Being on a course that usually has a lot of contact hours and time spent in the laboratory, I was very hesitant when it came to online learning. I was worried about how I would transition from my usual commute into University, surrounded by course mates in a lecture hall, to studying at home from my bedroom. It’s definitely been a different experience, but it’s actually been a good one, and has equipped me with so many valuable skills which I can now take forward.
Transitioning to Online Learning
I think I can speak on behalf of everyone when I say it’s definitely been a learning curve transitioning to online learning. I had never even used Zoom, or Teams before and it’s been an experience in itself to get to know the programmes and how to use them.
There have been bumps along the way with transitioning to online learning, but these have really developed my resilience and patience when it comes to technology and learning something new. I’ve learnt how to be persistent and persevere through difficult times. Resources have been easily accessible, and lectures have gone out of their way to make online lectures as interactive as possible – something which wasn’t a big part of face-to-face lectures. There are more questions asked to us students, more quizzes on sites such as mentimeter, and it’s really heightened my engagement within online lectures.
The most important part of transitioning to online learning for me has been routine. I’ve found that I need routine more now than ever. There is no commuting to University and having that time stamped in your head regarding when you need to be up and out of the house by, so making sure you get up in the morning and go for a walk to clear your head ready for the day is a must. It’s really enabled me to develop my independence, and I’ve established how I can motive myself.
Online learning has encouraged me to collaborate more with my course mates. We’ve set up study groups, holding regular sessions on zoom to help each other with revision, and some of my course mates have even gone out of their way to set up mock exams to enable us to prepare for our actual exams as efficiency as possible.
My Hopes for the Long-Term
With lectures being held online, I feel like I have had so much more time. There’s no more travelling to University, standing outside of a lecture hall and waiting for the lecture to start. You just log in and start the lecture there and then! I’d love to see the University introduce online learning wherever possible. It’s so beneficial for students, and means we have much more time to work on writing notes up, working on assignments and getting involved with extra-curricular stuff, and even working. For me, it’s enabled me to establish a healthy routine and work-life balance and has enabled me to pursue other things such as starting a small business. Moving forward, if the University keeps lectures online it would be great for these to be timetabled for students. It gives us some kind of structure and allows us to plan our day around the lecture, as well as giving us some sort of purpose with our days.
Meetings being held online with personal tutors and assignment leads has also been beneficial, and has saved so much valuable time! Online learning has also made me feel a lot more comfortable asking questions – popping a question in the chat, or unmuting my mic – in oppose to putting my hand up and speaking in front of a hall of a few hundred people.
The only downside to online learning is the lack of face-to-face collaboration. I would love for the University to introduce more formative tasks for students to work on, with these being held socially distanced face-to-face to enable students to develop those crucial teamwork and communication skills in a professional environment. I would personally prefer to participate in something like this as oppose to going to University for face-to-face lectures with no interaction or chance of collaboration with my peers.
Advice for New Students – COVID restrictions
My main worry about going into my third and final year here at Cardiff was the social aspect of it. With lectures being held online, it meant we weren’t having that usual social interaction. However, if anything I’ve found that it has pushed me more to get out of my comfort zone and try new things – even if they are virtual.
There are so many societies to get involved with in the University (over 200!). These have adapted to the current circumstances so well. Where possible, events are held socially distanced and outside, complying to COVID regulations. However, a lot of societies have chosen to run events on Zoom which have actually been rather fun! It means you can get involved, meet new people and it’s all done from the comfort of your own bedroom.
In first year, you’re given a student mentor who is there to help with the transition into University. Due to COVID, these meetings have been held over Zoom or Teams, but you’re in a group with other students in your year who are in the exact same position as you. Your student mentor is there to give you guidance, answer any queries and questions you have, and give you an opportunity to make friends with those in your group!
A lot of courses have group chats on Facebook too, and most of the time these will branch off into smaller group chats for those who those who’d like to make friends, stay in touch and just have a general chit chat. There really are still a lot of options and opportunities to get involved and make your experience a great one, despite the restrictions.
On the whole, my experience of online learning has been mainly positive. There have been a few ups and downs, such as a lack of communication or a delay in responses to emails – but during a pandemic, it’s expected and everyone is extremely understanding.
Online learning has enabled me to pursue so many things that I otherwise wouldn’t have had the time to do. As a home student, I commute around 45 minutes to University – so being able to go from an online lecture to a meeting on Zoom has been a blessing and has saved so much time. I no longer have to sit around for hours waiting from one lecture to another, and am not wasting precious time sat at the train station whilst the train is delayed!
It’s enabled me to work on managing my time and has enabled me to find what works best for me in terms of my studies and motivation. I’ve developed so many skills in the past year, which will be transferable as I graduate in July. Online learning has given me the ability to adapt to an ever-changing situation and has taught me the importance of resilience and being able to bounce back after events that have taken place over the course of the past year. I really believe that some form of blended learning is beneficial for future students, and will encourage the development of independence.