being a student is time-consuming

I need to find a happy medium between self-paced instruction and structured instruction.

What have I done!?
“What have I done!?” by Miguel Angel

I signed up for a Coursera class on statistics for social science researchers because I wanted to learn how to better make use of library data and also how to use the open source program for statistical computing, R. The course information indicated I’d need to plan for 4-6 hours per week, which seemed doable, until I got into it.

The course consists of several lecture videos, most of which include a short “did you get the main concepts” multiple-choice quiz at the end. Each week there is an assignment and graded quiz, and of course a midterm and final.

It didn’t help that I started off behind, getting through only a lecture or two before the end of the first week, and missing the deadline for having the first assignment and quiz graded. I scrambled to catch up the second week, but once again couldn’t make it through the lectures in time.

That’s when I realized that it was going to take much longer than projected to keep up with this course. A 20-30 min lecture would take me 45-60 min to get through because I was constantly having to pause and write notes before the lecturer went on to the next concept. And since I was using Microsoft OneNote to keep and organize my notes, anything that involved a formula took longer to copy down.

By the end of the third week, I was still a few lectures away from finishing the second week, and I could see that it would take more time than I had to keep going, but I decided to go another week and do what I could.

That was this week, and I haven’t had time to make any more progress than where I was last week. With no prospect of catching up before the midterm deadline, I decided to withdraw from the course.

This makes me both disappointed in myself and in the structure of the course. I hate quitting, and I really want to learn the stuff. But, as I fell further and further behind, it became easier to put it off and focus on other overdue items on my task list, and thus compounding the problem.

The instructor for the course was easy to follow, and I like his lecture style, but when it came time to do the graded quiz and assignment, I realized I clearly had not understood everything, or he expected me to have more of a background in the field than a novice. It also seemed like the content was geared towards a 12 week course and with this being only 8 weeks, rather than reduce the content accordingly, he was cramming it all into those 8 weeks.

Having deadlines was a great motivation to keep up with the course, which I haven’t had when I’ve tried to learn on my own. It was the volume of content to absorb between those deadlines that tripped me up. I need to find a happy medium between self-paced instruction and structured instruction.

CIL 2010: Productivity Tools

Speaker: Lynda Kellam & Beth Filar-Williams

Check out the presentation wiki for a list of the tools and such. I’ll just note the ones I really like or other commentary I might have. They’ve grouped them into three categories: tasks, notetaking, and scheduling.

The presenters are using Poll Everywhere to get audience input on which category to focus on first, as well as asking for hands for which one. They started with Tasks.

Things is awesome, but Mac/iPhone only. Without a cloud-based interface, it’s not accessible by any other OS. Based on Getting Things Done, the application helps you organize tasks based on contexts.

Todoist is cloud-based task tool. I just started using it myself because I wanted something that could let me add sub-task to tasks.

Remember the Milk is also cloud-based, and like Todoist, it has a mobile interface. Unlike Todoist, it has apps for Blackberry and Android as well as iPhone. Tasks can also be added by SMS. One complaint I had was not being able to see a list of everything due today or overdue in the main web interface (can see it in Gmail), but now I know how to create a saved search that shows overdue tasks (dueBefore:today) and tasks due today (due:today).

The presenters have lots of scheduling tools to share. I’ve heard of only one of them, Schedule Once. The presenters are most excited about jiffle, which pulls your Goolge Calendar availability along with your own selection of available times, and allows the user to request a meeting through the site, but only for the available times. This is really useful for students scheduling personal appointments with instruction librarians. If you’re not using GCal, there is likely a tool that will allow you to sync your calendar with a GCal account.

Cozi integrates calendars, photos, widgets, journals, tasks, and is more geared towards groups or families. It might be more friendly for folks who are not comfortable with disparate, more complicated tools.

They don’t have many notetaking tools listed (Google Docs, Evernote, & wikis). More folks were interested in Evernote. Personally, I just haven’t found a good way to integrate Evernote into my life/work, and I’m not interested in paying for the premium features until I have a reason to use it regularly. I like using the journal feature of Outlook for taking work-related notes, and I rarely need to note things for personal stuff beyond adding them to a task.