Tag Archives: learning

Lecture Tips for International Students

NotebooksThis month’s guest blogpost is provided by Daniel Sefton, a writer for The Student Housing Company:

The UK is home to outstanding academic institutions. As a result, students come from far and wide to get a taste of UK student life. There is a very particular culture around being a student in the UK, and for international students who are not used to the way that higher education works here, it can be a difficult task to settle into proper learning habits.

You might be a fluent English speaker or you might not be. Either way, lectures and seminars are fast-paced learning environments where you have to keep up with what the tutor is telling you, and you have to take your learning into your own hands.

Follow these tips to take control of your learning…

Ask Plenty of Questions

Your tutors are there to make sure that every student understands the concepts that they are learning about. Unless you are taking a specialist course, it is likely that the tutors will be teaching the content to many other students; because of this, the tutors will cover topics quickly and will expect you to absorb the information just as quickly.

Nonetheless, the tutors are still dedicated to helping you pass your degree, and are there to answer any questions you have. If there is something that you don’t understand, ask questions until you have a clear understanding of the topic. Tutors will often have set office hours where you can go and see them to discuss any issues or gaps in your knowledge – make use of this time.

Selecting a book from the Library

Read Ahead

Either before you start your course or on your first day, your tutors will give you a list of textbooks that you should go out and buy (and, of course, read). They recommend this reading because it will enrich your knowledge of the course content and it will help you gain a better understanding of the topics that you study. After your opening lectures, head to the library and borrow these textbooks, because they will become useful resources for you.

Reading the relevant sections ahead of lectures will give you an advanced understanding of the points being taught, and will therefore help you to follow what the tutor is saying more clearly than you would without prior knowledge.

Study Together

UK universities accept applications from thousands of international students each year, so when it comes to studying your course, you won’t be alone. There will be other students in the same situation as you, and you are in a great position to help each other out.

University libraries have group-study rooms that you can book at particular times of the day. If you and your friends allocate time once per week to get together and discuss the lectures from the week before, you will find that you can fill the gaps in each other’s knowledge.

Use Study Apps

Technology has changed the way that international students learn new information. Laptops and smartphones now have a lot of useful software and apps to help you understand what your lecturer is telling you. Here are our favourites:

  • Voice Notes: Sometimes lecturers can talk through topics quickly, making it a little bit difficult to keep up. Recording the lecture on your smartphone means that you can revisit the lecture at a later date and listen to it at your own pace. Available from Apple and Google Play.
  • Google Translate: If your lecturer uses a word that you don’t understand, you can write it (or speak it) into the Google Translate app and it will translate the word to a language that you understand. Available from Apple and Google Play.
  • Duolingo: When you’re tired of using Google Translate, you can use this app to teach yourself how to speak English as a second language. It breaks the language elements down into easy-to-follow steps so that it’s not too overwhelming. Available from the Duolingo website.

Enjoy!

During your time at university, you’ll be meeting new people, experiencing a new culture, and learning new things every day, so make sure that you take the time to appreciate it while it lasts. It’s hard work, but it will pay off in the end!

If you have a question related to academic life and study in the UK and you can’t find the answer in the Prepare for Success learning resources, write it on the Question Wall and we will try to answer it here in the blog next time.

Leave a comment...

Posted in Uncategorized

Study Tips for International Students

Revising and studyingThis month’s guest blogpost is provided by Daniel Sefton, a writer for Dwell Student Living:

When you choose to make the UK your home throughout your studies, you are stepping into a new culture, you are trying out a new language, and you might even be experiencing new teaching styles. Studying in the UK can be a challenge if you are not used to the way universities and colleges are structured, but there are a few things that you can do to make your studies a bit easier:

Ask Questions

Make sure you ask plenty of questions when you’re in class, especially if English is not your first language. It’s important that you take in the right information, and if you need your tutors to clarify any concepts for you, don’t hesitate to ask. Even if you think that the question might be worth asking, you should still get your tutor to explain it to you in terms that make sense to you.

Asking the right questions will help you to understand topics when you to come to study for your exams. If you don’t understand a topic and don’t ask, you may find that you have to teach yourself the concepts, which may then have an impact on how you manage your revision time.

Study with Friends

Sometimes it is better to study alone, because you can put real thought into the work that you are doing. One negative to working on your own is that when you encounter a difficult concept which you struggle to understand, you have nobody to ask for help. A solution to this problem is to study with friends.

If you revise with other people, they will be able to help you fill any gaps in your knowledge, while you will help them by explaining any concepts that you already understand. Working collaboratively with other people is a great way to quickly develop your understanding of a topic, so it is worth booking out a private study-space in your university or college library and getting together for a study session.

Practice

Practice makes perfect, so once you feel like you fully understand a topic, it will be time to put your knowledge to the test. Make use of the resources that your university or college has on offer, especially past exam papers and example answers from previous assignments. Find out from your tutor how long your examinations will last for, and recreate exam conditions when you test yourself.

Working in this way will get you used to the atmosphere of the exam hall, which means that when the actual test comes around, you will be able to perform to the best of your ability. Once you have tested yourself, take the time to mark your own work, and use this to find any gaps in your knowledge which you can then work on before your actual exam.

Plan Ahead

When you have settled into your course and have a good understanding of the syllabus (the topics you will be learning), start planning how you are going to study throughout the year. Make sure that you give yourself plenty of time to absorb all of the information that you are being taught. The best way to retain new information is to dedicate an hour or so each evening to revising what you have learnt throughout the day. When you do this, you should put it into your own words, because this will help to improve your understanding of any confusing concepts. This will be crucial closer to exam season, because you will not be attempting to learn new things – it will just be a case of refreshing your memory.

Use Study Apps

If you need extra help with your studies, you can make use of some of the amazing smartphone apps that are available. There is genuinely an app for everything, so if you can pinpoint what it is that you struggle with, you will be able to find an app to help you.

If you have difficulty with taking in information, you can use apps like Soundnote to record your lectures, which will help you with your revision, because you can play the lecture back at a slower pace. You should check with your lecturer first to make sure they are happy to be recorded in this way. If you struggle planning your time, you can use apps like Class Timetable to plan your time effectively. It’s just a case of finding the right app for you.

Hard Work Pays Off

It can be a challenge trying to learn in a new environment, but with careful planning and hard work, you can be capable of exam success in no time!

If you have a question related to academic life and study in the UK and you can’t find the answer in the Prepare for Success learning resources, write it on the Question Wall and we will try to answer it here in the blog next time.

Leave a comment...

Posted in Uncategorized

6 ways to improve your conversational English

Students practising spoken EnglishOur latest guest blog post describes several ways you can improve your conversational English, and is provided by Ruth Bushi from student money website Save the Student:

If the thought of talking to native UK speakers leaves you tongue-tied, don’t panic! Save the Student reveals the free resources that can boost your confidence as well as your ability.

1. Get involved

Taking part in local clubs and groups doesn’t just increase your language skills: it can also help you feel less isolated and more rooted in your new community. So, don’t just stick with what you know – get out there and mingle!

  • Volunteer for a local charity. It’s a great way to get cosy with your community, plus you’ll meet people who value your input. Visit charity shops to find vacancies, or take a look at do-it.org.uk for all kinds of other opportunities. Not sure what’s involved? This ultimate guide to volunteering explains it all!
  • Join a student society. It doesn’t matter if it’s about walking, reading, or playing a sport – just pick something you’re passionate about and you’ll already have something in common to talk about.

2. Swap your skills

A language swap – where you teach the language you know to someone who speaks the language you’re learning – is a neat way to practice English without the pressure. It can be as simple as having a conversation in each language for a few minutes, or taking turns to explain common vocabulary or trickier slang words.

Your university may be able to put you in contact with other students keen to swap, but you could also keep an eye on department noticeboards and course forums. If you’re not yet in the UK you can still take part in a language swap by email, or using free video messaging apps such as Facebook and Skype.

3. Don’t sweat over slang

Understanding slang (informal words and phrases) and accents can be the most challenging thing about learning a language. The good news is that, whether you want to learn Cockney or understand a Scottish accent, someone on YouTube can show you how!

Try searching for British slang, UK dialects or How to pronounce British words. You’ll also find tons of tutorials on how to master British accents: don’t be shy about repeating what you hear and having a go yourself (unless you’re out in public – that can get you some curious looks).

4. Catch-up with films and TV

Watching films in English is a great way to immerse yourself in the language (well, it’s a good excuse, anyway!)

Unfortunately, movies don’t really reflect real life or useful phrases: the Brits don’t spend that much time fighting aliens. We don’t all wear bonnets and live in mansions, either!

That said, some viewing can be a valuable for cultural insights, as well as for hearing real-life English. Try these on for size:

  • Anything by director Mike Leigh: not always the cheeriest of films, but great for hearing everyday speech and regional accents.
  • BBC Three or BBC II!, as it likes to call itself, is an online-only BBC TV channel with more diverse, regional content, plus a window into British humour. There’s also Channel 4, though note that access to programmes on either depends on where you are in the world.
  • Star Wars Episode IV: if someone’s talking to you about droids, it’s quite likely they’re referencing this film rather than a phone operating system!

5. Read regional news

You won’t run short of news on TV or online, although much of it can have you thinking nothing interesting happens outside London. Reading the regional news can give you some history and context about your new home, and means you’ll always have something to talk about with taxi drivers (note: they do most of the talking…)

  • Try www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk and follow the menu to navigate to your region in the UK.
  • You can find links to almost every regional and local UK newspaper on this Wikipedia page.
  • Don’t just read the news! If you want to see more fluid language in action, check out magazine content or look for student blogs: they’re perfect for picking up slang, jokes and hot topics.

6. Ask questions

If something has you stumped (i.e., utterly confused), don’t panic. Just make a note to ask about it later, whether it’s someone on your course, someone on Reddit or some guy in the supermarket. Most folk love explaining what makes their language, town or country quirky, brilliant or bizarre – so don’t hold back about asking for an explanation.

For language-specific queries, the forum over at Duolingo can be a mine of information (plus you can brush up your grammar skills in 20-odd languages while you’re there).

Getting by in a new language isn’t just about mastering grammar rules and perfect pronunciation. A lot of what you need to feel at home will happen naturally as you immerse yourself in local life. Be patient, stay curious, and it’ll happen!

If you have a question related to academic life and study in the UK and you can’t find the answer in the Prepare for Success learning resources, write it on the Question Wall and we will try to answer it here in the blog next time.

Leave a comment...

Posted in Uncategorized

Different ways of being taught on your course

Ways of being taughtThis month’s blog post considers some of the different ways you can expect to be taught during your studies in the UK.

Traditional ways of being taught on a university course in the UK include through a mixture of lectures, seminars, tutorials and possibly workshops, depending on your discipline area. Some of these may be unfamiliar to international students, especially if they have been taught in a different way in their home countries. Even a teaching method such as a ‘lecture’ may be delivered differently in different academic cultures, so it is important to know what you should expect as a student coming to study in the UK. For a basic introduction to these four ways of teaching have a look at Ways of being taught on your course first.

Lectures generally last between 30 to 50 minutes and traditionally involve students in listening and note-taking. The lecturer may use visual aids (usually presentation slides) whilst speaking. These, along with a recording of the lecture, may or may not be available afterwards for you to refer to. It is useful to take notes, even if they are available, to add to your understanding. You may find that some of your lectures in the UK are quite interactive. There will usually be an opportunity for one or two questions from the audience at the end but some lecturers also use other polling devices to engage students in the topic – these allow the student audience to participate more actively, by thinking and voting on issues or predicting the outcomes of research mentioned during the lecture itself.

Some lecturers might even ask you to watch a pre-recorded lecture and then use a seminar for discussion of the key points or extension activities to deepen your understanding. Seminars are a typical way of teaching found in most UK universities. Usually groups of up to 20 students discuss an academic paper, a presentation or a topic with their tutor. It is expected that students speak as well as the tutor, and it is an opportunity to develop your critical thinking skills as well as to explore different opinions or perspectives on a topic. Small group tutorials may also serve some of these functions.

A tutorial in many universities involves a one-to-one meeting with your tutor. The meeting might typically focus on your academic progress, feedback for an assignment or negotiation of an assignment or dissertation topic if you are a postgraduate student.
In science and applied science, lab sessions and workshops often take the place of seminars and these may involve following a practical set of instructions or carrying out an experiment.

Lastly, blended learning practices can now be found embedded across UK universities. Although much of your course will probably take place in a face-to-face context, you may also find that part of it is delivered or undertaken online. You will be expected to use a range of technologies, not only to support your independent learning but also possibly to receive some of your teaching. Technology is likely to have an impact at all levels of your study, from contacting your tutor (by email) to even doing part of a taught module online with other students.

If you have a question related to academic life and study in the UK and you can’t find the answer in the Prepare for Success learning resources, write it on the Question Wall and we will try to answer it here in the blog next time.

Leave a comment...

Posted in Uncategorized

MOOCs – free online courses for English language students

MOOCThis week’s blogpost is in reply to a student who has asked if there are any free online courses to help them improve their English.

Recently, one kind of online course that has generated quite a lot of interest is the MOOC. MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. MOOCs are free (open) for anyone to sign up to do and consequently, with the help of wide marketing, they are attracting many thousands of participants (massive) from all over the world. MOOCs are generally short, varying in length from between 4 weeks and 8 weeks. Typical course content includes videos featuring subject experts; links to articles; discussion forum-type activities; threads where you can add a written comment about a topic; test-yourself weekly quizzes. In some cases, if you complete the course you may be able to purchase a completion certificate as evidence of this. MOOCs have educators or online facilitators who guide participants through the course. In the USA, MOOCs are delivered by Coursera and Edx; in the UK the main provider is currently FutureLearn.

Some MOOCs offered on a regular basis through FutureLearn which may be of interest to English language learners are:
Exploring English Language and Culture, a MOOC offered by the British Council. Next course starts on 2nd February 2015.
A Beginner’s Guide to Writing in English for University Study, a MOOC offered by the University of Reading. Next course starts on 19th January 2015.
Study Skills for International Students, a MOOC offered by the University of East Anglia. Next course starts on 24th November 2014.

If you have a question related to academic life and study in the UK and you can’t find the answer in the Prepare for Success learning resources, write it on the Question Wall and we will try to answer it here in the blog next time.

Leave a comment...

Posted in Uncategorized