The blended learning approach adopted by the University in response the COVID-19 pandemic has provided many unanticipated benefits to my learning experience. I have developed and improved many skills, such as time management, communication, teamwork, and note-taking. I have actually found it easier to concentrate and engage with live online lectures compared to the traditional in-person lectures I had during my 1st and 2nd years.
This is probably because there are less distractions in my bedroom, for example, the sound of 100 people typing in a lecture theatre can be quite off-putting! It has also been less intimidating to ask the lecturers questions because you can type them and compose a question at your own speed as opposed to having to ask in person. The direct message function on Zoom also removes any potential embarrassment associated with other people knowing you’ve asked a question. Staff have made an active effort to use tools such as polls with questions or suggestions of explanations from students about particular mechanisms. This can make the content quite fun and engaging.
Communication with staff members has been great – my lecturers are very responsive over email if I ever have follow-up questions. I find the online lecture set-up means I am more productive during the day because I do not waste any time commuting to and from university/between buildings. This allows me to work more efficiently during the day and ultimately means I have more free time in the evening. I actually hope live online lectures remain in place even after things go back to “normal”!
To any students who are potentially anxious about how their studies could be affected by the COVID restrictions, I would say keep an open mind! While some aspects are more difficult (such as practical classes), other aspects such as live online lectures can actually be more accessible. Find what works for you – whether that be typing notes during lectures, handwriting them, or just watching and then listening back later to sections you didn’t understand. The online set-up provides more flexibility and gives you the opportunity to learn in whatever style works best for you! I would also advise that students make sure they’re prepared for online learning – as lecturers are more likely to use polls etc. to ask questions, it definitely helps if you’ve read over the slides beforehand to get a basic understanding of what the content is going to be. I think another important aspect of online learning is for students to voice their opinions to their lecturers and schools about how it could be improved.
This situation is new to everyone, so they will be very responsive of feedback/suggestions so to make the experience as beneficial as possible for everyone. Many lecturers find it difficult to speak to a blank screen and so would probably appreciate any advice of how to make their content more engaging.