With the changing times we live in now and the near future, come challenges. One of the greatest for any student, myself included, is adapting to the challenge of studying from home. Now, not all students find this a challenge, I have friends on my course that waft seamlessly into the home learning environment! I envy them as I do find it a struggle.
I thrived in the learning environment that is University campus. I am inspired when on campus. Sitting in a busy lecture theatre or seminar, taking in most of what the lecturer is saying and then debating and dissecting it with my peers. It is what the University experience is about for me. I miss it.
Rather than get too despondent about the necessary changes to our learning, I have done my best to approach the new changes with a positive open mind, sometimes its an easier option to just dwell on the negatives. There is no denying there are some, but I am going to try hard to not mention them here.
Firstly, online lectures and seminars. It took me a while to embrace and enjoy this method. But here are a few thoughts that helped me to get the hang of online learning.
1. Get involved!
Yes, it is daunting having to speak up, there is something quite strange about talking to the screen. I cannot stress enough about the need to interact. Just saying morning to the lecturer, having some input whilst discussing content, even just to say that you agree with a point in the discussion. Your confidence will grow the more you interact, whilst interacting you are also familiarising yourself with Collaborate.
2. Use the chat function
If your confidence is low and you feel you cannot speak up, then try to get involved on the collaborate chat function. It is a great way to intermingle, get your point across and feel that you are contributing. My cohort like to use the chat as a side issue to the main topic being discussed. We also like to share links to readings or websites that come up in the discussion.
3. Peer to peer support
Now more than ever, talk with your fellow course mates. Reach out and support each other. Especially with assignments coming up, its now as good a time as any. Swap study ideas and set up a group chat to keep in contact with each other. Debrief with each other, what worked in the lecture, what did you not understand. Be there for each other. It helps in a pastoral sense to, look after one another.
4. Don’t put pressure on yourself
Do not beat yourself up if you miss a lecture. If the children are off school and you have no space or patience to study, then do not. Send the lecturer an email, explain you are not attending and that you will catch up at a later point. This is an advantage of online learning. All my lectures have been recorded and are on Recap. I have missed a lecture, I watched it that evening, made notes and caught up. Do not put to much pressure on yourself. You are allowed an off day.
What I have learned most is the importance of communication. I have never exchanged so many emails with my lecturers. If I have not understood something, I have asked. If I have missed a lecture I have reached out and explained why. This works at home too. Explaining to the children that Dad needs an hour or two to study, then we will have some time together. It works, always be open and explain to your housemates or family, I need this time, it will not be for ever, then you have my attention. Understanding is a two-way notion, always make to effort to explain why.
I am going to quickly mention the benefits of the library, if like me you struggle to focus on assignments at home. I am a second-year student and I have not written one assignment at home. My home environment is not conducive to good essay writing. When the library opened again, I had a little party going on inside of me! I am using this wonderful study space again and it is a good feeling.
The library and university staff have done everything to ensure that you are in a safe, well maintained and socially distanced study space. Yes, it has a different atmosphere at the moment, but the computers are there, the books are there and most importantly there are other human beings there too, they are studying, accessing books and being students! It is a small dose of normal and I love being there. Augustine House is my favourite space. Please utilise it if you are struggling with assignment writing at home. You go online, book a study slot, and turn up, that is all you have to do.
We are all still adjusting. We all need to support each other. Put some perspective on what is happening. You are still on an amazing course, with knowledgeable lecturers, at an inspiring university. Be supportive to yourself and others, engage with the online learning and do yourself proud. What we are going through is not forever. However, the support from the University is there. Peer Mentoring, Student support services, the Chaplaincy and many more are available to support you through this very strange time we are living in.
by Tom Vitulli, Student Peer Mentor