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Country Universities Centre: Distance & Online Studying

Country Universities Centre: Distance & Online Studying


‘There have been many times I have struggled over things, feeling silly and not wanting to ask for fear of looking foolish, but you can always guarantee  someone else is thinking the same thing but is too scared to ask. ” Dianne Whittle shares her experience of distance & online studying with the support of CUC and Charles Sturt.

Written by Dianne Whittle

My name is Dianne Whittle, and I studied a Bachelor Of Social Science (Psychology) and have recently transferred to a Bachelor of Psychology (Honours).

I returned to university after a 30-year break between studies. I was new to online learning and university, and it was incredibly daunting as I struggled with the practicalities of university, online study and fear and doubt of ‘could I do it, would I fail, am I too old to begin again’.

The two standouts that saved me were the resources Charles Sturt offers online students and my local Country Universities Centre (CUC).

Studying with CUC

Having no idea how to find my lectures or tutorials or how online study worked, I was ready to quit before I began. On the verge of withdrawing,  I went back to the beginning and accessed the Charles Sturt Study Skills course which answered many of these questions, showed me where to get help and generally gave me the confidence to think I could succeed.

A chance ad on Facebook alerted me to the newly opening Country University Centre in Goulburn. I had no idea what CUC did or if I qualified but I knew that to succeed in my studies I needed all the help I could get.

I can honestly say that the reason I didn’t drop out of university and the reason I have done so well in my studies is CUC and its staff.

There were so many things in online learning that were new to me including:

  • Navigating Interact2
  • Researching
  • Writing and formatting essays
  • Referencing
  • Submitting assessments

Whilst I love online learning and Charles Sturt has many helpful resources, nothing can replace that 1:1 help from another person.

How does CUC help?

CUC helps me with all aspects of university such as my study, a quiet place to work, reliable internet, up to date technology, private rooms to attend tutorials or sit exams – they also provide exam supervision which helps relieve some of the stress of exams.

CUC were instrumental in helping me develop a plan of which subjects I needed to complete and when, explaining the intricacies of prerequisites and subject selection for my individual course. This help alone meant I could finish my degree faster.

CUC has given me access to many resources and support, most particularly the Learning Skills Advisor. CUC and the LSA help me figure out my assessment requirements, they provide a sounding board for my ideas and help me figure out if I’m on the right track.

I’ve attended various workshops at CUC on academic writing, referencing, exam preparation, study skills, note taking and time management. Their help with academic writing and the comprehensive feedback on my essays has  helped me improve my marks.

One of the best things about CUC is the support they provide.

Studying Online

Online study can be extremely isolating. The onus is on you to keep up with your work, so you need to be disciplined and develop a study plan that considers your work, family, and leisure commitments.

Good time management skills are essential.

At the beginning of each week I print out what I need to do and make a list of the tasks I need to complete and steadily work through them one by one, ticking them off as I go.

I prefer listening to the tutorial recordings at a time that suits me, so I factor that into my study plan. CUC has been instrumental in providing me with resources and workshops on developing a study plan, study skills, note taking, time management, exam preparation, and referencing.

Charles Sturt workshops on academic skills and access to Academic Skills Advisors has been instrumental in showing me what is required academically and where to get help. These help me improve my efficiency and ensure I make the best use of my time, but my best tip is to try not to get behind.

It’s easy to think you will catch up over mid-session break and you can to an extent, but there are always assessments to complete so it can become overwhelming and add to your stress levels.

For me, developing a study plan that is flexible and following it is instrumental in completing tasks. Equally, taking breaks and allowing yourself time off to relax or do something fun is essential for your well-being.

My Advice

My advice to all students, those commencing and those continuing – ask for help and take whatever is on offer.

There have been many times I have struggled over things, feeling silly and not wanting to ask for fear of looking foolish, but you can always guarantee  someone else is thinking the same thing but is too scared to ask.

Your subject discussion board is a great resource but if in doubt, be proactive and email your lecturer.

I am very fortunate to have CUC but Charles Sturt Central is also an amazing resource. If they don’t know the answer to your question they will find out or refer you to the person who can answer you.

If you are struggling with your coursework or don’t understand something or need an extension – email your lecturer and have a chat. I have always found them to be happy to talk over email, zoom or phone, and happy to help clarify coursework, especially when it comes to assessments.

Similarly, the Library staff are a wonderful asset to guide you with research and Charles Sturt’s referencing tool, ART, is fantastic.

So, if you are feeling overwhelmed or out of your depth, ask for help. Charles Sturt and its lecturers want us to succeed.

The best advice given to me when I was feeling overwhelmed with university and worrying about how to get through everything – how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. That’s how I see university – I don’t look too far ahead, I focus on each session, I take each subject as it comes, complete the weekly tasks and assessments and then move on to the next.

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