All Students

Take Lecture Notes Using These Two Rules: TUB-Thump 002

I worked with a two-rule approach to lecture notes at university. That’s what Episode 002 of TUB-Thump is all about.

Here are the show notes for the 6-min episode:

  • My lecture notes were always different. Sometimes a couple of words, sometimes several sheets of paper. Although the length of the notes were always different, the method of taking them stayed the same.
  • Rule One: Only write down the stuff you don’t actually know. Work out the context and bigger picture and limit it to that, alongside anything you don’t already have an understanding of.
  • Rule Two: Engage with the notes within the next 24-hours. Don’t leave them, use them to deepen your understanding. Do it while it’s fresh in your mind.
  • Yep, it was that simple. There are loads of ways you can take notes and they should all work under this two-rule method.
  • This should help you write fewer notes, not more. That’s the magic!

Music for TUB-Thump is Life, by Tobu, which is released under a Creative Commons license. Check out more of Tobu’s great sounds on Soundcloud,YouTube, and his official site.

TUB-Thump is part of the Learning Always Network.

Keep being awesome!

Why Your Careers Service is Just as Great When You DON’T Know What You Want To Do In the Future


“Planning for the future can simply be about a toe in the water, not commitment.”
– Sarah Longwell, Careers Adviser (Keele University)

Student data suggests that many who would benefit from their university careers service tend not to use it.

Similar findings are in this year’s Unite Students Insight Report, which echoes previous years of the student survey. While most students are aware of the benefits of their careers service, they don’t always take action and visit.

Also, students without solid future plans in mind are less likely to use their careers service. It’s worrying that one of the best places for further research and thinking about future possibilities could be overlooked.

This year’s Unite Students report states:

“Students have most commonly gone to their parents and the internet for advice about choosing a career and applying for jobs; it is less common that they have used career services at their university for advice.”

I asked Sarah Longwell, Careers Adviser at Keele University, about what students can do when they’re not sure what they want to do when they graduate.

TUB: “How can students plan for the future when uncertain about their future plans?”

Sarah: “Planning for the future can simply be about a toe in the water, not commitment.

“The best place to start is for students to think about themselves – what do they enjoy, what motivates them, what matters to them and what are their strengths.

“Consider what activities they have gained the greatest satisfaction from, what aspects of their degree they enjoy, how others would describe them… Students can then consider opportunities that tie in with all the above. It’s all about starting points!”

TUB: “What’s one simple, yet effective, action someone can make right now to start their career journey?”

Sarah: “The simplest action a student can take is to go and see a careers adviser early in their degree. A careers adviser can help them to reflect upon what they might be seeking in a career and make suggestions based upon this. These will only be suggestions, as no one else can tell a student what would definitely suit them, but careers advisers have the expertise to advise and guide on the basis of an in depth discussion.”

TUB: “Why should Freshers start thinking about their future plans in their first year, even though graduation seems so far away? And why is it important they visit their careers centre sooner rather than later?

Sarah: “If students start early, they have plenty of time to research ideas, reject or further research them and then attend events with employers and arrange work experience with the option to change career ideas or direction at any stage.

“Panic career decision making is rarely effective!”

The bottom line is this:

If you’re not sure what your future plans will look like when you graduate, it’s well worth checking out your careers service at university and chatting with a careers adviser.

At worst, you’ll feel none the wiser for a quick visit.

At best (and far more likely), you’ll have some food for thought and you’ll be one step closer to finding something that’s right up your street.

High Fliers Research [in The Graduate Market in 2016] found that:

“Almost all the leading graduate recruiters are working with local university careers services this year and there has been a marked increase in employers taking part in university recruitment events”.

According to the report, 94% of employers used careers services, with over a quarter of them doing more in that direction than the previous year.

Most employers also used campus presentations and careers fairs, so there’s plenty happening on campus.

Even if you think it’s too early to check out what your university has on offer, take a look while you can do it casually.

Why I’m Going Where the Audio is [Big Announcement]


Big news. I’m starting three different audio shows. This post tells you what they are, why I’m doing it, and what’s in it for you.

Since they’ll be audio shows, you can listen to the audio that forms this post instead, or read along as you listen to me say it!

Get ready for the first show, for students, to drop next week. It’s called TUB-Thump and you’ll get to hear it right here on TheUniversityBlog.

In recent months, I’ve moved away from the heavy focus on the student experience and policy analysis.

Not because I’ve lost interest. More because I’ve moved closer toward the individuals, the stories, and the excitement in other aspects in and around higher education. So, the student- and policy-facing stuff is still there, just in an evolving way.

Some of this is down to a realisation I had that’s strengthened over that time.

While I’ve spent so many years concentrating on writing words, they’ve stayed written.

It’s dawned on me that those words should sometimes be spoken and sometimes be seen. Sometimes narrated, sometimes freeform.

I love writing words down, but I also have a pretty big thing for the spoken word.

The more audio shows and podcasts I’ve been listening to, the more I recognise the intimacy it brings. And instead of being tied to a screen—like you are when reading or watching video—listening can take place when you’re doing other things.

Last year, I put out a few test broadcasts about higher education and about finding your voice. It was an enjoyable experiment.

Audio shows have been growing quickly in the US. And while the UK is playing catch-up, the enthusiasm is clearly growing. Now is a great time to be producing audio and taking the medium seriously.

Text isn’t going away. However, if I can do more to help people make the most of higher education, I’d be mad to ignore it.

Audio and video are a big deal. My current priority is with audio, because you can listen when it suits you. Even better, you can listen while you’re doing other stuff. It’s great when you’re not tied to a screen, and it’s a privilege when people choose to listen directly to your voice during their day.

In the hundreds of audio shows I’ve checked out, one thing is clear. The best stuff requires a mixture of excitement, storytelling, and communication to YOU. Very specifically, to you the listener so you feel a part of what’s going on, even when you’re not speaking back. When you feel you’re being respected, and you feel like you’re learning just enough to feel challenged, but not too much to feel out of your depth, the audio…just…works.

So here’s the deal. I’m going big on audio right now. And it might sound crazy, but I’m about to launch three shows. Yep, three shows.

The shows will be under what I call the “Learning Always Network“.

Here’s what will be on offer:


The first show is tied to TheUniversityBlog, called TUB-Thump. It’s a twice-weekly dose of help to students, so they can make the most of their time at university, and beyond. It’ll be on Mondays, to start the week with a bang, and on Thursdays, to keep the momentum going in the week. So, that’s TUB-Thump, for students.


Next up is Mind Your Higher Ed. Starting fortnightly and progressing to weekly, Mind Your Higher Ed (or MYHE for short), is for university staff (and other interested parties) to learn more about the many different facets of the university. From academia to administration, from estates to catering, from student support to students’ unions…I hope to bridge gaps between staff in very different arenas, and also demystify the world of higher education for the interested public.


And the third show in the Learning Always Network is the all-encompassing namesake, Learning Always. Also fortnightly, going in alternate weeks with Mind Your Higher Ed, Learning Always will host interviews with a wide and eclectic range of guests, discussing how they perceive learning, what they got from big milestones and achievements in their lives, and how their attitudes have changed over the years.

Like I say, MYHE and Learning Always will run in alternate weeks, but so long as I get recording enough in advance, they’ll probably become weekly shows. Anyway, having one new show is tough enough. I’ll get them off the ground and ramp it up when I see it’s sustainable.

So…three different, but related shows. TUB-Thump, with a student angle. MYHE, with a staff focus. And Learning Always, with a mix of all sorts educational.

And with loads of interviews, you won’t just be hearing my voice droning on. You’ll get to hear different views, tips, and news from a wealth of guests. I want it to be fun and informal, but also giving you valuable content as you’re being entertained. Stuff you’ll enjoy listening to, and that also helps you to take action in your field.

Text, audio, video. It’s all at our disposal now. From a desktop, or from your mobile device. It’s all possible now.

So here’s to hearing stories, here’s to loving learning, and here’s to championing higher education. This is a chance for people to listen up and find out about all the amazing work that people like you are doing on a daily basis.

If that sounds good to you, then the place to go will be once the audio drops. I’ll remind you.

And when the shows launch, you’ll be able to subscribe to them via iTunes and your favourite audio apps.

If you’re already a regular reader of TheUniversityBlog, I’ll be posting up new editions of TUB-Thump from there too, so your student needs can all be covered under the one roof.

I’m going where the audio is. I’m all ears. Are you? I hope to hear from you…soon.

How To Read Your Set Texts, Even When You Don’t Want To

Read Set Texts, Even When You Don't Want To

This has probably happened to you. It’s certainly happened to me.

You love your course. But there’s a book you’re meant to read.

Most books are fine. But this one…Oh, this one is a stinker.

You try, you fail, you try again, you fail again, you fear the book, you eventually stop trying.

Because not all books are fun to read.

And the more you put off reading the text, the less time you have to consume it.

Then you’ve only got a day left to read it.

Lifehacker has an article to help you read a book in a single day. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to wait until the day before a seminar to read the book you’re meant to be working on. Especially if you’re not engaging with the way it’s written.

So you’re worried about it, or bored by it. And as soon as you feel like that, you break out in a rash of procrastination. It happens to all of us!

What you need are new tactics. Methods that you don’t normally use when reading. But now it’s time to bring out the big guns. If you don’t, you’ll just panic and end up not reading the book at all.

That’s no good for your class and it’s definitely no good for you.

No matter how long you’ve got left, it’s time to tackle the reading.

Here’s what to do:

  • Work out how much time you’ve got left and in your schedule;
  • Break the text down into sections, so you don’t have to read in one go. This could be divided into something like equal numbers of pages per day, or chapters per session;
  • Put those chunks into your schedule, spaced out between now and when you need to have finished.

You can vary your methods, depending on how long you’ve got to do the reading. Hopefully you’ve still got several days, if not weeks, to do the reading. Even if you don’t have that luxury, there’s some advice below.

When you have several days/weeks to do the reading…

The earlier you start, the more time you have to space out the reading. You can casually read a small amount each day without much hassle.

Imagine you have two 50-page documents to read for a seminar in a week. That’s 7 days and 100 pages.

Maybe you don’t want to read on each of those seven days. We can make it five days instead. 100 pages spread equally over five days is…drum roll…20 pages a day. Much better than 100 pages in a single session.

A focus on fewer pages will also keep you in the mood to make notes and comments as you go through the writing. You may also get so involved that you’ll want to carry on reading.

Better than anything, though, is that you’ll find the challenge of 100 pages less scary when you space it out in smaller chunks.

You may be tempted to do the reading in a single session, but that’s where most people fall. Five pages in, you realise how huge the task in front of you really is. Without a backup plan, you add further stress to the mix. One hundred pages only works in a single session if you’re truly engaged in the reading.

I understand why it’s so tempting to get the reading done in one go. Your brain convinces you that one session of work is better than five sessions.

But as soon as you set yourself smaller doses, the task feels easier. You’ll be more open to spacing the work out as opposed to slogging through an exhausting marathon. Little and often trumps the overwhelm every time.

When you only have a day or two to do the reading…

You’ll never do yourself justice, but there are ways of cushioning the blow. Once in a while, you can probably get away with it. All the time, however…That’s a different story.

When time has got the better of you, here’s the drill:

  • First off, read the Lifehacker article. It covers most of what you need.
    In short, it’s about location, the right kind of noise (or silence), intervals with short breaks in between, making notes, the right food and drink, and using physical books where possible.
  • Know what you’re reading for. Is this for general seminar discussion, a major set text for a module, due to be part of a future exam or piece of coursework, for an overview or to discuss a specific point in the text? The reasons make a difference.
  • If the text is for discussion now, but is most important for an exam or an essay further down the line, you’ve already bought yourself more time. You won’t be able to work so well in a seminar session, but at least you can properly schedule reading time before it’s time to complete the marked coursework.
    Get a good overview (consult a cheat-sheet summary or synopsis first if you must…just don’t rely on it ongoing!), find answers/discussions for any set questions you’ve already been given, and concentrate on the major points expected.
  • If the text forms part of a module that’s about to start, you may have a little more time than you think.
    Sure, the first lecture is up tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean you’ve only got one day to get through the entire text. Instead, get that overview, at least start reading the text, and schedule more realistic reading sessions as discussed in the section above when you have several days to get the reading done.

The more time you have, the more you can space out the reading. It’s less daunting. You just need to develop the habit of committing to a bit every day. Yes, it feels strange at first, but you get used to it. Spacing out the work is preferable to doing all the reading in one go.

Finally, don’t make things too complicated. It’s just reading. Some stuff is a slog to get through. I know, I’ve been there. Despite all the Shakespeare I did for GCSEs and A-levels, I still found the process of reading it tough at university.

What type of reading bothers you the most?