Paula Woodhouse is currently doing an online Graduate Diploma of Psychology with Charles Sturt University (CSU). With a full-time job and two kids, life is pretty busy. That’s why Paula chose online study with CSU.
Being an online student doesn’t mean Paula never gets to meet her lecturers, tutors and fellow students. Some of Paula’s subjects include residential schools.
What is a residential school?
A residential school (or res school) is when students studying a subject online come on campus for a few days for some intensive face-to-face learning. It’s an opportunity to meet your lecturers and fellow students, as well as practise hands-on and collaborative study techniques, use CSU’s facilities, get personalised teaching instruction and, of course, socialise with your fellow students.
The exact details of what happens at a residential school depends on the subjects you are studying in your course, but could include:
- exam preparation workshop
- guest speaker presentation
- laboratory session
- research tutorial
- library workshop
- practical simulation class
- social events.
We spoke to Paula about her res school experiences at CSU.
What’s it like being an online student?
“I study online part-time. It takes a few hours a day, so mostly I study in the evenings, when the kids have gone to bed, and at weekends.
“Studying online, all of the tutorials are outside of working hours. So, for example, one of the subjects I am currently studying, our weekly tutorial takes place online at 6.30 pm on a Wednesday or 1pm on a Sunday. That’s when we catch up with the lecturer. If you miss them live, you obviously miss contributing to the discussion, but as they are recorded you can watch them back when you can fit them in.
“There are also the forums you can check in to see questions and answers – questions you might well ask – even if it is not a live chat. For instance, we recently had a big assignment to complete and there was lots of discussion online about that which proved very useful, not only between students, but with the lecturers as well.”
How do you balance online study with life?
“Coming back to study, and studying online, probably the biggest challenge was time management. You have to be consistent and stay on top of reading and assignments and exam prep. Now, I’m better at it and often manage to get ahead a little so I don’t have a big rush at exam times.
“I’ve found the key is being consistent and doing something for your study every day. With work and kids, you’re never going to have big blocks of free time – you don’t (or I don’t) have the luxury of saying ‘I’ll do all my study on Saturday’. So the key is getting lots of little chunks of study time. For instance, I have a twenty minute drive to and from work, and I always listen to a lecture. Or waiting for my daughter at her ballet class, I’ll listen to another one.”
How does res school work?
“The residential schools have been very valuable, I’ve recently done them for two of the subjects I’m studying, going up to Bathurst for a couple of days. You meet students and staff and make contacts, so that you can email people when you get back to ‘normal’ life. It’s great for discussing questions and sharing ideas as well.
“I drove up to Bathurst from Wagga Wagga – had a good playlist for that drive and even listened to a couple of lectures in preparation. I arrived the night before and stayed in the on-campus accommodation. That first night I ran into a few people at the accommodation who were also there for the res school.
“The next morning we got to meet your lecturer in person, and get immersed in the subject as a group, with tutorials and workshops throughout the day. But there were also lots of breaks so you get the chance to have coffee with people you know from being online and meet them in person, talking about their experiences, their subjects and so on. In the two res schools I’ve been to recently, the first couple of sessions tend to centre on collaborative activities, so you get to know people doing something together in groups. For instance, in one subject – qualitative research – we would practise interviewing each other, which was great for breaking the ice and learning something new at the same time.
“After the day is over, there is usually a group of people doing something together, whether that’s eating at the on-campus dining hall together or going into town for dinner.”
Does attending a residential school really make a difference?
“I don’t think I’d have done as well without the residential schools. For instance, in my advanced statistics subject, having the face-to-face workshop with the lecturer on such a complex topic was invaluable – being able to ask questions and get answers straightaway. Plus, I had a lot of fun.”
Find your perfect combination
When you’ve found the online degree to meet your next career goal, you may be able to select subjects that include a residential school. Find out more about online study at CSU with our dedicated guide.