I know the struggle of finding study material. I experienced it back in high school when I was a young teenager who had to ask his maths teacher for past papers because of a lack of an alternative source. University is no different in that there is unlimited wifi, but the confines of the internet are also virtually unlimited. That makes it difficult to find what you are looking for. So, in university, as in high school, I had to find a way around the challenge of finding study material, not only for academics but for my personal growth as a human being as well.
As a matriculant, I did more than ask my maths teacher for past papers. I asked him for any extra textbook he could lend me and I asked for some extra help when he had a minute to spare. My maths teacher was the disciplinarian of the school. When he held the microphone during assembly, his bicep would bulge and his shirt would tighten around it. It was intimidating, so we were all afraid of him. This one time I lost my 4 quire mathematics notebook and my authoritarian maths teacher gave me three days to completely rewrite everything that was in it, homework and all. This was in September, so there almost a year’s worth of writing to recover. It was a hectic three days, but it got me my maths distinction – I was 4% off from 100%.
My struggles shouldn’t be your struggles. If anything, my struggles should be something to learn from. After all, it is better to learn from other people’s mistakes than your own. I’m going to tell you about the resources I’ve used, and others that I haven’t used but would have if I had known about them at the relevant time. Let’s dive in!
And now, the resources…
Some things are relevant to high school learners, and some are relevant to students. There are exceptions to most rules, so some things are relevant to both. I’ll categorize the resources into those three groups:
I’ll mention when I’ve used particular resources and when I haven’t.
A challenge for most school learners is access to easily understandable resources that help them with studying, reading, and productive entertainment. There is a multitude of such resources in the magical land of “online”. Now, a hurdle to entering the magical land of “online” is data. So, my list will include both resources that use data and those that don’t.
Here is my list of resources that I think learners will find useful:
Mindset Learn is very valuable in that it is data free, in a sense. They have a TV channel on DSTV that learners can tune into where they teach several subjects including life sciences, physical sciences, mathematics and mathematical literacy. They also have a website where you can access their video lessons at any time of the day, at your own convenience. Each of has their video lessons has a PDF summary that sometimes includes worked examples, and all their lessons are pretty easy to understand.
I used Mindset Learn in high school and I found it very useful.
I discovered Siyavula back in the days of MXit, I found it in one of those learning channels I enjoyed so much. Mxit is also how I discovered FunDza and Cabanga (I think Cabanga was discontinued). Siyavula is a website that offers, amongst other things, free textbooks. They compile and publish textbooks for Life Science (grade 10 only), Mathematics, Mathematical Literacy, and Physics, from grade 10 to 12. They also have textbooks from other grades, but those are from other sources and are generally not compiled by Siyavula.
I kept Siyavula in the back of my mind until I reached grade 10, best decision ever! They have worked examples for all concepts, and they are easy to understand and follow.
If you are on MTN or Vodacom, you don’t need data to use the site.
Vodacom Digital Classroom
Vodacom has a Digital Classroom, it is freely available to all Vodacom users and offers resources such as textbooks, video lessons, teaching tips and reading material. It also gives learners the opportunity to apply for a computer center for their school, which would be very beneficial to the school and the community it is in.
I, personally, haven’t used any educational resources from Vodacom, but a friend of mine has, and he speaks highly of them.
This is not for everyone. Some people have disgruntled teachers who would much rather be doing something else with their time. Grim as that maybe, that is true.
There are those who are fortunate enough to have teachers who are passionate about what they do. I am an optimist, so I’d like to imagine that most teachers in South Africa are passionate about what they do. My brother is a recently qualified teacher, as is my cousin. My friend is a teaching student. All three of them seem to be enjoying what they are doing, so I’ll assume it to be so for most teachers.
Teachers, by virtue of being teachers, know the work that they teach. So, as a learner, do not be afraid to ask your teacher questions, do not be afraid to ask if your teacher might know a study technique that works, or an example that’ll make a concept easier to understand, or anything school-related that you might need at that moment.
I was fortunate enough to have a maths teacher who read maths textbooks for fun! He enjoyed doing maths, and he enjoyed teaching it. He is the reason I am where I am today, and for that, I’d like to thank him. Thank you, Mr.Pillay.
So, make the most of your teachers, they are one of your most valuable resources.
I’m currently a student, an Astrophysics student, so I know the struggle. The truth is, course chows! But there things we can do and resources we can use to chow course instead. Beyond academics, these resources can be used for your personal growth so that you developed into a multi-skilled and well-developed individual, they can also be a good source of business skills if you have a knack for entrepreneurship.
Here is my list of resources that I think students will find useful:
Similar to a teacher, your lecturer is vital for your academic success… or so I’ve been told. I’m not one to consult, but those who do, say that they find value in it. I also read it Cal Newport’s book, “How to Become a Straight‑A Student.” Find out your lecturer’s consultations times and consult. When you have an assignment, frequent their office, they’ll give you pointers. When you are studying for an exam or test, go to them with your notes and ask informed questions, sometimes they let you in on which topics won’t be covered. If you cannot go physically, sometimes emails work as well. Just make an effort, show that you are willing to work on your academics, most lecturers are willing to help students who are helping themselves.
Whether you are a social person or not inconsequential, make friends! Try to make as many friends as you can in each of your respective classes, and try to get into all the course group chats that exist. I’d argue that fellow students are even more important than your lecturer. They are generally easier to access and more willing to help if you’re also willing to help. They share past papers and their memos, they share study methods that work for them and they remind you of deadlines and due dates for assignments and such. I didn’t consult in the first year, but I can attest that my friends are the prime reason that I passed as well as I did.
Google Digital Skills for Africa
This is a free e-learning platform by Google. They have courses ranging from digital marketing and public speaking to computer programming and machine learning. I’m currently enrolled in the Digital Marketing course and I’m enjoying it, it’s presented in an understandable and practical manner, and they use examples to show you how the theory is applicable. When I’m done with this course, I’m hopping over to Facebook Blueprint.
Udemy is also an e-learning platform, but it’s not entirely free. I learned the fundamentals of the stock market on Udemy, I also took a free course on public speaking. The advantage of Udemy is that they have a broader range of topics, from computers, business, investing, academics and web development, all the way to hacking and cybersecurity. There are a lot of gems on Udemy. The downside is that a large portion of their courses are paid. Furthermore, Udemy is not accredited.
Coursera is similar to Udemy, the difference is that some courses on Coursera are actual accredited degrees. Coursera also covers a diverse range of topics, and most of the learning is free and the payment is for examination and certification. I’ve scanned through Coursera, but I haven’t used it.
Facebook Blueprint is an e-learning platform for digital marketing. The courses are mostly geared around how Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger, but they are valuable for the business-minded people who want to maximize on these social media platforms. They also offer “Blueprint Certification,” which you could add to your CV. That’s why I’m hopping onto Blueprint after the Google Digital Skills course I’m taking.
I used Khan Academy back in high school when the transition from grade 10 to grade 11 resulted in me dropping from a distinction physics learner to a 45% physics learner. I was not alone, many of us dropped drastically because we had adapted to physics being all theory, but grade 11 transformed into an unrecognizable form of physics that required an application. My friend introduced me to Salman Khan, he had YouTube videos on physics and other subjects where he simplified the theory and gave many examples of the applications. Salman helped me recover my physics marks, and at the end of grade 11 my marks were back to normal.
Now, Khan Academy, started by Salmanman Khan, has its own website and app. It is a stand-alone e-learning platform with many academic subjects, from elementary mathematics to advanced physics, it’s all there. And it’s free! All you need is an internet connection.
All students are familiar with this one. Most students catch the latest Skeem Saam and Uyajola99 episodes on it, but it’s also valuable for other things other than entertainment. YouTube has many lectures, “How To” videos, examples for almost any subject you can think up and tutorials on almost anything you’d like to learn. I use it constantly for my personal growth, and I see the value it adds to my life other than the laughs and giggles.
Facebook has what they call “Free Basics.” This an app and website that freely available to Cell C and MTN users and is linked to other sites such as WikiHow, Wikipedia, Dictionary.com, and FunDza. These sites can be used in conjunction with textbooks for a better overall understanding and comprehension of school material. FunDza is a platform for literacy, they have reading materials and they also often have writing competitions. FunDza is valuable for school learners that would like to develop productive habits such as reading and writing.
I still use Free Basics when I run out of data and the wifi in my building acts up, and there are many interesting things to learn on Free Basics.
Your biggest asset is yourself, so, invest in yourself.
Putting Afrika Kesho into this list is a self-plug, but I believe it’ll be a valuable plug for you. Afrika Kesho is my baby, it is a financial education institution I started for the purpose of teaching our people about money, how to make it, manage it and multiply. I created a blog for Afrika Kesho where articles are shared about subjects such as investing, trading, debt, and budgeting. Writing for this blog is not only teaching experience but also a learning experience, I read a lot and research as thoroughly as I can write for the blog. I’m not the only contributor to the blog, I have colleagues who are also held to the same standard of thorough research in their writing.
I’m only giving the links to each of the platforms here. I wanted you to have a smooth reading experience, without having a myriad of links to click on along the way. There’s link to your lecturer or teacher though, haha…
Here are the links:
Mindset Learn – http://learn.mindset.co.za/
Siyavula – https://www.siyavula.com/
Vodacom Digital Classroom – http://www.digitalclassroom.co.za/digitalclassroom/
Google Digital Skills for Africa – https://learndigital.withgoogle.com/digitalskills
Udemy – https://www.udemy.com/
Coursera – https://www.coursera.org/
Facebook Blueprint – https://www.facebook.com/business/learn
Khan Academy – https://www.khanacademy.org/
YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/
Free Basics – https://0.freebasics.com
Afrika Kesho – http://afrikakesho.co.za/