I was midway through my placement year when the pandemic hit and I was so sure Zoom calls will no longer be a thing by summertime (quite ironic 1 year later I am hoping for the same thing). I was feeling bad for how fast my course mates had to go to a completely different way of teaching and how nothing seemed to make sense anymore, but I never thought I would personally have to deal with it.
Then August came and it became clear blended learning was going to be the new normal. Having been away from university for more than 1 year, the thought of blended learning was really scary –doing lectures from my bedroom and keeping my distance from everyone on campus really didn’t sound appealing. Barely knowing the students from the year below, the lack of opportunities to make new friendships has also added quite significantly to my fear.
However, once lectures started, it was not as bad as I though and it actually helped me improve my work/life balance. If you’re not a morning person, like me, then you will really enjoy not having to wake up for those 9ams anymore. Previous to Covid, I struggled to keep up with lecturers as I was trying to write down every additional point lecturers made, however with online lectures not only can I attend these when I am well rested and ready for studying, but I can also pause them, take as many notes as I need and look up things I don’t understand.
What’s even greater is that you never lose lecture notes anymore – everything is in one place on Learning Central and you can access it whenever it suits your schedule. Have I also mentioned that most lectures are now even shorter? The material is usually explained in 30-40 minutes, giving you extra time to write notes and go over the content again at your own pace and you don’t have to run from one side of the building to the other to get to your next lecture.
Even with online tutorials, lecturers have been extremely supportive, taking their time to create resources for using complicated softwares in engineering and explaining everything step by step. Most of them have been really engaging, always asking for our feedback and ways of improvement – thus it’s great to see that, while we are all going through really tough times, lecturers are really trying their best to still give us that great university experience.
Group projects have not been too bad either – as long as you get over the usual interruptions and Internet issues, it is now way easier to find a time to meet and to split the tasks. It also gives you the chance to bond more with your new coursemates.
Going for face-to-face tutorials and laboratories once a week , while at first scary, has also been a great way to get to know briefly my new year group and ask questions in a face-to-face setting. Lecturers have adapted really well, making these face-to-face tutorials also available through Zoom to those that need to stay at home, so even if you have any issue or need to self-isolate, you will not miss on content.
While blended learning may sound like a really isolating university experience, take it from someone that has also experience the days of going to lectures filled with 200 people, you will not be that lonely. Blended learning really gives you the option to go through the theoretical knowledge at your own pace and make sure you understand it before attending interactive tutorials/laboratories – whether online or face-to-face. It also means you can hang out with your flatmates whenever without missing on important university content, which is something I definitely I wished I had in my first 2 years of uni. As we are adjusting to a new normal, I personally really hope theoretical content will remain pre-recorded, having tutorials/laboratories in a face-to-face setting so that you have more flexibility over your schedule.
Nevertheless, while you may not think about it, blended learning really prepares you for the working world – as part of my placement I had to do a lot of individual studying and find the information myself, which I was not really prepared for. So, as someone that came back from a one year placement to a completely different university experience from before, I definitely understand how worried and anxious this aspect might make you feel – but don’t knock it off till you try it and instead of thinking about the disadvantages, try to focus on all the advantages it offers you.