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Independent Study

At university you will need to make use of a wide range of core skills that are essential in a variety of different situations. Some of these skills you'll find easy; however, others might require a bit more effort. But it's important for you to develop effective independent learning strategies. In an environment in which nobody will hold your hand, or tell you precisely what you should be doing and when, the art of managing and meeting personal deadlines – both social and academic – must be mastered sooner rather than later.

Studying Your Way

Some people like to plan things early in fine detail so that everything is ready in plenty of time; others positively thrive on the pressure of meeting a last-minute deadline. Whichever kind of person you are, you will need to keep on top of a range of different tasks at the same time, so you will need consciously to manage your time and hit key deadlines one way or another.

Independent Study: Interactive Digital Workshop

This interactive digital workshop will provide you with ideas and strategies to develop your independent learning skills to help you to get the most out of your study time.

Please explore the tabs below:

Being Organised

Organise Your Space

Whilst it may be tempting to study from the luxury of your bed, there is strong evidence that it is a good idea to maintain a clear divide between work and leisure space. According to Crosbie and Moore (2004) home workers emphasise that this is important in order to maintain a sense of being at work for your own benefit and to send a signal to those you live with. If you do not have a dedicated study space available, this may be as simple as setting up a 'pop-up office' on your kitchen table or putting on headphones to block out distractions. 

When working in a different location it is important to check that you have access to your course materials, academic software, and other resources such as Library eBooks, and google apps before starting.

Organise Your Work

Go into the study space of different students and you will soon realise that there are many different ways of organising the resources you need to work with. The crucial thing is that you develop systems for planning your time, organising and retrieving resources that work for you. Equally important is knowing when to stop organising your resources and to start working on them instead. Organising resources can be a work-avoidance strategy, but it is nevertheless a crucial step in any piece of academic work. The system you develop also has implications for what you do whilst you study, from the way you make and file your notes to the way you manage your time.

Resource Description Time Commitment
Academic Skills Essentials Workshop Recording 40 mins
Time Management Webpage with downloads N/A
Understanding How Your Learn Video 2 mins
Organise Yourself by DDSS Other Service N/A
Studying from Home by IT Services Other Service N/A

Building Self-confidence 

Many of us don't focus on developing our own self-confidence because we spend too much time thinking that everybody else is more prepared, independent and self-assured than we are. Universities can be intimidating environments; everybody seems to have a firm view, to understand things immediately and without difficulty, and to know where they are going and why.

The reality is often different. Universities are in fact - and should always be - places for asking questions, for uncertainty, for trial and error, and above all for conversation and dialogue. So: ask the questions and make the mistakes you need to in order to develop. You will find that your self-confidence grows with your understanding.

Staying Motivated

Understanding Motivation

When you are strongly motivated, it is easier to stay focused, to keep to the task, to work long hours; however, it is natural to lose some of your motivation when a project lasts as long as a degree. It is therefore important to be aware of what motivates you to complete a degree, reminding yourself of what you have to gain. There are two motivational approaches:

Intrinsic Motivation

  • Stems from genuine interest and ambition
  • Assumes no reward
  • Desire to do something because it is enjoyable, it matters, it is interesting, it is relevant to life and the world, or it is part of something bigger
  • Deep motivation closely linked to independence and autonomy

Examples of intrinsic motivators: studying for a degree because you love the subject; choosing a dissertation because you find it challenging, interesting and exciting; completing a degree to achieve a personal goal/sense of accomplishment

Extrinsic Motivation

  • Desire to do something to earn a reward or avoid punishment
  • Works when the task has a clear set of rules with a clear solution
  • Can provide a useful short-term stimulus

Examples of extrinsic motivators: studying hard for exams because you want to achieve a good grade or a scholarship; researching your dissertation thoroughly to meet parental expectations; working hard on a lab report out of a fear of failing

Resource Description Time Commitment
Motivation Worksheet Download N/A
Staying Productive at Home by Student Comms Video 1 min
Pomodoro Technique Video 2 mins
Keeping Up Momentum Webpage N/A

Setting Goals

Setting goals is an important part of the learning process. What do you want to achieve this week, this semester, or this year? Use our goal planning template to set yourself goals in the short, medium and long-terms. And make sure you goals are SMART by using our SMART goals template.

Resource Description Time Commitment
Goal Planning Template Download N/A
SMART Goal Template Download N/A
SMART Goal Summary Video 1 min

Working Together

Independent study doesn't necessarily mean that you need to be studying on your own. It is independent in so far as it is your own time that you are in charge of and it is up to you how you use it to your advantage. For some students, independent study will mean working together to share ideas as part of a peer network; for others it will mean adopting a proactive approach to their own work. However you prefer to work, the ideas outlined below should help you to get a head start and make the most of your independent study time.

Peer Networks

Making the most of a network of friends or peers on your course can be a good way to maintain your motivation and to keep your approach to university study on track. Informal or formal study groups can help to provide structure and encourage you to commit to planned study time. It can also be helpful to share information within the group to make sure you stay on top of deadlines and important course-related updates.

Resource Description Time Commitment
Setting Up your Own Study Group Workshop Recording 30 mins
Peer Learning Webpage N/A
Study With Me Video 27 mins
Come Together, Write Now by Library Online Workshop 3 hours

Top Tips

  • Share course-related information to make sure that everyone has access to the most up-to-date facts
  • Find a space that suits you as a venue for group study
  • Don't just join in because you feel pressured to do so - find your own independent study space if you need to!
Academic Skills Certificate

Recognition for your skills development

The 301 Academic Skills Certificate provides an opportunity for you to gain recognition for developing your skills and reflecting on this experience. Through this reflection you will be able to identify changes and improvements to your academic skills that will lead to long-term benefits to your studies. The 301 Academic Skills Certificate acknowledges your commitment to enhancing your academic and employability skills and personal development.

You can find more information on the 301 Academic Skills Certificate here.

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