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To study at a university

To study at a university

Academic studies develops your thinking, brings new ideas and new facts. It enables you to expand your worldview and build new knowledge. Studying always requires knowledge processing. The more and the better structured knowledge you already have on the topic, the faster you read and the better you can extract the essentials from a study material.

Challenges with your studies?

If you have special needs that makes it difficult for you to participate in courses at the Open University at Åbo Akademi, you can make an appointment with us for a guidance session. We will guide you and make a recommendation to make your studies more accessible.

At the university you mostly study independently. To be able to study successfully it is important that you plan your studies well.

An important tool for study planning is your calendar:

  • Take notes of all course times, tests, and deadlines
  • Set aside time for studying independently.

As a counterbalance to studying, it is also good to plan your leisure time with activities that will re-energise yourself.

It is also important to be realistic in your planning. Can you actively participate in several courses during a term, If you are working full-time?

Reading academic literature is a central part of your studies. Books and articles in each discipline have their own language. Acquiring the language is part of the learning process.

Reading scientific texts takes time and requires effective learning strategies.

Some tips for reading:

  • Write down important points and key words or draw pictures/schemes to help you remember.
  • Focus on the big picture to understand what you are reading. You need to understand the context and get an overall picture of the topic and arguments.
  • Remember to repeat! It is easier to memorise if you actively process what you hear and read. It will increase your comprehension of the material.

Reading difficulties?

Difficulties in reading can be expressed as slow reading, difficulty in understanding the text, or difficulty in finding what is relevant in the text.

Reading difficulties can manifest themselves in many different ways. The difficulties can best be described as a spectrum, with some having mild difficulties and others more severe.

Some people find it helpful if they can listen to written texts read out to them. There are different tools that can be used to have texts read aloud. Check which tools are available on your particular device.

You can also use the services provided by the Celia Library. At Åbo Akademi University library you can get guidance regarding Celia.

We all know the feeling of sitting with a blank piece of paper or a blank page on a computer screen. Writing is much more than conveying information; it shapes and develops your thinking and the way you express yourself. Writing is also one of the best ways to master the subject matter and communicate.

The following steps in the writing process can support you when working on a longer essay:

  • Think about the topic of the essay; set a title.
  • Who are you writing for? As a starting point when you begin your writing: formulate a question/questions that you want answers to, or perhaps you can start from a theory provided by the teacher.
  • Collect materials for your essay.
  • Discuss with your supervisor and fellow course participants.
  • Sort through the literature and materials.
  • Narrow the topic: what should you concentrate on?
  • Structure/plan your essay and make an outline.
  • Writing: editing the text & proofreading, literature references.

Writing difficulties?

Difficulties in writing can stem from a variety of causes, such as visual or hearing problems, language disorders, emotional problems or dyslexia.

Some people find that it helps if they can dictate the texts instead of writing them. You can check your own devices for dictating services.

Verbal presentations are one of those things where you get to practice, fail, succeed, and improve. Many people might find it challenging and feel anxious.

An appropriate level of nervousness energizes us and prepares us to perform well. It’s easy to think you’re the only person in the world who is nervous. However, virtually everyone feels some form of nervousness, with butterflies in the stomach, flushing, heart palpitations, excitement and many thoughts racing through the mind.

How to deal with nervousness?

It would be nice if there was a way to just get rid of the nervousness, but consciously it’s not so easy to influence it. Maybe you don’t need to stop being nervous? What you need to learn is how to deal with it and accept that the nervousness is there without disturbing you too much.

Two techniques:

  1. Using the body as a guide. Where is the nervousness felt? In which part(s) of the body? How would you describe the feeling? Is the feeling the same all the time or does it change? Noticing these things can help you become consciously present in the moment and reduce the risk of trying to push the feelings away (which usually doesn’t work anyway).
  2. Another technique is to see thoughts for what they really are. Often, we see our thoughts as some kind of absolute truth, but thoughts are just thoughts, nothing more than that. And we are not our thoughts either, we are much more than that! We are people who have thoughts. It may sound a bit paradoxical, but sometimes nervousness is reduced when you accept your thoughts and the feelings associated with them.

Tips for presentations:

  • Focus on the content of what you want to say more than how you present it.
  • Prepare well. If you have a clear idea of what you want to say, it is easier to deliver the presentation and easier for the audience to follow.
  • Can you practice your presentation in front of a friend or family member? Or just present it out loud to yourself? Getting used to giving the presentation can reduce nervousness when the time comes.
  • Try to calm yourself down before and during the presentation, e.g., by choosing to breathe more slowly, pausing when speaking and relaxing the major muscle groups (shoulders, back, thighs).
  • Move around during your presentation to help you relax and get your blood circulation and breathing going.
  • Choose one or two friendly faces in the audience and address only these people. When presenting digitally, you can also choose which view you have. Do you want to see the people you are presenting to or not?
  • Presenting is a skill that can be developed over the long term.

On Nyyti’s webbpages you can find additional tips.

A large part of university studies consists of individual work, but some courses include group work. Often, group work is planned as part of a course, and you need to work with others whether you want to or not. As in working life and society in general, you don’t always get to choose who you work with. You need to learn to co-operate with people you don’t know from before or don’t get on with well.

Group work requires people to meet and work together. Simply dividing the tasks between group members and then compiling the results is not group work, but something else.

Below are some tips on how you can work in your group to make the collaboration work smoothly. Remember that everyone is responsible for making the group to function and getting the job done!

Start the group work by getting to know each other better. This increases the sense of security in the group and facilitates goal-oriented work.

It is advisable to agree on common rules for the group right from the start (e.g. how, when and about what you are in contact, that everyone arrives on time for meetings, etc.)

Here is an example of how to agree on rules in a group:

  1. Each person thinks for themselves and writes down 3-5 things that benefit the group’s work.
  2. The group chooses 5-10 common rules based on the individual entries. The rules are available in the group’s communication channel (Moodle, WhatsApp group, etc.).

There is a group contract and a checklist for group meetings, which can be very useful for group work.

The group contract ensures that the group:

  • discusses the task, objectives, personal goals, and level of ambition.
  • makes a clear division of labour.
  • creates common ground rules.
  • knows how to organize a group meeting.

A common problem in group work in a study context are non-active group members. There can be many different reasons for this, which are reflected in a lack of commitment:

  • Unclear objectives
  • Nervousness
  • Inexperience in group work
  • Difficulties in time management
  • Personal chemistry problems
  • Lack of motivation or inability to build motivation for such tasks.

Non-active group members may cause anger in the other group members and disrupt work and this can often be recognized. However, what often goes untreated is the damage the free rider does to themselves: they do not learn about the issue, they do not learn important workplace skills, they end up dealing with difficult emotions such as shame, guilt or alternatively use their energy to avoid these emotions.

There can be many different emotions in motion in the group – both on and under the surface – and well-functioning group work requires the ability to regulate emotional expressions and to strive for a constructive communication style.

  • Overly argumentative, questioning or better-knowing (know-it-all) style creates an unsafe atmosphere.
  • Warmly curious, together exploratory style, on the other hand, creates security and promotes creativity.
  • Both negative and positive emotions are contagious – it pays to cultivate them later
  • Negative experiences are more easily stored in the memory.

Dealing with conflict

When you work in a group, there can sometimes be disagreements or even conflicts. It’s always a good idea to stop immediately and deal with the conflict situation. Try to handle it in a constructive way. This means that everyone, one at a time, gets to speak. Then you make an effort to try to solve the problem by a mutual agreement.

Often, conflicts can be about misunderstandings or offended feelings. It may be that someone in the group doesn’t feel heard or appreciated for their opinions. In this case, it is important to listen and try to understand the matter from the other person’s point of view. Then ask everyone in the group to come up with suggestions on how to proceed.

By discussing how you want to work in your group and using group contracts and checklists for group meetings, you build a good foundation for collaboration and prevent conflicts. If, despite good efforts, you are unable to solve your situation yourself, you can contact your course teacher/course planner and ask for help to solve the conflict.

Most of the educational activities of the Centre for Lifelong Learning are carried out online.

Participating in distance studies

You can participate in real-time distance learning (Zoom or Teams) using your own computer, smartphone or tablet. To speak and be seen, a microphone and webcam are required.

Students do not need to register or log in to Zoom to participate, but you should preferably download the Zoom app on your computer from https://aboakademi.zoom.us/download and connect to the address provided by your teacher. It is also possible to participate via the Chrome browser, but preferably via the Zoom app. With Firefox and Safari, the audio does not work. If you want to test your sound, microphone and webcam beforehand, you can do so on the test site https://aboakademi.zoom.us/test.

Short video guide in English: Zoom for participants

Group meetings in Zoom

Students can also arrange meetings in Zoom for group work and other collaboration. To be able to create a group meeting, log in to https://aboakademi.zoom.us with your ÅAU username, or use the Zoom app.

In the Zoom app, here’s how to log in:

  1. Select Sign in
  2. Select Sign in with SSO
  3. Type aboakademi as the domain and press enter. You will now be moved to ÅAU’s login.
  4. Enter your ÅAU username and password.
  5. Once in Zoom, you can create your own meetings and share the link with others.

Record Zoom sessions

Some courses have oral presentations as examinations. You can use Zoom to record your presentations and share the link with your course participants and/or teacher.


  • Be on time, check that the technology works – before the session starts.
  • You can change your name in Zoom but remember not to use made-up names or nicknames that others don’t recognize.
  • Create for yourself as calm an environment as possible to study in.
  • You don’t have to have the camera on if you don’t want to, but the teachers appreciate to see the course participants. They experience it motivating and make it a little better for them to adapt their teaching according to the participants’ reactions!
  • Test how it affects you to have the camera on occasionally. If you find it uncomfortable to see yourself in the picture, you can hide your picture by choosing “hide selfview”. Note that you may be visible in the recording and that you should guarantee that no unnecessary information about outsiders is seen/heard.
  • Keep your microphone muted when you’re not speaking.
  • If you are participating from e.g., a car or bus, do not use a microphone or camera, so that unauthorized persons are not seen or heard. Avoid creating dangerous situations if you are in a car.
  • Be active, feel free to ask questions in the way you have agreed on at the course. Do not discuss other matters in the chat.
  • There is a “Raise hand” function in Zoom that you can use to ask to speak.

About recording Zoom meetings

  • You have the right to record videos for your own use. However, you may not share or reuse it in any way. (In doing so, you’re violating copyright laws, in addition to misusing the files in a way that could lead to disciplinary action.)
  • You have the right to know in advance which teaching sessions will be recorded, who has access to the recorded file and where the recorded file will be shared. You also have the option to choose whether you want to be seen or heard in the recorded file during recording. At the same time, you should be told how you can refrain from being recorded. If you want a recorded file to be edited, inform the person responsible for recording the file.
  • No type of interactive teaching (e.g., group discussions or when students present their work) may be recorded unless the participants have given their consent to it!

(the information on recordings is based on Aalto University’s lecture recording policy)

Questions and answers about distance learning:

Q. How should the distance studies be carried out if I do not have access to the required equipment?

  • Åbo Akademi University has the policy that you are expected to have technical equipment that enables you to follow the distance teaching. The course teacher is not obliged to offer other ways to complete the course.

Q. To participate in the teaching, the teacher wants me to log in to an unknown online service with a personal password. Can they demand it?

  • No, only services offered by ÅAU where student login is done with an ÅAU user account (abo.fi) may be used for teaching and examination.

Q. How are oral examinations conducted?

  • Oral examinations are conducted via Zoom (or equivalent), either so that you are examined alone or together with a few others. The teacher will have a discussion with you about what is to be examined and then assess how well you have managed to answer the questions. Provided that you give your permission, the teacher can record individual exams, so that you can request correction afterwards if you believe that the assessment does not correspond to what you answered on the exam.
  • During the exam, you should have your camera turned on. The teacher may, before the session begins, request that you show identification. Then you show your ID in the camera. You have the right to demand that the identification is carried out so that any other participants do not see your data. Identification shall also not be recorded.

Q. Is attendance required during the courses?

  • Distance teaching follows ÅAU’s normal rules. Lectures are voluntary. If the course description requires compulsory attendance, the course teacher may require you to participate via Zoom or equivalent. Illness is always a valid reason to be absent.

Updated 4.1.2024