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College Success Skills: Learning from recordings

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After watching

Do something with your notes the next day

Like any lecture, if you don't revisit your notes within a day or two you will forget much of the content. This is why the Cornell Method is so good for notetaking as each page has a summary section at the bottom - if you leave filling this in until the following day you will improve your chance of recalling it later.

If you are not using this method of notetaking, just remember to do something with your notes the following day - look over them and highlight key phrases, illustrate them with pictures, fill in any gaps, convert linear notes into a mindmap: anything that gets you thinking actively about them rather than just reading them.

Check your reading list for related material

Whilst it is still fairly fresh in your mind, why not do some reading around the topic? Your reading list may have links to eBooks, digitized chapters of books, or related journal articles. You don't need to read them in depth at this stage, a skim read will probably be enough.

When and where to watch

The first thing to point out is that working from recordings means you actually have a lot more choice about when and where to watch your lectures. Embrace the difference! It is not better or worse, it is different.

Initially, some of you may revel in being able to watch lectures in bed, late at night in your onesie, rather than sitting in a lecture theatre at 9am on a Thursday morning. However, for most people it will be best to watch your lectures during allocated 'work time' in a distraction-free 'work space' in order to bring some structure to your day.

Generally, your brain is most receptive 2 hours after you wake up. So, if you can manage it, that is the best time to watch (even if that is in the mid afternoon!)

Be distraction free

The fact that you can pause the recording means that you are more likely to respond to a phone call or a notification than you would be at a live lecture. However, you need to keep your concentration and focus on the content and it is therefore important to make your workspace as distraction free as possible. So, leave your phone in another room and ask the family to try to avoid interrupting you during the time you need.

Take breaks

Don't watch back-to-back lectures. Take breaks after each one to stretch your legs and grab a drink or a snack. Staring at a computer for a long period of time can also strain your eyes so make sure your look out of your window to change your focal length and flex your eye muscles as well as your aching back.

Preparing to watch

There may be less opportunities to ask immediate questions, so give yourself a head-start and do a bit of preparation beforehand. The best way is to read something related to the lecture topic before you watch the recording. Check your reading list to see if there are book chapters or articles that are relevant. Even skimming through, reading just the headings can give you an overall feel for the topic and will help your understanding as you watch.

Look back at your notes from the previous lecture too - this lecture may build on that one.

Asking and answering questions

Although there isn't the option to ask questions directly of the lecturer or your peers when using recordings, it does not mean you have no opportunities to do so. 

Can you answer your own question?

First, consider if you need to question anyone else at all. When watching a lecture recording you are usually sat at a computer or using a smart device and you have a world of information at your fingertips. If there are things you don't understand, write the question in your notes (perhaps with a big question mark before it so you can locate it easily afterwards). Immediately you have finished watching, you can Google anything you still don't understand. Whilst we would never recommend using it at an academic source, Wikipedia is great for quickly looking up what certain terms mean for example.

You could pause the recording and immediately look it up, but this is not really recommended as it can interrupt your concentration and the lecturer may explain it later anyway. Only do this if you think your lack of understanding is interfering with your ability to understand other parts of the lecture.

Use forums

Many modules will have chat forums set up within their Canvas site. You can use this to ask questions of both your lecturer and other people on the module. When you are unable to get onto campus this can be a great way of keeping in touch with your peers. Consider visiting such forums regularly even if you are not looking for answers - you may be able to give them. This will also help counteract the isolation of working from home.

Contact your lecturer 

If you still do not understand something or have follow up questions about the topic of the lecture, your lecturer is happy to answer these via email. Do not feel you are 'bothering' them. Some may have designated online 'office hours' where they guarantee to be online and monitoring their emails or any forums they have set up. If you need to ask a question, go ahead and contact them. 

Making notes

Make notes just like you would at a live lecture. The Cornell Method is a good option as it gives you a space for noting any queries you have and encourages you to summarise – which engages the brain more than just passively recording information. 

Try something new

Use this new way of learning as an opportunity to try a method of notemaking you don’t usually use, perhaps because it normally takes too long – perhaps something more visual like a mind map. Being able to pause recordings means you can have more time to keep up as you create these.

If you are taking notes digitally, consider including some screen shots of particularly important slides that you can then annotate.

Use time stamps

Incorporate time-stamps into your notes (this just means noting how far the video is through when a particular topic is discussed). This will make it easier to go back and re-watch specific parts of it if you need to later.

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