In fourth grade, I had a typing class every Tuesday and Thursday. During that time, I was more preoccupied with an online game called Poptropica than I was with learning how to type. I no longer play Poptropica as a college student, but I am typing on a daily basis (though not well).
I know I am not the only one that regrets wasting a precious opportunity in their life, and the required readings are an opportunity similar to my fourth-grade typing class. College students may have a lot more than an online game to distract them, but they should still do their best to complete the readings they have been assigned.
The time between one’s freshman and senior years of college is brief but pivotal, so it is important that students capitalize on every opportunity and source of knowledge available, including what they can glean from their assignments.
The consequences of today’s actions, or inactions, can impact unknown facets of our future lives.
“Sometimes it is impossible for us to know what will be meaningful, or significant until we dip our toe in,” Bonni Stachowiak, Dean of Teaching and Learning said.
Why should students do the required reading, and is there a more efficient way to complete them?
According to Tommy Casarez, Chair of the Theology Department, completing the reading before class is like walking into a room with furniture because one can sit down and be comfortable while listening and thinking.
“You can go higher up on the scale of thinking,” Casarez said.
Those who do not read walk into a classroom with no furniture, according to Casarez. There is nowhere to sit and it is uncomfortable. All of the information is new and there is nothing solid to connect the lecture to.
By not doing the readings, are students truly getting the most out of their education?
Students pay a lot of money to receive an education. No one in their right mind would pay $40,000 a year just for a piece of paper with some signatures on it.
Chair of the Communication Studies Department, Naomi Kasa, said, “Everyone should be doing [the reading], if not, [students] are short-changed.”
Stachowiak suggests a strategy that helps determine the purpose of each reading–starting by considering the subject and the type of assignment.
“Hone in on each one of the ‘why’s’ for every reading assignment–begin with the end in mind,” Stachowiak said.
In other words, ask yourself, why am I reading? How can I apply this knowledge?
Second, she suggests searching Wikipedia for a brief definition or explanation so that when reading it can connect to something. Using Wikipedia as a guide will help prime you for any subject due to their massive scale of reference.
“The hardest thing about learning is when you don’t have something to connect it to,” Stachowiak said.
Third, consider the opportunity cost of doing the required reading. What could be sacrificed in the future if the student reads?
Fourth, determine the personal motivation for attending Vanguard in the first place. Are you here for a transactional learning experience or a meaningful one? Meaning is directly correlated to responsibility, and doing the readings is a big one.
If a student does not have enough time to read every word, Casarez advises something called the Pearl Necklace Approach. This is when the reader starts by glancing through and establishing the beginning, middle, and end of the chapter.
Next, go through and turn each header and section into a question answerable by the following paragraphs. Then, as the first and last paragraphs of each section are read, attempt to answer the questions.
Lastly, ask what are the key points in each paragraph that connect the dots? Each paragraph either states, argues for or against, or demonstrates the point of each section.
When using this strategy, the student walks into class with a better outlook and understanding of the material, according to Casarez. Asking questions and comprehending the lecture becomes meaningful and engaging.
“The key to reading is to read with a reason,” Casarez said.
Doing the readings may be tedious, but with the right tools, anyone can learn and comprehend at a high level. If these strategies do not help, asking a professor to sit down and give additional strategies can be beneficial.
A professor’s objective is to make learning more meaningful and less transactional. It is up to students to meet them halfway with their responsibility and effort. It’s time to identify our own Poptropicas in life and find out how to take advantage of each opportunity.