Study and life skills are just 90 minutes away
//Sasha Lakic, Writer

Entering the post-secondary system towards the end of the traumatic teenage years when hormones are peaking is a bit of an ordeal. This is not because the number of potential sexual partners has just tripled and one has to exhibit worthy personality, it is not trying to keep intact the old high school crew or even the utter confusion of deciding on a career. No, the latter issue actually sets in later when a large chunk of students realize that what they thought they wanted to do is not what they actually want to spend the rest of their life doing. It is more the fact that attempted studies now pertain to real life, and at times, contain very confusing information – and if one does not keep on top of the game, they are inadvertently thrown out to the academic wolves. This gets a lot more challenging when you factor in “scaling” which happens at SFU. Scaling means that your class’s grades get plotted on a bell curve maximizing competition among students. If you do not perform better than the average, your mark is scaled down relative to the aggregate because everyone else is performing better than you are.

To ensure that students, especially the freshmen, have a fighting chance in the system, Capilano University offers studies workshops concentrating on a variety of study and life organization skills. They topics range from exam preparation and note taking to money management andself-esteem development. These workshops are helpful to new students who enter the post-secondary education system and, in some cases, find themselves on academic probation two semesters into their respective vocation. As skills instructor Alison Parry explains, a lot of the time “people don’t know what they don’t know [and] they don’t even know what questions to ask.”

The workshops are about 90 minutes long and just touch on the relative topics. The “Exam Preparation & Memory Strategies” workshop, for example, informs students about how to refrain from cramming, and organize pre-exam studying so that the student does not overload their brain to the point that studying becomes useless. If you have, at some point, spent two days plowing through seven chapters, the familiar blank out is inevitable because the information is just one big heterogeneous coagulated mass of graphs, vocabulary and misplaced concepts. This workshop teaches how to be effective when studying and utilize the brain’s potential optimally. However, the individual workshops only scratch the surface and seem to use a lot of common sense in exhibiting the skills a student needs.

As a more elaborated alternative, Capilano also offers a full-time three-credit course called USS 100 which combines all the workshops into 13 weeks, allowing students to actually employ the skills they are taught. Taking the individual workshops voluntarily outside of class has been an arduous task to promote on campus. There are courses like Psychology 100/101 that require attendance to a workshop for marks, but unless there is a requirement to attend, student numbers in the workshops are for the general part very meager. Parry tracks the cause for low attendance to time-sensitive factors. She says she “used to go into classes, but that’s one class out of a 13 week semester [and] a lot of the instructors don’t think they have the time to have somebody come in.”

Another barrier to the success of the workshops, Parry adds, was the disappearance of the daily meeting block when Capilano became a university. Workshops were then offered more frequently and did not conflict with students’ schedules as much. There is, however, one meeting block during the noon hour on Thursdays, but not all workshops can be held at that time, as people cannot constantly keep attending to these due to other obligations such as group meetings for projects. Also, as opposed to the students’ group projects and adequate performance in classes for crucial marks, USS 100 does not offer transfer credit for the university transfer program, which is a natural deterrent for students.

In Parry’s experience, “students say that [the workshops] are very helpful [or] are a really good refresher,” if the student was already aware of the techniques she teaches. The biggest hurdle, however, still remains the awareness of the workshops themselves.

//Sasha Lakic, Writer

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© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: editor@capilanocourier.com