How I Strategized My Learning Style
You don’t have to study more to learn more.
Mostly everyone confuses learning with studying. But only the well-knowledged and successful know that studying is nothing but a barely surviving strategy to learning.
I believe learning is engaging in the sharing of knowledge and wisdom. On the contrary, I see studying as the forced knowledge from books that result in exhausting the human brain!
I am no expert in academia or I don’t grade myself as the most-knowledged or successful either. I always consider myself a student of learning. So, I’m sharing with you my personal experience where I strategized my way through my undergraduate study, which turned out to “break the ice” for me and my colleagues.
How it Started
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Computer Science was an absolute-zero start for me. It was the longest hours of greek that bored my brains out, and I hardly survived through each hour. Concentration and focus were no more words in my dictionary. I’ve had student counselors, lecturers, and so many others advice me:
“You need to study every day to make studying easy. Else it’s gonna be hard during exams.”
I kept trying and trying but it turned out to be nothing but bullshit and it didn’t work for me! I am not a book worm, and I am cursed with very slow reading speeds, unlike other normal people. I am a snail! And this slides me down a steeper learning curve. I am not the “sit-and-study alone” type.
Hoping for light to shine upon my studying, in the last semester of my diploma, I enrolled for a module called Systems Analysis and Design, where I learned a concept called Divide-and-Conquer (DNC). Who knew it would be a life-changer?
The divide-and-conquer technique
This is a technique that programmers and professionals, in the industry, follow to identify and analyze a large problem and recursively break it down into smaller manageable proportions of the same or related type.
These smaller problems are then ordered priority-wise and dependency-wise, and then tackled one-by-one till the whole problem is founded a solution with.
I know it’s a lot to grasp in at first, but with time and practice, its importance and significance in problem-solving and computational thinking will shine out in you. I understood this better after completing a case-study based assessment in the given subject. Once you grasp it, it is not something you would let go of!
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On completing my case study, I seemed to be emotionally attached to the DNC vibe. This kept sparking my thoughts to implement it to many things. The taste of it is surely deceiving. So, I decided to try to implement this technique in our academia. So, we took. a strategical plan when approaching this.
A semester is roughly 12 to 16 weeks. And each module has at least 12 lectures. But how do we divide these 12 lectures into 12 weeks? Isn’t it the same as studying 1 lecture a week?
But here is how we did it!
We were a blessed group of 3 close friends, and we were study buddies throughout our years at university. We always hung out together and we decided to divide the lectures within ourselves. So how this worked was:
Scenario with 12 lectures and 3 persons:
Person 1: week 1, week 4, week 7
Person 2: week 2, week 5, week 8
Person 3: week 3, week 6, week 9
Of the 12 weeks of workload and theory to grasp, each person only has to focus mainly on studying 3 weeks of lectures. So what about the other 9 weeks?
Each student in the group teaches the content of each lecture that they have learned for the week. This lightens the weight of studying through books, forcing yourself onto long online lectures and tutorials. It’s as simple as a detailed conversation with a friend that involves all parties and diversifies the aspect of knowledge.
I consider myself cursed because I am a terribly slow reader. But, I am a listener and I love it especially when someone speaks to me about subject matters than having to go through books. So, my colleagues and I found this the most practical approach.
Every week we would discuss and share our knowledge and recap on the previously covered weeks of work. A question and answer session between us with research and practice helped us overcome the grey spaces and uncertainties we came across.
We invested our best efforts in finding solutions to these uncertainties within ourselves, and only if we struck a dead end, we reached out to our lecturer or tutor, or anyone external for help. But this doesn’t mean you ignore your lecturer, we always stayed in touch with our lecturers with regards to academics. It is a key point!
Important Factors to Consider
I am not a person who can study alone or sit in one place for hours reading books or forcing myself to study. I always hated that. I always appreciate a partner when it comes to studying, a conversation that leads to clarifying knowledge and boost self-improvement.
So, here, I put together some factors I would like to share with you on how we made this work for all types of students with different study strategies so anyone could adopt the DNC technique easily.
Gathering the team
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You will need a team! That’s right! A group of 3–4 members is ideal. But any more would disrupt the communication flow and eventually “spoil the soup!”
When teaming up, look out for members who are dedicated and willing to learn by contributing. Let’s get the raw facts out, there are free riders amongst students too, who would just wait for everything to be done and they be credited. But it doesn’t work in this scenario. The main purpose is to bring together students with a will and dedication to work. It’s all about the chemistry!
Some mistakes students make are always gathering and grouping together “smart” students. But this also has its flaws and can lead to disagreements and disputed within the teammates. Therefore, choose your team wisely with dedicated students who are willing to contribute and learn with you. This will be much easier and comfortable with the group of friends with whom you are following the modules.
Skimming through the unit outline
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Many students neglect the importance of a unit outline. A unit outline highlights the important section of the module that will be covered within the semester and what should be expected, including the assessments, examinations, and grading, etc.
It is always good practice to know what to expect beforehand. Therefore, it helps to foresee and plan your semester. You will also know the topics covered for the upcoming weeks and be able to organize it and divide the contents based on the number of members in your team.
Appreciating the team
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The DNC technique highly depends on trust and a “harmonic give-and-take” of knowledge. So, you continue to learn and master your knowledge by sharing it with your team. Since you are studying less, doesn’t mean you are learning more. Learning comes with the ability to deliver knowledge and accept the delivered knowledge.
Different people approach differently when it comes to sharing knowledge. Some like to express by drawing diagrams, write the content down, or just speak it out.
Learning to learn is the biggest mastery of learning.
Chances are, one might not be comfortable with the teaching techniques. But, it is always better to appreciate and accept the way knowledge is being delivered to you. Ask questions, refer to another group member, these are possible ways to overcome such situations.
Life sometimes teaches the same lessons in different ways, and it is highly probable that you will have to accept things as they are. Therefore, learning to appreciate will also help build your self-improvement skills.
Finding the right environment
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To most of us, the environment matters when it comes to studying. A silent room with only the necessary books and tools is my preference. So my options narrow down to a library, a coffee shop near our college, an empty classroom, or my friend’s house.
These were the usual places that we would meet up to study as this was where we could focus more and concentrate on sharing our knowledge. However, different people have different preferences when it comes to choosing the environment for studying, therefore, it is better to consider a place of collaboration and work when making your decision.
As a software engineering student, I had my personal preferences. It was usually the laptop loaded with all the necessary content to be covered for that study period and a file with some A4 papers stacked and a pen. I wouldn’t accommodate any unnecessary pieces of equipment to avoid the “stuffed” feeling.
Understanding When to Implement the DNC Technique
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The divide and conquer technique might seem simple enough to tackle almost all problems. But this is not the getaway for everything. There were subjects that this technique didn’t seem to work for me and my colleagues.
This was mainly because of the content structure and the type of subjects. This technique mostly worked for me on theory-based subjects. But when considering practical-based subjects, this technique was very less effective for me.
Therefore, considerations might differ from person to person. This is when planning ahead comes. So don’t forget to go through your unit outlines! Analyze and understand the module and its workflow, then decide if it is worth following this technique.
Learning became interesting when I started to focus more on learning how to learn. Learning how to learn is the art of learning. Mastering it can open doors to the ultimate gaining of knowledge.
The DNC technique is more than just studying less and scoring more. It’s about maintaining integrity and teamwork. Know your chores and accomplish them responsibly. This lays a foundation for your team skills, promoting self-growth, and sparks the team player in you.
“The combination of hard work and smart work is efficient work.” ~ Robert Half
Combine both your hard work and smart work and unleash barrierless learning. So, let’s get started now! Every second matters! Have fun and enjoy learning!