Academic Development Week starts next Monday (26 October 2020), so student peer mentor Laura is sharing her thoughts on blended learning during Covid-19.
The start of this year came with a very different set of worries than I previously thought it would. Had you asked me last year what I was worried about for my final year of university it would have mainly focused on completing assignments and finding a job. However, at the start of September my mind was instead focused on what changes COVID would make to my experience as a student and my studies.
The thought of completing the majority of my studies online filled me with dread, however I tried to approach this new experience with a positive mind-set as a learning experience for me.
So, at the start of September I created a plan to learn about blended learning and what skills are beneficial for successfully learning in a blended environment, as well as how to further develop these skills to allow me to have a successful year. Luckily for me, the university is full of resources and information which, even if you cannot find it yourself, there is always someone who is able to direct you to the right place if you ask.
During my research I realised that the way in which blended learning is set up may vary not only between courses but between modules, and some will require more online, directed study than others. However, the overall content and support you are provided with, whether online or face to face, will equal the same as you would normally get and can be just as beneficial if you set aside the appropriate amount of time to complete and fully engage with a task.
I soon realised that one vital element to ensure that blended learning works is time management and organisation because there is a difference between being given a time slot to attend university and engage with a two-hour lecture or having to set two hours out of your own week to engage with that lecture online. Even though it is the same amount of time, it is different in that you have to make the choice to ensure you sit down and do it, when there may be other activities you would rather do.
Studying from home can be challenging as there are so many more distractions and possible activities you would rather be doing. It is important to prioritise tasks and ensure that you do not fall behind.
The way I have managed this is by making sure that I keep a list of all the different tasks I need to do and numbering these from most important to least important. I will then start breaking these up and assigning different activities to different days, ensuring that each day I also have time to do the things which make me happy and that I enjoy doing. Sometimes, even using these fun activities as a rest break or a reward between more taxing academic tasks.
I find that planning out my week in this way ensures that I get all my important tasks completed while still being able to have fun. This also allows me to better see when I have free time within my day to see friends and to volunteer.
Through using these organisational techniques, I have found that studying from home has allowed me to be more organised and take more control over the time that I have in a day and I can more easily adjust to new changes.
Although these skills do not always come naturally to me, I have taken advantage of university resources such as the learning skills hub, peer mentoring service as well as the Faculty Learning Developer, and Learning and Research Librarian to help me to develop and improve these skills. I also know that if I ever needed any additional support with my organisational skills (or any other skills for that matter) that I can go back to these amazing resources which are provided by the university.
Check out the Academic Development Week online hub for further information on support available, ways to develop your skills and for specific help with blended learning.