Some students prefer studying alone and others prefer studying in groups, but what a student prefers may or may not be the best approach for him/her. So which is better?
Studying alone is great for the deep, initial study, whereas studying in groups is good for clarifying doubts, to revise things previously learnt, and to introduce other perspectives. Both have benefits and it helps to learn from others. Those who teach others benefit by further solidifying their understanding.
There are also some drawbacks in studying with others if everyone is not serious and focused on learning. Such situations can create distractions to serious students and its best to choose study partners with a lot of forethought and planning.
STUDY ALONE VS. WITH OTHERS
Here are the benefits of studying alone:
Deep concentration is necessary for learning most advanced topics which is best done alone.
- It saves a lot of time as you can study at anytime of the day and as per your individual schedules.
- Nowadays, with the use of the internet, multiple points of view are accessible for most people even when studying alone.
- Things are usually much quieter and distraction-free when studying alone.
- It’s more productive to study alone when working on written essays or projects.
- You can put focus/study music and customize your study environment exactly as per your liking for maximum productivity.
These are the benefits of studying with others:
Learning with others is a lot of fun as long as everyone is focused on the learning.
- Multiple points of view can be discussed when studying in a group.
- What is easy for one student may be very confusing for another, so students can help each other out and clarify each other’s doubts.
- It’s easier to share multiple textbooks and study materials when working in a group. So more resources will be available even if some of the books are expensive.
- A student who gets distracted easily can learn better when supported by a friend who is good with studying.
The following are the drawbacks of studying alone:
For some, studying for prolonged periods alone can feel lonely and make them crave the company of friends.
- If the student has weaknesses such as excessive snacking while studying or easily getting distracted with TV, he/she may not have the rigor or right attitude for studying alone.
- If the home environment is chaotic, or if the home is small without your own study room, then it would be difficult to study at home. If such a case, studying in a public library or park would be a better option.
These are the disadvantages of studying with others:
- If some of your friends do not take studying seriously, studying together can result in a wastage of time on gossip or other mundane conversations.
Good students can get badly distracted in the company of lazy or ill-meaning friends.
- Studying with others can happen less frequently since it needs to be planned and scheduled at a convenient time for everyone in the study group.
- If one person does not understand the concepts or topic, everyone else in the study group will be lagging behind while teaching that one person.
- Learning in a group takes much longer when individuals in the study group have different learning abilities.
- For someone slow in learning, s/he can get de-motivated upon seeing others who are able to learn things so easily. It can make the slow learner feel less confident and depressed.
WHICH IS BETTER, STUDY ALONE OR WITH OTHERS?
For a good student, studying alone is usually the fastest way to learn complex topics for the first time. But weaker students can benefit greatly while studying in groups to gain their initial understanding about the topic.
But even for good students, discussing or teaching others about a topic can be a great way to further validate their own learning. If someone asks a question, in the process of answering the question, the good student will be able to stretch his/ her own understanding about the material.
But for any group study to work, everyone in the group needs to be committed to spending the together time in study. Otherwise, it can very quickly turn into party time or gossip time.
Personally, I’ve found group study to be highly effective in removing stress and nervousness before the exams. Learning together just before the exams is also very productive as everyone is pumped up and ready to quickly revise the entire bulk load of the test material.
IMPROVING STUDY ALONE TIME
The biggest problem students face while studying alone is a feeling of loneliness. This then causes him/ her to look for distractions such as turning on the TV.
So here are some ways to make studying alone more productive:
- Have a clean room that is free of clutter. This will help you to better organize your thoughts around studies.
- Remove any portraits or pictures from the walls in your room that can be distracting. Instead, replace the walls with learning material which is specific to your study topic. In my experience, I’ve found this to work very well for repeatedly memorizing important concepts before the exams or tests.
Make a conscious decision that you will not turn on YouTube or browse any internet sites that are not educational or not related to the subject matter you’re currently studying.
- If too many hours or days of studying in your room gets lonely, go frequently to a quiet public library which has lots of desks and study rooms for students. Being in the vision of other students who are quietly studying in the library will motivate you to study and fill your loneliness void amply.
GETTING GOOD AT STUDY GROUPS
For the best group study sessions, follow these recommended approaches:
- Choose your study group partners carefully so that everyone in the group brings something valuable to the group’s learning. Someone may be a better logical thinker, and someone else might be more intuitive, and another more thorough. But by combining resources this way, everyone in the group can benefit much greater than simply studying alone.
- If you are great in say the Math-portion of the topic, choose other students who bring say a language-focused approach to the same topic, or say a more imagery or visual approach to the learning.
Having sincere students with 180-degree opposing views on the topic can greatly enhance everyone’s understanding and make the group study sessions even more fun!
- For the venue, choose a group study room at a local library instead of a cafe. This will help to minimize distractions and general noise in the vicinity. Also restrict all food and drinks to only a water bottle during these group study sessions, as food can create unnecessary distractions of smell, table messes and sights.
- After the group study sessions are completed productivity, consider having a small celebration at a cafe nearby. This will be a nice way to build a strong bond with your study group members and to discuss other aspects of your learning that are not study-specific.
COMBINING STUDY ALONE WITH GROUP STUDY
MOOC courses and collaboration
Many MOOC courses and platforms are available nowadays such as Coursera, edX and FutureLearn. In addition to studying alone on your own computer, these platforms also provide video lessons and student collaboration on the lessons.
So MOOCs are a nice way to combine alone-time studying with a more group collaborative approach in the comfort of your own home.
Online group learning tools
For group study sessions, you can occasionally have them remotely when everyone is unable to get together in-person. Online free tools such as Twiddla, ConceptBoard, ScreenLeap, or Chatzy can help you to share text, your screen, images and drawings as part of your online group study sessions.
MIX ‘n’ MATCH
Follow every 2 to 3 study alone times with one group refresher session. This will help to cover pending topics that were more difficult to understand while studying alone.
This will also motivate you to keep studying for long hours alone, since you will feel accountable for having to intelligently discuss the material during the group study sessions.