By Najeeb G. Abdulhamid
In this article, I outline six action points Nigerian university students should take before and after returning to class. These to-dos will empower our students to be smarter and improve the quality of their learning experiences. The guide evolved from my years of learning, teaching, mentoring, and reading academic resources from universities around the world.
- First thing, first
Suppose I had my way in the Nigerian education space, every higher institution would be compelled to integrate a Power Searching with Google course into their curriculum or develop something similar. This free and self-paced course allows individuals to learn how to become Google search Ninjas. I took the course back in 2010, when it was launched, and obtained a certificate. The training has taught me the art of online searching with precision. Against this background, I suggest every student uses his spare time to take the course. It will help them to learn how to search for resources that can simplify learning and understanding various concepts and topics. It will prepare you to learn how to locate resources during assignments, projects, or dissertations. The course can be taken in less than a week, depending on an individual’s motivation and access to the device/internet.
- Taking a course on plagiarism
Many of those who had the opportunity to take students and mark their assignments would tend to agree that there is an urgent need to teach our students how to avoid plagiarising other people’s work. Sadly, not every GNS course in our institution of learning dedicates enough time to guiding our younger ones. For this reason, I am urging our students to dedicate three hours to take a course on plagiarism from Indiana University. The course is free for everyone and can be completed in less than three hours. I took this course back in 2015 and learnt a lot from it.
- Learning how to learn
As a lifelong learner and a teacher, I observed over the years that not every university has resources or training for their students on crucial skills such as learning styles, note-taking, and revision, among others. For this reason, I urge our students to consider dedicating time to learning these skills. Understanding how you learn best will help you take more proactive measures to enhance your learning experience. If you are unsure about the best learning style that suits your personality, look at the GCFLearnfree.org website or the University of Wollongong Academic Resources to discover your learning style. Another important skill we sometimes overlook is that of note taking. Thankfully, many universities worldwide and life hack writers clarify how students can approach note taking while attending lectures. You can learn note taking methods such as Cornell, outlining, mapping, charting, highlighting, and annotating from the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, the Open University, UNSW Sydney, and the Lifehack website. Besides understanding learning styles and note-taking, revision is one skill every student must aspire to know how to do right. Luckily, there are several resources to learn from, such as the University of Melbourne and Birmingham City University. Other places to learn about revision include wikiHow and studycorgi.
- Discovering a lone time and Student-mentor
It is also important for you to figure out the best time for your solo study. This is because different people learn at various times. As such, try to find a time that works best for you. It is called “Einstein time.” Try reading early in the morning, evening, or night to see which works best for you. Don’t ever be allowed to be cowed by group pressure to study at a time on someone’s Einstein time. Another approach is to find among your classmates one friend or a group of friends who are good at your course. Befriend them, and always stick to them. Try to convince them to slot times for group discussion. You will also improve your academic scores and learning experience with that approach.
- Work-life balance
Regardless of how tight the academic atmosphere will be, find time to balance your life between being too engrossed in academic activities and other equally spiritual and health-promoting activities. Take time to attend your prayer sessions, and equally, go for physical exercise, even for 20 minutes. Make it a habit to expand your circle of friends beyond the confines of your region. Remember, your network is your net worth, as the saying goes. If possible, take time to have friends from across all the states in the federation. Discuss issues related to culture, business, the climate and many interesting areas. You may never know how this will blossom into more productive collaboration years after you leave school. With that, you will improve your cultural understanding of their way of life and your communication and social skills. If you find it difficult to make new friends, take time to read Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends & Influence People or articles from the New York Times or Lifehack website.
- Integrating productivity tools
Staying productive during your studies is one of the things that will help you succeed. Sadly, it is one of those skills you will hardly receive training for a while at school. It is against this that I would like to introduce you to the Pomodoro technique. WhatIs.com defines the Pomodoro Technique as “a time management method based on 25-minute stretches of focused work broken by five-minute breaks.” Longer breaks, typically 15 to 30 minutes, are taken after four consecutive work intervals. You can learn more about this technique from todoist and Kat Boogard’s articles and use pomofocus (web) and forestapp (mobile) tools to implement Pomodoro techniques in your studies.
In addition, I would suggest downloading the Timecap app to track your productivity progress. To be honest, I am a huge fan of Timecap. It has helped me to track my habits for the past two years.
Abdulhamid, PhD, works at Microsoft Africa Research Institute Kenya