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3.4 Managing your time online

One of the greatest challenges of using your computer for study is fitting in your online activities around the rest of your life. Online time isn't timetabled or contained in the way classroom learning is. So it can sometimes be difficult to avoid being interrupted by what is happening around you.

Below are some suggestions for managing your time online. There is more detailed information about online conferencing in the next section.

  • Log on to
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3.2.1 How might you use it?

Chat has its limitations for serious discussion, but you may find it helpful to keep in touch with other students. You might ‘meet’ with other students in your group by arranging a time once a week when you can all be online. It can really help to know that there are others out there with problems similar to your own.


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3.2 Email

Email involves sending an electronic message from your private mailbox to one or more named individuals. You can do this from any computer, whether you're at home or elsewhere.

While it's quick and easy to send an email, don't expect an immediate reply. Although some people have constant access to their email, many others log in occasionally. Email is often a convenient way to contact your tutor, so be sure to add their address to your electronic address book!

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3.1 Introduction

One of the most useful and rewarding things you can do with your computer is use it to communicate with your tutor, other students, and course staff.

If you like exchanging ideas and information, sharing support with other students, asking questions and getting feedback from your tutor, then online communication can add a whole new dimension to your learning:

“Email from another student really kept me going
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2.6 Back it up

It's a good idea to get into the habit of regularly backing up your work files – things like your notes and assignments. This involves making a copy onto another storage device such as a floppy disk, CD-ROM or memory stick. If anything goes wrong with the hard disk on your computer and you lose all your data, it's some compensation to find that you have a recent copy of your files.

To avoid losing important system files that run your computer, back them up using a data storage system
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2.5 Find out how computers work

The BBC offers an Absolute Beginners' Guide to Using Your Computer (accessed 8 November 2006). This guide is ideal for anyone really new to computers.

If you're interested in the more technical aspects of how computers work and how they've developed over time, have a look at the BBC/Open University Information Communication Technology portal (accessed 8 November 2006).


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3.2 Using diagrams of your own choice and design

This option is the most challenging and most rewarding, as it clearly shows that you have explored and analysed the source material and reworked it for yourself. In many cases, the source material may not contain any diagrams, simply text or numbers, perhaps expressed as a table. Alternatively, you may have had to make some specific observations or undertake an experiment to produce your own data. In this case, you may be expected to produce a diagram to enhance or improve your assignment. If
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3.1.2 Option 2: Copying out diagrams

I am trying to encourage you to use diagrams, but there is a pitfall associated with this option. This option is one that many students do use, so it's worth exploring why it is not a particularly good idea. The following is a slight parody of the sort of written assignment I have in mind. The text reads something like this:

‘There are many ways in which diseases can be spread, see Figure 1.’

There then follows ‘Figure 1’ which is a direct copy of the diagram from the sour
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3.1.1 Option 1: Don't use the diagram at all

Activity 9

It is quite possible to write a good answer to the question without using the diagram. What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of not using the diagram?

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3.1 Using diagrams from course materials or other sources

So far in this course we have been looking at how you can improve your understanding of other people's texts and diagrams. I have shown you some study techniques that you can use to ‘translate’ text into diagrams and diagrams into meaningful text. However, this discussion has been focused on what you can do for yourself. At some point, you'll have to produce assignments that require, or will be enhanced by, the use of diagrams. One of the first decisions you'll face is whether to use an e
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2.2.4 Reading graphs and charts: extracting information

When you are sure that you know what a chart or graph is all about, start to look for any main trends. Jot down for yourself a few conclusions that you think can be drawn. It often takes a little time before you can interpret the chart or graph properly. It is worth the effort, however, because information held in the form of a graph is highly patterned; and as our memories work by finding patterns in information and storing them, the information in graphs is easier to remember than informati
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2.2 Reading diagrams

When you're studying, following the sense of a piece of text may not be straightforward. Often, you'll need to rewrite the text as notes or a diagram. Equally, some diagrams will need careful reading, and you'll have to make notes or draw other diagrams. So, how can we read different types of diagrams?

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2.1.1 Rewriting text as relationship diagrams

A spray diagram can help with note-making. In this section, I want to go a little further and show how you can use diagrams to help you understand what someone else has written. Here, it doesn't matter how well you can draw, as long as the finished diagram makes sense to you. As you become more confident at drawing diagrams for yourself, you will be able to move on to drawing diagrams for others.

At this stage, you may still have doubts about the value of diagrams for understandi
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1.2 Types of diagrams

As there is this variety in the types of diagrams we use, we need to think more broadly about what pictures and diagrams are trying to represent. You will encounter three main types of diagrams when studying MST subjects.

  1. Pictures or pictorial diagrams that attempt to represent the essential features of a part of reality – for example, diagrams of equipment, molecules or parts of a plant.

  2. Diagrams that try to describe
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Acknowledgements

The material below is part of an extract (chapter 4 pages pp. 101–142 and pp. 265–268) adapted for OpenLearn and contained in The Arts Good Study Guide, by Ellie Chambers and Andrew Northedge from The Open University. Copyright © The Open University, 2005. The Arts Study Guide forms part of the study material for The Open University course A103 An Introduction to the Humanities and has been designed to be used with other Open University courses.

Except for third party materi
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5.1.3 Film Studies

Bawden, L.-A. (ed.) (1976) The Oxford Companion to Film, Oxford, Oxford University Press.


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3.7.1 Technical considerations

Handwriting

Nowadays most people use a word processing package to write essays while some people may use a typewriter. However, if you don't have access to either of these you will need to hand-write your essay. Should this be the case, the ease of reading depends on the quality of your handwriting . It is only fair to your tutor to try to make your writing as legible as possible. This will take time and care. But when you have spent a long time putting an essay together,
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3.6 Taking an objective, analytical stance

One of the things I said an essay should be is ‘objective’. What does that mean? Being objective about something means standing back from it and looking at it coolly. It means focusing your attention on the ‘object’, on what you are discussing, and not on yourself and your own (subjective) feelings about it. Your ideas should be able to survive detailed inspection by other people who are not emotionally committed to them.

An essay should argue by force of reason, not emot
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3.1 A sharper focus

So far, we have been analysing essays in a practical way, looking at the strengths and weaknesses of some actual examples, rather than at formal rules or abstract ideas about essay-writing. Now, though, we need to summarise.

I suggest this because I think you already have a fairly good idea of what effective writing is. I don't think the point of a course like this is to tell you much that is devastatingly new. It is to bring into sharper focus what you ‘know’ already, and to help y
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2.2 Looking at other people's essays

One of the best ways of developing your essay-writing ability is to see how other students respond to the same essay title as you. It is not that you want to copy someone else's style. It's just that you need to broaden your understanding of what is possible when you are answering an essay question.

'Self-help’


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