed, waddling towards me. Slight exaggeration? Well, maybe, but they were sizeable tomes. I’ve tried various methods over the years of slicing through course books, course guides and accompanying materials and some can be simple to negotiate but others quite tough. How many times have you sat at home frustrated and exasperated at some of the jumbled sentences and seemingly ineligible concepts. Worse still, the paragraphs might not be particularly difficult to comprehend but just plain boring and you find yourself drifting into a slumber.
Don’t worry! I’ve listed below a few different ways of dealing with course books which you might find useful:
- Break it down. Perhaps reading all in one go might be your thing and if so the likelihood is you don’t have a problem dealing with course books, so keep up the good work. If not then break it down into sizeable chunks. Reading parts of each chapter at a time can make it less daunting and intimidating.
- Try going through the book first of all and read the introduction and conclusion of each chapter to get a feel for the chapter and an overview of what it’s trying to tell you. Warning: this may makes things worse and even more confusing – approach with caution.
- When I first started taking notes in course books I wrote them on to a piece of A4 paper which was then tucked in at the back of the book and revisited at the end. This worked early on in my OU life but I abandoned this approach and moved on to number four half way into one of the modules.
- Use a marker pen to highlight or a biro to underline key areas of text or passages that can then be revisited later. Draw an arrow from the highlighted or underlined text over to a blank space where you can elaborate on the idea and remind yourself of what you were thinking at the time (see photo below for example).
Overall, even these methods fail to stimulate, do not panic. Us OU students are a resilient bunch and helpful too. Help is always at hand from fellow learners, tutors and of course in the Facebook support groups. Take the course book firmly in hand and eliminate that fear. As we always stress here at STOU different ways suit different students and all, some or none of these approaches could work for you.
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Photograph Credit: classygenes blog
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