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3.2.2 What problems might you have with getting feedback?

Only you can answer this. However, you might think that you will not find it easy to ask someone else to be a mentor and give you feedback about your own qualities, knowledge or skills. There may be all sorts of reasons for this. You might not feel that you know anyone that you would trust to give you feedback in a way in which you would find helpful. Acting as a feedback giver can put someone in such a powerful position that you might feel uncomfortable. You might feel that you do not know a
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Acknowledgements

All materials included in this unit are derived from content originated at the Open University.

1. Join the 200,000 students currently studying with The Open University.


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1.3.2 The development of online learning

Online learning is a relatively new phenomenon but over the last few years many colleges, universities and workplaces have started to use online learning as part of their courses. The UK government-appointed Dearing Committee was set up to consider the future of higher education, and in the Dearing Report, published in 1997, made its recommendations. One of these was that all students should have access to a networked computer by 2000/2001 and their own networked portable computer by 2005/200
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1.3.1 What it means

Most people's experience of learning is in a classroom (of a school, college or evening class). The teacher is there to give guidance and direction on what to do. Activities include reading books, taking notes, answering questions and working with other people.

Online learning is completely different. All the direction is provided by the course materials. Activities such as reading, note taking and answering questions mostly take place at the computer. Working with other people is done
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1.2.6 Learning new computing skills

There are several principles for learning new computing skills:

  • Don't be afraid to try things out and explore. You almost certainly won't do any harm by making mistakes – modern software will usually let you undo errors, and will warn you before performing potentially damaging actions.

  • Look for patterns. Find the differences and similarities between the ways in which things are done in different software, so you can begin to guess w
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1.2.5 Coping when things go wrong

Personal computing is not a mature technology. It is changing so fast and becoming so complex that it never gets a chance to settle down and become really reliable. You need to learn ways of coping with this unreliability, to learn to laugh at the frustrations you will encounter and find ways of minimising the damage.

There are various ways of coping with computing problems:

  • Save your work often – every few minutes, not every few hours.


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1.2.3 Computing with confidence

When it comes to learning about computers and gadgets, have you noticed the apparent ease with which children learn to use these tools? This may be because they are more likely to use the activist learning style. They try out and investigate rather than follow instructions rigidly or ponder the different approaches to a problem.

In this unit we want to encourage you to be an activist when learning how to use computers. We want you to explore technological problems in the same way as a c
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1.2.2 Learning new tasks

We are about to turn our attention to the approach we take when learning about computers.

Over the coming days think about how you learn to do new tasks, and in particular computing tasks. Think about the barriers you have to learning a new task. Do you fear failure? Breaking the computer? Feeling exposed?


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1.2.1 Your learning style

Imagine you are going to learn a new task. It could be laying a laminate floor, following a new recipe or learning to use a new TV remote control. How do you approach the task?

  • Approach 1 Do you sit down with the instructions and read them through before trying?

  • Approach 2 Do you get stuck in to the task straight away? Do you ask others for help and then move on to a new task as soon as this one is complete?

  • <
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1.1.10 Installing Adobe Reader

Adobe Reader is available here.

If you do not yet have Adobe Reader installed in your machine, you can download the software at http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2_allversions.html.

When you have installed the Adobe Reader you will be able to open the learning_styles.pdf file that you saved on your computer in the previous activity.

Use My Computer to locate this file, which you saved on your computer's hard disk.

If you followed my earlier instructions exa
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1.1.9 Managing files

Another important skill when working electronically is being able to find files that you saved on your computer's hard disk.

Here are some tips for overcoming problems with file management:

  • Give your files meaningful names: ‘notes on studying online.doc’ rather than ‘notes.doc'

  • Use folders to organise your files.

For example, I created the following folders for this unit. In My Documents I created a folder
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1.1.8 Useful links

Here are some useful links to sites relating to ergonomics and to information about using and setting up your computer.

  • What is ergonomics? Find out at the Ergonomics Society website.

  • Health and Safety Executive home page, which is the entry to the HSE website. Within this site is a useful page that provides an alphabetical list of HSE documents including ones on Risk Assessment, Manual Handling, and Working with VDUs.


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1.1.7 Comfortable and safe for one, but not for all?

There may be many users of a single computer in your house, and each person is a different shape and size. This means that a single layout of the work area may not meet the needs of all of the users. If you have an adjustable chair or desk, it is sensible for each user to adjust it to fit them when they come to use the computer. You may find it helpful to mark the chair or desk to show the most comfortable settings for each person.

You may need to place the monitor on top of something t
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1.1.6 Creating a comfortable working environment

The following suggestions concerning working with visual display units (VDUs) come from the 2003 Health and Safety Executive leaflet Working with VDUs.

  • Adjust your chair and VDU (Visual Display Unit) to find the most comfortable position for your work. As a broad guide, your arms should be approximately horizontal and your eyes at the same height as the top of the VDU.

  • Make sure there is space underneath your desk to move your legs fr
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1.1.3 Health issues of studying online

Won't studying at a computer be bad for my health?

Studying at a computer can affect your body. In particular, it is known that working at a computer display has the following health risks:

  • Eye strain: Working at a screen causes you to stare more intently at a small area than you would under other circumstances.

  • Upper limb disorders: These are sometimes referred to as RSI (repetitive strain injury).

  • Hea
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1.1.2 Quiz: Getting started

0 hours 30 minutes

This quiz will help you to become familiar with some of the terminology that you will come across in this unit. It is just for fun. Your answers are not assessed, so don't worry abo
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Learning outcomes

By the end of the unit you should be able to:

  • tackle computer-based tasks more confidently;

  • have an awareness of your preferred learning styles.


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Appendix 1 Action Plan

In writing my assignments, I think I do the following things well:

I am fairly satisfied with:

I need to work on:

The first thing I am going to when I finish this toolkit is:

Good luck!


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12 Further reading and sources of help

Your tutor is the first person you should contact if you are encountering difficulties with any aspect of your studies. If there are any issues raised in this unit that you would like to discuss, you should approach your tutor. Sharing your action plan with him or her would be a useful first stage.

Your chosen place of study may offer a programme of learning skills sessions that should reinforce some of the issues raised here.

Further reading

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11 Conclusion

Just as we have advised earlier, we are not going to introduce any new ideas in this concluding section. We are using it to reinforce what we think our main points are.

Writing essays or reports can be time-consuming; individual assignments tend to focus in depth on specific topics rather than fostering a wider sense of the whole course. However, three or four or more assignments will bring benefits as linkages start to become apparent and the total programme of written work help
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