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Unit 5: Reflecting Backward, Reflecting Forward

5 Introduction

This unit focuses on reflecting backwards and reflecting forwards. The new content in this unit about CVs and resumes, and about reflection. You have almost reached the end of Learning to Learn, and we hope that you will continue to use learning to achieve change in your life.

Unit 5 Learning Outcomes

By the time you have reached the end of Unit 5, you should:

  • Be confident in your ability to reflect on your learning.
  • Have explored ways to capture your reflections.
  • Have reviewed the work you have done on Learning to Learn.
  • Have started on making plans for your future.

Related Challenges

Studying Unit 5 will prepare you for the following Learning to Learn Challenges:

You should familiarize yourself with the requirements of each challenge now (just click on the links above to visit the challenge page).

Unit 5 also contains activities that are elements of:

  • Challenge 2: The Qualities, Knowledge, and Skills Audit Challenge (Part 1).
  • Challenge 5: The Action Plan Challenge.

5.1 Cycle of Learning

One way to think about this unit is to see it as marking the start of the next phase in your learning. So far in this course, you have gone through the following steps:

  1. You have “taken stock” of your own learning.
  2. You have considered what other perspectives and viewpoints have to offer.
  3. You have used what you have learned to move forward and try something new or different.

This represents a cycle of learning (Figure 5.1). Now that you are reaching the end of Learning to Learn, you are finishing this particular cycle. But we hope that you will see it as only the first of many such sequences of learning.

Figure 5.1 Cycle of learning
Figure 5.1 Cycle of learning

The close relationships between challenges is a good reminder that one learning experience is not completely separate from another. The more you find out about a topic, the more connections you can see with other topics. This is one of the big thrills of learning: to spot a link that you hadn’t noticed before. Linking things up in this way should be especially exciting on this course as you begin to connect various aspects of your learning and your personal goals for change.

“Reflecting backward” is an important part of learning because it helps you to be clear about what you have learned. Looking back also enables you to hold on to what you have learned after the course finishes. This means that you can “reflect forward” by thinking about what you might do in the future and how this might be different from what you have done in the past.

Both reflecting backward and reflecting forward are important skills in their own right. It can be difficult to make the time to do either consciously or thoroughly. However, you have had a number of opportunities to practice reflection as you have worked through Learning to Learn.

5.2 CVs and Resumes

We are going to review quite a lot of information to give you an idea of some of the key issues about CVs and resumes. The questions about CVs and resumes in Activity 5.1 will help you grasp these issues and help you design and produce your own CV or resume. It’s also fine to read this introduction as many times as you want to.

So, what is a CV or resume?

  • A curriculum vitae (CV) is a summary of someone’s education, professional history, and job qualifications for a prospective employer. It is taken from the Latin for “the race of life.” This derivation is a useful reminder that CVs (and resumes) are used to compete with others for an interview.
  • A resume is a brief account of one’s professional or work experience and qualifications, often submitted with an employment application. In the USA and Canada, “resume” is another name for curriculum vitae (CV). The word “resume” comes from the French word meaning “to summarize”—a useful reminder that this is what a resume needs to do.

In many countries, CVs and resumes are comparable. In Canada, the USA, and Australia, resumes tend to be shorter than CVs, usually running to between one and three pages. In the UK, CVs are usually no longer than two pages.

For both CVs and resumes, it is a good idea to use key words—often active verbs—to increase impact. An even better idea is to select key words that are important in job announcements and job descriptions. Remember, these documents are essentially your marketing tools, with content adapted for each application.

There is a growing demand for electronic resumes and CVs. These are popular with employers because they save costs. As long ago as 1997, the US Employment Management Association estimated that the average cost-per-hire was almost one-tenth when the internet was used ($377 compared with $3295 for print-based hires—Wikipedia, accessed August 24, 2012). In Europe, Europass—an EU initiative to increase the qualifications and mobility of European citizens—includes a standard CV as one of five documents. This CV includes these sections:

  • Personal information.
  • Desired employment/occupational field.
  • Work experience.
  • Education and training.
  • Languages.
  • Personal skills and competencies.
  • Additional information. 

In the USA, a federal resume—which summarizes relevant experiences and education in a chronological format—must be used for all federal government jobs. It should cover your previous ten years’ employment and be between three and five pages when printed. (There used to be a requirement to include a KSA (knowledge, skills, and abilities) “essay” but this was phased out following a memo from President Obama in May 2010.) This resume differs from the standard format in terms of structure, length, and content, and consists of these sections:

  • Job information.
  • Personal information.
  • Education.
  • Work experience.
  • Other qualifications.

This brief overview highlights that there are many different approaches to CVs and resumes. These differences become even more apparent if you spend even a short time looking at the sometimes conflicting advice about writing resumes that is available online. What is important is that you supply the sort of CV or resume that has been asked for—bearing in mind that the person who receives it may spend less than 20 seconds reading it.

It’s also important to realize that while no resume is perfect, it has to be fit for purpose and be relevant and well-presented.

5.2.1 Introduction to CVs and Resumes

Think about your resume from the employer’s perspective. You must remember that a resume is doing its job if it generates interest from an employer and helps get you an interview. It does not have to get you the job; nor does it have to include your entire life history. But it does need to answer the key question an employer asks: “Will this person add value to my company?”

So you need to know what employers are looking for. There are many ways to find out what employers really want:

  • You can research the job postings for the sorts of work you are interested in. Use these to look out for frequently mentioned requirements. For example, in one of the jobs announcement you look at in this challenge, there is the need to be bilingual in Spanish and English—does this apply to most retail jobs, or to most jobs in a particular geographical location?
  • Another good way is to ask people already working in your area of interest what they think employers want.
  • You can also read relevant publications or go to the employers’ website.

Basically, you need to immerse yourself in your chosen field.

Types of CVs and Resumes

As you will probably have realized by now, there are many different sorts of CVs and resumes, depending where you are in the world and what sort of job you want to apply for. Broadly, there are three types:

  • Chronological: This type of CV or resume sets out your experience and education in chronological order, usually putting the most recent first. This is the traditional format and works well if you have a solid, unbroken career record.
  • Functional: This type focuses on the skills you have acquired over time. You might choose to use this if you have a career that is in its early stages or has gaps.
  • Combination: A mixture of the two types above.

Writing a CV or resume can be difficult, especially if you don’t feel you have very much experience to offer. But stick with it—once you start to think and write, you will be surprised by how much you have to offer. As some general guidelines, you should include:

  • Only positive personal characteristics.
  • Technical and computer skills.
  • Any coursework you have done only if it is relevant.
  • Educational accomplishments and (in the USA) your GPA if it’s over 3.0.
  • Skills and experience gained from summer jobs and internships.
  • Other related accomplishments.
  • Any unpaid work in your work history (as long as it’s relevant).

The key is to include things that show your value and to exclude things that don’t. So interests or hobbies should only be included if they are relevant.

Practical Pointers

Remember that your resume has less than 20 seconds to impress someone. You might find these top 10 tips from useful to help you design your resume:

  • Use a basic font that is easy to read for hiring managers and their hiring management systems.
  • Include your contact details.
  • Include the keywords you have found in the job announcement.
  • Choose the format that’s best for you (chronological or functional).
  • Prioritize your content—give a prominent place to the most important and relevant information, and ensure that your key accomplishments are listed for each position you have held.
  • Customize each resume.
  • If you are using an objective, tailor this too. The alternative to starting with an objective is to start with a profile that details your skills, experience, and goals. These also need to link to the specific job you are interested in.
  • Bear in mind that many companies use electronic systems to filter resumes—so use key words to make your one stand out.
  • Use a template.
  • Follow the instructions for emailing in your resume.

Having read through this introduction to CVs and resumes, you should be able to begin the CV/Resume Challenge. To do this, answer the questions based on your reading in Unit 5 so far. Once you have done this, you will the be in a great position to continue the challenge, which asks you to read examples of job announcements for their key words.

Activity 5.1: Introduction to CVs and Resumes

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes for this activity.

This is a required activity for Challenge 6: The CV/Resume Challenge.

You are now ready to try this CVs and resumes quiz. Answer the questions before continuing.

5.2.2 Looking at Job Announcements

Activity 5.2: Looking at Job Announcements

Timing: Allow about 30 minutes for this part of the challenge.

This is a required activity for Challenge 6: The CV/Resume Challenge.

This activity gives you the opportunity to practice reading job announcements in order to extract what’s most significant for the company that is advertising the job.

Cricket Retail, a fictional company, is looking for a Retail Sales Representative. Read the job description  and identify the key words. When you have read the job description, do the key words quiz based on it.

Once you have looked at the example we provide, you should then find a job announcement that is close to the sort of work that you would like to do. There are many sites that advertise jobs. Here are a few of the ones that we have found—when you look through these sites, remember what you learned about evaluating internet resources:

  • Glassdoor: Operates in many countries internationally and also gives suggestions about the worst companies to work for.
  • Careerjet: An employment search engine that identifies opportunities by industry and location. It is also worldwide. Typing “Maryland” on this site listed jobs that included bus and truck drivers, medical assistant/phlebotomist, and a retail loss prevention detective.

Other examples include:

For the next part of this challenge, you need to find another job announcement for a job that you might be interested in. Try to use a website that posts many jobs where you live.

We realize that it is sometimes not easy to get into or to get back into the labor market; however, at this point we are not asking you to start applying for jobs. The focus is on you developing your CV or resume. You should now go on to the next activity.

5.2.3 The Playroom Attendant’s Resume

Activity 5.3: The Playroom Attendant’s Resume

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes for this part of the challenge.

This is a required activity for Challenge 6: The CV/Resume Challenge.

To continue the CV/Resume Challenge you should read the resume of a (fictional) playroom attendant; then answer the three questions about it.

Once you have done this you should write a short report on the resume. Use these sub-headings in your report:

  • How the resume is presented.
  • What key words are used and what impression does these give of the person?
  • How would this person add value to an organization?
  • Should they get an interview?

5.2.4 Creating a CV/Resume

Activity 5.4: Creating a CV/Resume

Timing: Allow about 40 minutes for this part of the challenge.

This is a required activity for Challenge 6: The CV/Resume Challenge.

This part of the CV/Resume Challenge guides you through writing your own CV/resume. We have supplied some dummy text that you should copy and paste into the space provided, adding personal information that you think will create a strong CV/resume. Here’s what you should do:

  • Create a resume header: Here you give your name and contact details. Make sure that these are accurate and up-to-date, and that you check your email on a regular basis.
  • Create a career objective: Your career objective should say in one or two short sentences what type of job you desire and in what sort of organization or industry. You should also state what you would enjoy about what you want to do.
  • Add work experience: Start with the most recent job or the one you are have currently, and then, working backwards, list previous jobs. Fill in the details for each position and show what you did and what skills you used. (For example, write “Demonstated excellent communication skills with customers” rather than “We communicated well with customers.”) Remember to include relevant part-time and full-time work, and summer jobs. Volunteering can go under “Additional information.”
  • Add education: List high schools and colleges, and any relevant educational programs, starting with the most recent. If you have been to college, you do not need to include high school.    
  • Additional information: Include any additional information that you think is relevant. Don’t be tempted to add information simply to bolster your resume—it has to be relevant and show how you would add value. You might also want to add that you can make references available on request (but don’t include the names of your references on your resume).

Click here to create your CV or resume.

The next activity is the final part of this challenge.

5.2.5 Reflecting on the CV/Resume Challenge

Activity 5.5: Reflecting on the CV/Resume Challenge

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes for this this part of the challenge.

This is a required activity for Challenge 6: The CV/Resume Challenge.

It’s terrific that you have reached this final part of this challenge. We hope that you will have gained a better understanding of how a focused and relevant CV or resume can help you market yourself as a potential employee—if one of your goals has been to change career or to gain employment, then knowing how to market yourself can help you meet these goals.

The following three questions guide your reflections on this challenge, but you may find that other thoughts occur to you as you answer these questions. (That’s the amazing thing about writing—it takes your thinking forward in ways you may not expect, opening up creative spaces.) If you find that happening, please do add these thoughts. You should include these in your Learning Journal  under the heading “Reflecting on the CV/Resume Challenge.” Here are the three questions:

  1. A friend asks you what you think are the three most important things about a CV. From your experience of this challenge, which three would say are most important?
  2. What have you realized are your strengths as a result of gathering information for this challenge?
  3. What have you learned about the way you approach learning as a result of completing this challenge?

We hope that you have also found out other things about yourself as a result of your work on this challenge. Finding out about CVs and resumes is an example of learning—so it also provides you with an opportunity to think about your learning and how it helps you reach your personal goals for change.

5.3 Assessing Your Qualities, Knowledge, and Skills

Learning to learn has provided opportunities for you to complete a number of challenges. In Unit 2, you were encouraged to complete the first part of the Qualities, Knowledge, and Skills Audit Challenge. This enabled you to do three things:

  1. You noted down what you saw as your five most important qualities.
  2. Rather than focusing on knowledge as facts, you thought about how you learn best and what you were most proud to have learned.
  3. You completed two STAR charts that showed how you used your skills in particular situations.

You can now update your qualities, knowledge, and skills audit by doing Challenge 7.

5.3.1 What Have I Learned about My Qualities?

Do you remember what it was like to write about your most important qualities? We wondered at the time whether your qualities included some aspects that you might find difficult to include. We hope that your work in this course has given you a clearer idea about your qualities and that you have now have a much clearer and much more positive picture. They could include qualities such as integrity and honesty, and they may link to some of your values—values that, perhaps, inform your vision and your action plan.

You should see your improved awareness of your qualities as a valuable resource that will come in useful in situations ranging from personal relationships to job interviews. They should also underpin your plans for change. You will change as a result of being aware of your qualities and, as you do, other people will notice these changes. This will cause them to react differerntly to you which will, in turn, lead to further change (and learning) on your part.

Activity 5.6: What Have I Learned about My Qualities?

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes for this activity.

This is a required activity for Challenge 7: The Qualities, Knowledge, and Skills Audit Challenge (Part 2).

The first part of the Qualities, Knowledge, and Skills Audit Challenge (Part 2) involves spending a few moments thinking about your learning during this course.

Look back at the five qualities that you identified as being most important in the Qualities, Knowledge, and Skills Audit Challenge (Part 1). Do you still think that these are the most important ones? Or do you want to change or add to your list?

You will now create a new table of qualities.

5.3.2 What Have I Learned About My Knowledge?

It is worth spending time thinking about what you have learned from the course. This course has presented you with challenging ideas and a wide range of perspectives. You have been asked to apply them to your own learning for change. As you look back over these, and at your responses to the activities, you will be reminded of the ground you have covered.

It may be helpful to think briefly about the perspectives that were the focus of each unit:

  • Unit 1 introduced the unit outline and the three main perspectives in Learning to Learn.
  • Unit 2 focused on your perspective as the basis for gathering evidence about your knowledge, skills, and qualities.
  • Unit 3 focused on the two remaining perspectives—other people and academic theory—as the basis for your learning.
  • Unit 4 focused on how you could move forward by developing your vision and action plan.

As you think about what you have learned, you will probably remember some themes and ideas from the course more easily than others. Perhaps there was an idea or way of thinking about change that you found particularly interesting or challenging. Perhaps something challenged you to look at yourself, or the world, in a different way. The next activity will help you focus on what you have learned from the unit materials.

You may remember that in part 1 of the Qualities, Knowledge and Skills Audit Challenge, you began to look at how you go about acquiring knowledge. The focus was on how you do this and what is important to you; you were encouraged to let facts look after themselves. On the basis that you will develop precisely the knowledge that you need, we suggest that everyone is good at knowledge-building—it is not the preserve of just a few clever people.

Activity 5.7: What Have I Learned About My Knowledge?

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes for this activity.

This is a required activity for Challenge 7: The Qualities, Knowledge, and Skills Audit Challenge (Part 2).

This part of the Qualities, Knowledge, and Skills Audit Challenge (Part 2) involves completing this activity about what you have learned about your knowledge.

The last activity should have got you thinking about knowledge or how you go about understanding what is happening in your world.

5.3.3 What Have I Learned About My Skills?

As well as offering different ways of thinking about your experience and about change, the course has also enabled you to explore your skills. Your thinking about your skills forms part of the next activity in the Qualities, Knowledge, and Skills Audit Challenge (Part 2). The activities and challenges have been an important part of your learning: Some (especially in Unit 2) focused on gathering evidence about your skills; many others have provided opportunities to develop and practice both your academic skills and your real-world skills.

Do you remember these lists of skills from Unit 1?

Real-World Skills

  • Communication skills.
  • Problem solving skills.
  • Organizational skills.
Academic skills
  • Reading.
  • Note-taking.
  • Writing.
  • Selecting and using evidence.
  • Evaluating ideas (including your own plans) and theories.
  • Thinking about your own learning (reflection).

There are probably other skills that you have improved as a result of working through Learning to Learn. Your notes, particularly those from the activities, are an important resource for reviewing the qualities, knowledge, and skills that you have learned. It would be a good idea to organize your notes so that you can use them in the future.

The next activity asks you to think about the skills you have developed.

Activity 5.8: What Have I Learned About My Skills?

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes for this activity.

This is a required activity for Challenge 7: The Qualities, Knowledge, and Skills Audit Challenge (Part 2).

The next part of the Qualities, Knowledge, and Skills Audit Challenge (Part 2) involves an activity where you reflect on your skills.

Activity 5.9: Reflecting on Challenge 7: The Qualities, Knowledge, and Skills Audit Challenge (Part 2)

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes for this activity.

This is a required activity for Challenge 7: The Qualities, Knowledge, and Skills Audit Challenge (Part 2).

You have done a lot of “thinking back,” but you might also want to use this challenge as the basis for an entry in your Learning Journal. If you take this option, make an entry in your Learning Journal with the title “Reflecting on Challenge 7: The Qualities, Knowledge, and Skills Audit Challenge (Part 2).” Then make some notes in response to some or all of the following questions:

  • How did you feel before and after you completed this challenge? Did it help that you had already done Part 1? Did it help to have done any other challenges?
  • Were there points at which you felt you would not complete this challenge? What caused these feelings? How did you deal with them?
  • How do you now feel about any remaining Learning to Learn challenges? How many do you think you will attempt? Are you drawn to any particular challenges?

It is impossible for us to guess what your responses to being asked to reflect on the Qualities, Knowledge, and Skills Audit Challenge (Part 2) might be. However, if you have worked through this challenge, we would hope that you have done this because you found it useful and interesting. If this is the case, that’s great, because it suggests that you are getting a lot from studying Learn to Learn. You might want to reflect on what differences you are noticing in your own levels of confidence and self-belief.

Of course, it is possible that thinking about your qualities, knowledge, and skills has made you regret missed opportunities. If this is your experience, then we hope that you will see your work on Learning to Learn as a step towards seizing opportunities rather than missing them.

Activity 5.10: Your Promise to Yourself

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes for this activity.

This final activity in the section on the Qualities, Knowledge and Skills Audit Challenge (Part 2) asks you to make a promise to yourself. This promise is that you will not lose sight of what you have achieved, and—most importantly—that you will be active in seeking new possibilities to “learn to change.” Write down in your Learning Journal (using the heading “Promise to Myself”) what you have decided to do over the next three months. This is the basis for taking forward the vision and plan that you created in Unit 5 into your next cycle of learning.

5.4 Reflection

You are getting close to the end of this course and we hope that by now you will have completed most, if not all, the challenges.

You should find that the Reflection Challenge builds on many of the others you have done, such as the Action Plan Challenge, the CV/Resume Challenge, and the Qualities, Knowledge, and Skills Audit Challenge (Part 1).

The Reflection Challenge has been left until last because it builds on these other challenges and provides a great way to complete your study of Learning to Learn because it enables you to be clear what you have achieved by looking back over and thinking (or “reflecting”) about it.

5.4.1 What is Reflection?

Activity 5.11: What is Reflection?

Timing: Allow about an hour for this activity.

This is a required activity for Challenge 8: The Reflection Challenge.

The Reflection Challenge begins by asking you to read “What is Reflection?”  When you have read this, you are asked to relate some of the ideas to a situation you have experienced. After reading  “What is Reflection?,” please use the back button on your computer to return to Learning to Learn course content.

When you have read the resource, select a situation you have recently been involved in. With this situation or experience in mind, try to answer the eight question at the end of “What is Reflection?” Write your answers down in your Learning Journal under the heading “Challenge 8: What is Reflection?” When you have done this, read through what you have written and use your Learning Journal to answer this question: Which aspect of learning from this course will be most important to you in the future?

5.4.2 Being Aware of Your Habits

Activity 5.12: Being Aware of Your Habits

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes for this activity.

This is a required activity for Challenge 8: The Reflection Challenge.

The next part of this challenge requires you to read the resource “Being Aware of Your Habits.”  Once you have read it, try this quiz.You can then move on to the third step of this challenge.

5.4.3 Writing Reflection

Activity 5.13: Writing Reflection

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes for this activity.

This is a required activity for Challenge 8: The Reflection Challenge.

Read through “Writing Reflection,”  a resource that includes a list of twenty questions that can be used to prompt reflection.

Choose five of the questions suggested in the article and write them down in your Learning Journal. Don’t worry about the author’s use of the word “session”—he had face to face teaching sessions when he devised his questions. (See “session” as the same as a part of this course, such as an unit or a challenge, or something that has happened to you, or something you have read or heard about.)

You should also consider what influenced your choice of questions. Did you deliberately choose the most relevant, or did you go for those that you thought would tell you most about yourself? You might even have chosen those that were the simplest or most straightforward. What were the reasons behind your choice? Do they tell you anything about how you approach a challenge?

There is just one thing left to do before you complete the Reflection Challenge. Please go on to this as soon as you can.

5.4.4 Your Learning Journal

Activity 5.14: Your Learning Journal

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes for this activity.

This is a required activity for Challenge 8: The Reflection Challenge.

For this activity you need to have made at least six entries in your Learning Journal. If you have been keeping a Learning Journal since the course started, you should find this very easy to do.

However, if you have not found the time to do this, don’t worry: You will need to go back over the challenges you have already completed and select six examples of when you reflected on what you had learned.

Whichever way you choose to do this part of the Reflection Challenge, you must read back over your Learning Journal entries and answer the following questions:

  1. Which three achievements mentioned in your Learning Journal are you most proud of?
  2. What three new things have you tried that your journal reminds you of?
  3. What have been the three most important changes you have made while keeping your journal?

You could give the answers the title “Activity 5.14: Looking Back Over My Learning Journal.”

5.4.5 What Am I Going to Do Next?

This is the last part of the unit, but in some ways it is the most important. There will have been little point to your study if all you do is look back at what you have learned about yourself and your capacity to use Learning to Learn. It only really becomes significant if you use your learning in the future to reach new goals. So, we would like you to work on one more activity.

Activity 5.15: What Am I Going to Do Next?

Timing: Allow about 25 minutes for this activity.

In Activity 5.10 you made a promise to yourself about what you would do over the next three months. This final activity encourages you to build on these promises.

Make a new entry in your Learning Journal  with the heading “Activity 5.15: What I Am Going to Do Next.” For each promise, note down the following:

  • What will be the first step to achieving your promise to yourself?
  • By what date will you have achieved this?
  • What other things will you have to do between this first step and achieving your promise to yourself?
  • By what dates will these be achieved?
  • How will you know when you have achieved your promise?
  • How will you feel when you achieve this?

Doing this will be the basis for taking forward the vision and plan that you created in Unit 5 into your next cycle of learning.

5.5 Conclusion

We hope that you have enjoyed Learning to Learn. The course and its challenges have asked you to explore your own learning and how it can be used for personal development and change. We hope that you have realized that you have a combination of qualities, knowledge, and skills that you can take forward in ways that will help you feel fulfilled in whatever you decide to do and will make your life more interesting and enjoyable.

We also hope that, as a result of doing the challenges, you have created documents including the Qualities, Knowledge, and Skills Audit, your Action Plan, your CV (or resume) and your reflective Learning Journal. These should be useful to you in understanding your achievements and putting you in the best possible position to share your achievements and experience with other people.

We also hope that you have begun to feel that in addition to being able to manage change in your life, you can also successfully study at the level of higher education. The academic skills you have built in this course will help you in other courses, and we hope that this means that, although you are finishing Learning to Learn, this is only just the start for other, perhaps longer, courses. We also hope that it marks the start of many exciting changes in your life.

Good luck and best wishes as you continue learning to learn.

Next Steps

After you have completed Unit 5 and all associated activities, please let us know how this course may be improved.


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