Over 100 days of national lockdown. 3 months of living at home during what should have been a normal semester and exam season in Bath. One placement year cancelled, and another secured. The impacts of this pandemic and the remarkable way it has snowballed to affect every element of our lives are truly apparent.
I have just completed my second year at the University of Bath, and I am sure that there are many soon-to-be students out there filled with worry and uncertainty: what will my first year of university look like in the face of a pandemic? Whilst I cannot answer the full extent of this question, I can address the nature of online learning, having experienced it first hand for my second-year coursework and exams.
This blog is about my own personal experience of online learning. Take a look at the University's webpages for the latest information on learning and teaching for new students.
So, what was my experience of online learning?
Whilst it required a small adjustment period, I actually ended up really liking online learning. Lecture slides would be recorded with voiceovers and uploaded to the University learning platform 'Moodle’ for students to access when necessary. Meetings with lecturers via Microsoft Teams or Skype could be arranged if you had any questions.
This mode of online learning relies heavily on lecturers making themselves available and responsive to student requests, and I can honestly say that my lecturers were great with this. If I didn’t understand any of the lecture material or needed clarification on a piece of coursework, I would send an email to my lecturer and they would typically reply within a day or two. They were also open to arranging video meetings for the following week if further help was needed.
This was most important for coursework which is largely completed in groups for Management courses. We could arrange team meetings with the lecturer to make sure everyone was on the same page.
Personally, I prefer doing lectures based on the material put on Moodle so online learning suited me really well. However, I know some people really value the face-to-face element of learning and in-class engagement which is compromised through online learning. Having said this, some courses did video seminars to incorporate class discussions which is a way around this hurdle.
What other hurdles did I face during online learning?
- It takes more motivation to show up
When lectures aren’t at a fixed time and place, it is easy to keep procrastinating until you have a lot to catch up on! It is important to establish a pattern or schedule that ensures you’re still keeping on top of your work.
- The social aspect is lost
Not physically going to lectures means you don’t bump into people and can't ask the lecturer a question during or after the session. This means you need to stay connected in new ways using technology.
- Group work demanded change
We could no longer have group meetings in person, so we needed to be really coordinated and find times to video call that suited everyone - especially when accommodating differing timezones and making sure everyone was happy!
But what were the benefits of online learning?
- More flexibility
You could do the lectures at a time and place that best suits you and when you are feeling most productive.
- Cuts the commute → efficiency!
No need for travelling to and from campus between lectures and meetings- everything is in one place on the computer!
- Learn at your own pace
You don’t have to frantically keep up with the lecturer when taking notes. Online learning means you can adjust the speed of the video and pause when you need to.
For more details on my pros and cons of online learning, see the video below!
Like with most changes in life, there were both pros and cons to this new style of learning. However, having experienced it in its initial rollout I still thought it was a pretty smooth experience. Whilst this isn’t the vision of university that we expected, it is one that must be adapted to in order to continue learning whilst staying safe.
I know that the 2020 cohort of students preparing to start university this September must be experiencing a tremendous sense of loss and anxiety currently, however, I urge you to remain resilient and embrace your university life as much as possible within the current restrictions.
After all, it’s amazing that we have the technology to enable us to continue with our education during this time - there are always silver linings to adversity, and the fact that we can continue learning from home instead of having to suspend our studies for the foreseeable future is certainly one of them.