Study Skills For Postgraduate Learning Education Essay

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Introduction

I have been working in Watsons Water as Sales Support Executive for five years, the major responsibilities of the position to provide sales support and training services, the job is full of development and challenges. The company encourages staff for continuous development and formulates relevant human resources strategies to support people development, i.e, sponsor tuition fee for attending training courses and education relevant to their jobs. My supervisor also encourages individual to achieve a high level of academic qualification, this is the reason why I am attending this Master Degree Program. My career goal is to be a professional management and contribute to the society. NCC Education provides the opportunity for learners to study in part time learning mode with flexibility and quality learning. I believe that through NCC education could allow me to apply both theoretical and practical knowledge in managing daily tasks and operations so as to enrich my job scope.

Research Strategy

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Research is a mechanism to assess the analytic skills. There are various channels to obtain information, it can be gathered from job experiences, books, magazines, journals, literature documentation, library, multimedia and online references. Among all the channels, I would like to capture information from internet and library as there are fruitful information both academic and management issues. The research strategy I adopt will be internet, library and individual learning. Individual learning has the advantages over group learning is that it provides me high degree of flexibility, even though group learning has the advantages of brain-storming, idea sharing, better use of resources, however, it may encounter the problems of individual dominance, long discussion time and hard to gather all the participants within a scheduled timeframe. However, I would adjust my research strategy in some occasions whenever problems raised such as consult my tutor, discuss with classmates and peer group. From Kolb's learning model, I tend to be a pragmatic learner that emphasizes "thinking and doing".

Project Plan

The key success of postgraduate learning is to complete all the learning activities on schedule. Therefore, a well organized project plan is crucial to achieve the target. Under the NCC program, the institute already defined the syllabus, course materials, assignment submission date, examination date and learning schedule for learners to complete the eight modules. I have constructed a time table for the initial module - Study Skills for Postgraduate Leaning as shown in figure 1 for planning the activities within this few weeks. Furthermore, I would like to use this project plan as a reference for the subsequent modules within the whole learning process.

The idea of this learning project plan aims to achieve the following deliverables.

Prepare a learning schedule with respect to the learning outcomes

Define learning directions

Finding the raw materials

Organize the information

Writing a report

Learning plan implementation

Time Controlling

Apart from constructing a learning plan to accomplish the goal, priority setting is also takes into consideration; flexibility is another important element to a part time learner, as we aware heavy workload would always interrupt our original plan. Under this circumstance, it is better to maintain a positive attitude of "can do" to manage the tasks in learning.

Since I apply individual learning as my research strategy, I would also get the course tutor, classmates and peer groups be involved in the project plan. Within the lecturing, we should raise questions in the class, through brainstorming and advising, it can expand our scope and speed up the learning process. We are aware of tight learning schedule, so invest extra learning hours and strategically utilization of resources must be kept in our mind for effectively time control.

The Time Management Philosophy

Time management refers to a range of skills, tools and techniques used to manage time in completing specific goals or tasks. There are a number of activities to be involved in time management, these activities include goal setting, planning, organizing, scheduling, prioritizing, allocating, analysis of time spending, monitoring and controlling.

To manage time effectively, the learner would like to streamline the activities into steps of goal setting, plan-do-check-act learning cycle and prioritization

SMART Goal Setting

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The initial step of time management regarding learning is goal setting; SMART goal should cover the areas of Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timeliness (S.M.A.R.T. - George T. Doran 1981)

Use the acronym SMART to establish goals that are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timelines. SMART goals may be used as an effective way to decide what to do for postgraduate learners and where to make changes if the tracked goals are not progressing as desired.

Specific describes the details of what is going to be accomplished in a clear and simple way. The goal must be easy to understand and well defined in order to make it possibly be achieved. For the learning project, it is simply that complete in writing the essay of "Managing Time Effectively as a Postgraduate Learner" is the prime and clear goal. Going through the lectures and applied knowledge/skills have been learnt from the lectures and transferred them in writing the report is the specific goal. Indeed, appropriate actions should be taken so that the goal can be achieved.

Measurable means use quantifiable terms in comparing where the goal is in reaching the desired target. Establishing a performance system with criteria for measuring the goal will allow changes during the time period so as to manage the process and keep on the track of meeting the target. With respect to the postgraduate learning process, it is understandable that the project can be chopped into small tasks so that individual task can be measured within the schedule.

Attainable means the goal is achievable based on all sort of resources such as time, finance, human … etc, so the goal should not be set far beyond of ability and capability. Having a goal that stretches people and allows for growth opportunity often leads to very worthwhile business results. Under the circumstance, the learning goal for part time learners set should consider on the factors of their workload, family affairs, ability and capability.

Relevant indicates the goal is not only within reach of skill levels but also has meaning and relates directly to the purpose of those who are responsible for meeting the goal. Relevancy means everyone involved can understand how they influence the goal and how it affects them. When a goal is relevant to those involved it increases commitment and makes meeting the goal the goal a highly motivational tool.

Timelines defines a period for measuring whether the goal is going away from the deadline date or not. Having a time frame established allows a frequency for monitoring progress, keeping the tasks being on track, making adjustments to meet the overall goal, and gaining momentum with each accomplishment along the goal plan. All these mechanisms are effectively for time management. Based on the timeline of learning, learners should well organised their work and follow to the project plan to complete the programmed target

The PDCA Cycle in Learning

The second step in time management linked with learning is the plan-do-check-act cycle. The concept of the PDCA Cycle was originally developed by Walter Shewhart, the pioneering statistician who developed statistical process control in the Bell Laboratories in the US during the 1930's. It is often referred to as `the Shewhart Cycle'. It was taken up and promoted very effectively from the 1950s on by the famous Quality Management authority, W. Edwards Deming, and is consequently known by many as `the Deming Wheel'. Following paragraphs to explain the ideas of the PDCA cycle in time management of learning.

Plan aims to set objective and processes to achieve a predefined goal or learning outcomes, it also comes up with ideas for solving problems encountered

Do means to implement the project in accordance with the schedule

Check means to set measuring points and compare the outcomes against with the expected results

Act means to make changes whenever deviation was found that try to fix to the original schedule that involve improvement issues.

It is predicable that the learning outcomes may be deviated from the project plan; learners may not be easily found a better solution to tackle the problems. The PDCA cycle is a better method to solve the problem. Learners may fall back to the "plan" stage to redefine the learning objective and go through the process again to look for an optimum solution.

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Figure 2 - The PDCA cycle

Prioritization

There are few guidelines in prioritizing your tasks, following give postgraduate learner an insight.

Step 1 - Break down the list according to time limits. Decide which of the items on the list must be done today, this week, this month or even this year.

Step 2 - Consider how the priorities on the to-do list will affect the lists of others. If someone is waiting for your action before proceed to make a decision, set it the top priority for him.

Step 3 - Look at consequences that will occur if you don't accomplish something on your list. Do this with every item on your list and determine which items to be top priority by deciding which consequences you can or cannot live with.

Step 4 - Take into account the positive things that could happen if you accomplish certain things on your list.

Step 5 - Weed out projects or events that always sink to the bottom of your list. This will increase the amount of time you can spend on more important things.

With respect to the concept of prioritization, it is extreme important for people to set priorities in project management, it is also applicable for post graduate learners, The ABC system developed by Marc Mancini would give post graduate learners a guideline in the aspect.

Class "A" goal refers to "must do"

Class "B" goal refers to "should do"

Class "C" goal refers to "nice to do"

Moreover, Stephen Covey first clearly outlined the concept of defining priorities based on the blend of importance and urgency within each activity. Urgent tasks are those that people in the face right now, requiring IMMEDIATE attention. Important ones are those that CONTRIBUTE to personal goals, mission, and values. According to Covey's time management matrix:

'A' priorities would be both important and urgent

'B' priorities would be important but not urgent

As a part time learner, activities such as negotiating with customers, training, coaching, meeting, appointment are those tasks in the class "A" goal, all learning activities such as attending lectures, browsing the internet, reading the books, writing reports, etc. are also classified as class "A". Sharing ideas or group discussion is regarded as class "B" goal in this occasion. To prevent time waste, watching TV, social drinks, playing TV games, etc should be put in the class "C" goal in daily lives.

Managing Time Effectively

Having analysed the SMART goal, PDCA cycle and prioritization concepts, I would like to apply the following strategies to manage my learning time effectively. Owning to the fact that of heavy workload and tight work schedule, I already worked out a learning project plan in line with SMART goal

Since I need to spend two hours in traveling per day, to better use of the time, I set a min target to read books and learning materials on the bus rather than sleeping. Better utilisation of technology product also helps me a lot in time management, put the task list in the personal digital assistant keep me be reminded what tasks were completed and outstanding tasks, this make use every minute and hour. Moreover, NCC education helps learners a great in revision process as all the lecture presentation were recorded and uploaded to the website so that learners can review all the lectures from the web at their own accord. I frequently revise the lectures with this methodology.

The time table has the advantages of controlling individual learning process; all the activities are tie up with a timeline with measuring mechanisms. Whenever, the learning schedule is lagged behind the schedule, an alarming signal would be generated and triggered my attention so that I can take immediate actions to pursue the target.

The company has a learning resource centre, whenever, staffs want to perform self studying, they can borrow books, journals and CDs outside similar to the public libraries. The company already established a learning culture within the organization, where learning credits policy is stimulating staff to learn more. Moreover, the company rolls out the policy of job enrichment, potential staff with high academic background and good performance will be put into the talent pool for development.

The Effectiveness of Original Research Strategy

Time management is critical for a part time learner. Many scholars have discussed this issue that effective time management can make human life to be more energetic and fruitful. Even though everyone understands that avoid procrastination and priorities tasks will help people to have grater productivity and high efficiency, this phenomena occurs repeatedly.

In accordance to Kolb's learning theory, converging learning style is my preference; my personal characteristics are impatient, assertive and always maintain high quality and standards. I usually attract by technical tasks and problems rather than social or interpersonal relation. Thus, I always adopt the research strategy of individual learning at the very beginning and less participate in group learning even the tutor provides discussion sessions during lectures. In the middle of the module, I believe this approach may not be beneficial to high level education, I altered the research strategy in taking more initiatives in learning, I began to pay extra effort and actively participated in group learning, share ideas, discussion, and question and answer. Through the process, I acquired valuable information and very useful for the project planning. In some occasion, my concept was incorrect, the tutor or classmates put it back in the right direction.

Additionally, to be a pragmatist, I always push myself pretty hard. I spent quite a long time in browsing the internet, reading text books, revising course materials, finding relevant information from library and learning resource centre. There is vast information I had to organize before going through next stage of learning or preparation; it is extremely time consuming and ineffective utilization of resources. If I still applied individual learning approach, I would be overloaded, so I began to adjust the research and learning strategy in the first quarter section of the whole lecturing period.

Moreover, I consulted our tutor with advice that both individual and group learning are welcomed for post graduate learning, we should make balance in resource allocation. With parallel run of the research strategy - individual and group learning approaches, we discovered that the result is remarkable.

The Effectiveness of Project Plan

Project management is the concept of individuals to perform all the needed tasks and activities to meet a common goal. Planning a project and communicating the plan and scope effectively will help keep individuals focused on their initial tasks to make sure their contributions are within the boundaries of the plan.

I understand that this Master Degree Program consists of 8 modules plus one research project, it will last for 2 years to accomplish which a long timeline project. The prime objective of my project plan is to define all deliverables or details in aligning with the learning goal, it may use as a guide for the subsequent modules. The idea is quite simple and ideal, in spite of the time schedule, each module will have 25 hours plus 0.5 hour for revision, there will be slight variation among the learning and materials covered. Hence, applying the same approaching is not realistic. Therefore, I will fine tune the schedule subject to specific module.

As we are part time postgraduate learners, we have to work on a fixed office time, from early in the morning to evening with occasion of overtime. Hong Kong is said to second longest working hours within Asia, the working environment is tough and heavy workload, it is very tense, even though we apply "ABC system" of task prioritization and "X,Y,Z" project planning theories, it is not easy to keep the project on track. Subject to the real situation of long working time in Hong Kong, part time learners must keep high spirit of project planning and always maintain a positive attitude. Positive mindset will fill up people with positive energy in driving them to strive for goals.

Procrastination and perfectionism are the time killers in project implementation; procrastination is the habit of people in handling tasks with delay and delay, where perfectionism is people behaviour to accomplish tasks with extra requirement. In managing the tasks, I intermittently exhibit these two attitudes. To overcome in part time mode learning, I am aware to tick them off immediately, having shared experienced with my supervisor and classmates, I am now moving to the right direction and highly improved my performance from the starting of program learning.

The experience shared below how I manage the project effectively, I always stick to the project plan and make a "check list" to review the progress learning. In case I cannot attend evening, I will download the missing lectures presentation audio files to my electronic device and go through lecture page by page. In addition, I will consult the tutor the materials that I still did not understand either through e-mail and phone discussion. Moreover, I make advance study to those that will be taught in coming lectures to have a preliminary understanding that would totally save much time.

Conclusion

Part time postgraduate learners are those working groups they are striving to achieve high academic qualification to seek for better career development, their attitude of learning have no doubt to be appreciated. Effective time management is important to both working and studying groups. Clear objective and well structure and organized learning plan will guide the learners to better make use of all resources to accomplish their target. Project plan provides a measure to learners that would not lose their locus path, negative mindset would de-motivate people to achieve goals; it should be removed from their mind. Group learning has the advantages that not only just save time resource; it also enhances individual scope and expands knowledge base. That is the reason why nowadays people make use this useful tool to capture information and perform self learning per their schedule

Finally, to cultivate a continuous learning atmosphere, corporations should develop respective strategies though job enlargement, job enrichment and rotation for their staff in personal growth and career development.

Appendix

Union Bank of Switzerland - Prices and Earnings 2009: Working hours and vacation days

Personal Particulars

Full Name: Leung Chit Hei NCC ID: 00113585 DOB: 06/08/1982

Gender: M Occupation: Sales Support Executive

Time of internet browsing

In the period of finding raw materials (21/3 to 30/3), I spent around 36 hours. My proportion of browsing internet is around 35% and I spent the other time slot to search the relevant information.