Preparing to take notes!

In the last three waffles the focus has been on starting university. This week, I am going to have a look at what you can do in your first week of lectures, seminars and workshops. So grab your rucksack, your mobile technology and notepad and let’s get to lectures!


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In this series of butter covered waffles, I have waffled about Preparing for the Adventure which is University and last week, on Wilson Waffling Live, more personal advice on starting university, supported my images of my own student ID photos from my uni days! In this waffle, I’m going to assume that you have arrived, packed your pot noodles away into the almost empty food cupboard, ate the final rations left by your parents and have sobered up from your first social event. Now…the work begins!

  • Get a map! – I’m lucky to work at a university which is relatively small. When I say small, I’m referring to the campus. My office is situated on one side of the campus and, with Costa on the other, I frequently walk across to get caffeine supplies. This walk should only take about ten minutes, but due to the small size I frequently have the opportunity to chat to colleagues and learners alike. It is what makes the campus so friendly. However, when I first arrived to work at the university it appeared to be a lot bigger than what it actually is. One of my first activities, and I would suggest you also do this, is to get a map of campus and have a walk around. Take your time to orientate yourself to where the important buildings are and how rooms are identified in their annotations. Although I must have appeared a bit strange half way through a semester walking around with a map, it did help me greatly to get a ‘feel’ for the campus. It will also allow you not to be late for that first lecture! If you do get lost – remember there are always plenty of people around who can direct you to where you want to be.
  • Whole cohort lectures

    Whole cohort lectures

  • Sit Around – When you arrive at your first lecture you might find yourself in a lecture theatre, room with flip over desks, or a room set up like a classroom with tables and chairs. Think carefully where you want to sit for the first session. Many people will naturally gravitate to the back of the room or as high up in the tiered seating as they can make without additional climbing equipment. Sit where you can see where the presentation will be displayed and where you can face the tutor. If you are using mobile technology, you might also want to check out where the power sockets are and best wifi connection is…just in case! Focus on what the tutor is saying and avoid spending time actually recording everything on the presentation – these will have been available before the session for you to download, if not they will definitely be there after. Once you get settled, think about next time. It is important to remember that the people you initially sit with might not be the people you will form the best working relationship. Don’t be afraid of changing where you sit and who you sit with. After a few sessions you will start to get a better feel of who you work best with. Although most groups tend to sit with the same people, some of the groups I teach do move around. This makes the initial name learning difficult (I tend to associate faces, names and places together) but it does tend to lead to a better group dynamic.

  • Keep up to date – Once sessions start, you are going to be bombarded with new information and tasks. I mentioned in one of my previous waffles to try and get a system in place to manage with this. It is very easy to look at your timetable and think you only have a few sessions a day or even a week and that the rest of the time is for socialising. You are moving from an education system where you work within a routine to one where the routine is created by yourself. Imagine that each day is still like a normal school day, although you have more control over when you start and finish. This should allow you to start to adjust your workflow to your natural work habits. If you are not a morning person then work later on the evening etc. When you are given tasks to do, or books are recommended, then head off to the library or arrange meetings straight away. Keeping up to date with things will allow you to avoid the sudden panic the night before or even the creation of an excuse when you have not completed the work. Remember you are more of an independent learner at university, so the organisation of the work is firmly in your tennis court!

  • Your university course is the bridge between your secondary education and your career. You have been provided with a firm foundation of learning by your school and/or college and now is the time to build on this as you complete your degree. You need to continue to apply yourself to learning. Before the motivation might have been imposed, it is now more instrinic. Enjoy university, there are plenty of new people to meet and social events to attend but keep in mind you are in an institute of learning and it is here that you will continue your own individual learning supported by your tutors and fellow students.

    I hope this gives you something to think about and maybe some activities to do when you wake up early for your first session. If you are attending the university I work at then I look forward to meeting you, otherwise I look forward to hearing your comments and ideas, please add them in the comments below or send me them to be via Twitter(@iwilsonysj), Facebook, email.

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    Have fun, engage and I’ll catch you later