I really enjoy testing where I stand academically and our annual Support Schemes, which include seminars and essay marking, are a wonderful way to do that. Each year it is quite nice to connect with colleagues who are continuing their studies and to meet people who are new to the program. Working with our academic tutors is also very inspiring; as I have worked through my degree our tutors have been generous with their time, encouraged me to think critically and independently, and set a high bar for achievement and expression that has helped me successfully prepare for exams. The 2011-2012 seminar schedule arrived in my inbox today bringing the great pleasure of deciding which challenges and opportunities I will enjoy this term.
You might think the academic year is already full of challenges and opportunities. Our support schemes challenge me by highlighting my under-developed ideas, and show me exactly where my efforts need to be directed. As I work through the academic year I like to be very clear about hitting progress benchmarks. This is more important to me this year as I read Advanced Units as it was when I first started in the program. Studying in a distance learning program is very helpful for me because I have to ‘own’ my process in a way traditional, classroom programs do not require. The e-seminars and tutors who facilitate them always help me find a new perspective for critical reading and analysis and help me determine if my study process is on track for success in exams.
Exams are the goal we work toward, and I have always found the e-seminars and essays to be very practical and focused on outcomes. This year e-seminars for English and Comparative Literature begin with ‘Study Skills A: Getting Organized!’ in the first week of December and conclude with ‘Study Skills E: Exam Preparation’ in March. There are 10 great choices in between. I am going to enroll in 4 seminars offered this year, including ‘Getting Organized’ to refresh my approach to studying and Exam Skills to get some coaching on argumentation. I will also be reading Shakespeare and Jonson, and Chaucer, so it should be a stimulating winter! In addition to the seminars I will be submitting 4 papers for the ‘essay marking scheme.’
The essay marking scheme is an important part of the year for me and is as different from the e-seminars as chalk and cheese. Writing essays, and timed essays particularly, is a totally different experience than any other kind of study exercise. For me, there is no substitute for writing. I always look for ways to improve my organization and approach to writing. The experience of researching, organizing and writing papers or essays under exam conditions and getting tutor comments is excellent preparation for exams. For me the process of writing is an incredible education itself, but getting the reports and papers back from our tutors is instructive about my progress year to year.
I use the Support Schemes to measure my performance year to year by re-writing papers submitted in previous years. Writing this way shows how my understanding of a text has matured and developed. This is one of the goals of the advanced units and an exercise I find incredibly important to my study plan and schedule. Recently some colleagues asked if adhering to a study plan and schedule is easy. The answer is no, this is not always easy but it is always wonderfully rewarding. Those are very good reasons for me to participate in the Support Schemes every year and why I look forward to them now.