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What is it like to study a university course online?
Hi, I’m Mishani, and in this blog I will share my personal experience of studying online. Contrary to my suspicions that online learning would be difficult, awkward, and uncomfortable, my experience with it proved otherwise.
Online learning has been enjoyable in many ways. It allows for a flexible working schedule and the university has been supportive and changed the structure of lessons to help us. I’ve been able to access all the study resources previously available at campus and in addition to this it’s enabled me to learn and develop new skills that will undoubtedly be invaluable in the workplace.
Firstly, there is the obvious comfort of studying from home while being able to access all the study resources previously available at campus. Most classes are structured to be asynchronous, allowing us to go through the material for each week according to our own schedule. This freedom has helped me to create a timetable for myself that allowed me to function at maximum efficiency and cut down on wasteful hours trying to force myself into a working mindset. Library books can also still be accessed, by being reserved and collected in an allocated timeslot. In addition to this, the major positive aspect of not having to travel to campus provides more time to get about the day and thus get more done.
Of course, interacting with others is important, but some of us thrive in the study at home environment that I’ve found allows for optimal efficiency. I know I speak for many students when I say the chat option available in every Microsoft Teams call is a blessing because it allows us to express our ideas and discuss the topic confidently, without getting too uncomfortable doing so. In addition to this benefit, online learning encourages an articulate flow of ideas and the development of written communication skills brought on by the need to get your point across without waffling or taking up too much time. Effective communication is key in teamwork, and it’s one of the most useful skills I've acquired during my time with online learning. This skill will extremely valuable for future study and in the workplace.
Creating a productive online learning space at home
The process of online learning requires us to be dedicated and engage in self-study in order to successfully pass our modules. When I had to travel to campus and attend my classes, I automatically stepped into a zone where studying was all around me. The first challenge I experienced when faced with online learning was how much self-control and dedication was needed to actually finish work outside campus.
I overcame this by keeping in contact with my tutors, asking for support and putting myself on a schedule to complete the tasks set by tutors for each week. These ensured my consistent engagement with the module and kept me in touch with university life. I also found it useful to create a study environment at home, so I had a space just for focusing on academic tasks. Over the online learning timeline, I have learnt to exercise control over my daily activities to allow adequate time to study and it has now become a healthy habit.
Support from the university
The university have been understanding and supportive that online learning is a new experience for most of us. One of the best steps taken by my course to support us has been that they’ve broken down the syllabus and changed teaching methods to accommodate the new situation and to ensure everyone could handle the work provided. This meant that while break periods were shorter, there has been less material to digest during the semester. This in particular has helped me stay on track without spiralling into a toxic state of work overload that would have led to burnout. This new structure allows a fewer number of modules to be tackled per semester, thus allowing more time to get used to studying online.
The pandemic has been the hardest situation most of us have had to face, but it brings with it a learning opportunity, a new lens with which to view and observe the world. Online learning is a new way of learning that will continue to yield many advantages. When paired with the constant support from tutors and the university itself, it has been a fruitful, rewarding experience.