Thursday, August 29, 2013


Here we are at the edge of the wilderness putting together my study plan for my new courses. Jelly Bean and I like to sit on the screened in porch to read and study. She can watch the meadow while the breeze tickles her nose and I muster my digital resources.  So far we have only seen several doe with their fawns ambling by. The fawns are quite small, only about Jelly Bean’s size. Surprisingly the deer and my collie dog are mutually disinterested. The meadow grass must be too sweet and my dog is to comfortable snuggled up beside me while I work.
I have been working on my strategic and tactical study plan for these next four courses.  What does that mean, exactly? Well, I want to be sure to accomplish personal and professional goals and also pass my courses with higher marks than my 2013 results. That’s the strategic part. I also want monitor weekly and monthly progress through each module, and be certain to master things like jargon and details specific to individual courses. That’s the tactical component.
The first thing I did was download the Study Guides for each course I registered for. It’s so helpful to have them on demand. While reading through them I think about how I am going to study four courses, and how I will approach each individual course. There are very practical things to consider like how much time will be available every day and week, what I should tackle first, like background reading versus primary texts, what texts will best satisfy my needs and the course requirements, and what I want to achieve in the year, the courses, and my degree.  That helps make my ‘strategic’ plan. The outline looks like this:
  1. Goals for the year
    1. Exam Results
    2. Skills and Professional Development
    3. Complete Degree
  2. Reading Goals
    1. Authors and Texts
    2. Reading Skills
  3. Writing Skills
    1. Research Skills
    2. Organization Skills
    3. Expression
    4. Thesis Length Research Paper
Is there an appropriate topic that can be researched across my four courses, like narrative technique, portrayal of women, etc.?
With this outline I am answering some basic questions about what I expect to achieve during the year, and how I would like to be positioned for my next professional and academic opportunity.  My ‘tactical’ plan will help me decide how to proceed with each course. It looks something like this:
I         Reading Inventory – what have I read, which texts are on my book shelf, and what texts do I need to find?
  1. Primary Texts
  2. Core Secondary Reading
  3. Other Secondary Reading
  4. Availability of Research Materials
  5. If necessary, balance the amount of time required to read primary texts effectively. For example, my course ‘The Novel’ requires reading longer texts.  Should I select poetry, plays, and short stories in other courses, or focus on prose and narration?  The Study Guides provide great advice here!
II           Study Skills – techniques for studying different kinds of texts.  Do I have the tools for effective study of a variety of texts like poetry, prose, and drama?
III         Monthly study targets – What should I have accomplished at the end of each month and am I on target?
IV         Vocabulary, Topics, and Themes – How will I approach the courses?
V          Week I & II plans for each course
That’s how I start the year.  For me, it really helps to ask and answer some questions about what and how I will study. This week I filled in my outlines and thought about the direction my study will take over the year.  I started watching some lectures for background in each unit and skimming some primary texts. This week I want to really think about research topics. It might be decided on availability of materials. That’s a lot to think about this weekend.

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