Emily Yates, a recent graduate from the University of Bath tells us what virtual learning is like at university.
With many universities around the country announcing plans to use a ‘blended learning’ approach- some teaching in person and some online- learning virtually will most likely be something you’ll experience if you’re heading to university in September. It might not be how you envisaged university, and it might take a while for you to get used to it, but you will find the silver lining eventually.
Earlier this year, I completed my final semester at the University of Bath online and it’s fair to say that learning online, completing assessments from home and speaking with lecturers on the phone was a rollercoaster. So, here are my top tips for how to handle learning virtually:
Keep a routine
Without the pressure of having to physically turn up to uni, you might be tempted to watch your lectures from the comforts of your bed whenever you like. Try not to do this. Keeping a routine, sitting at a desk and watching your lectures at the time they’d be taking place (or as near as possible) under normal circumstances is going to help you feel like you’re actually at university, and make you feel like you’ve been productive. Watching your lectures at normal times will also help you fit other tasks into your day, so you can maximise your time.
If you’re watching your lecture on your own, you might be tempted to start scrolling on your phone while you listen. If you do this, you probably won’t actually concentrate and you’re more likely to either miss out on content you’ll need later down the line, or you’ll just have to re-watch the lecture. I found making notes while I listened helpful as it made me concentrate and meant that I could immediately write down any questions I had. The beauty of having pre-recorded lectures was also that I could pause it whenever I liked, so you can take it at your own pace!
Get in touch with your lecturers if you don’t understand
If anything, I found that my lecturers got back to me quicker when learning was virtual than otherwise- if they’re in one place all day then they’re more likely to be on their emails! They were also more than happy to have a call about anything I didn’t understand or explain in an email. After all, they really know their subject and they’ll always want to help. Another perk of virtual learning was that I wasn’t anxious about asking a question in front of my peers, which is something you might experience in a lecture hall of (in my case, sometimes 150+) other students. Sending a quick email to a lecturer is so easy- in fact, I probably engaged with them more during lockdown than ever before!
Go easy on your lecturers
It’s possible that before 2020, some of your lecturers might never have taught virtually before. My teachers used a combination of Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams and Slack, but there are so many different websites out there. Some professors are more used to using technology than others- so your lectures might get uploaded late, they might not go to plan, and you might have to email them if you can’t access them, but go easy on them! It’s a new experience for everyone.
So, if you are going to university this year and you are going to experience some virtual learning, I hope these tips will reassure you. Starting at university is such an exciting time- try and make the most of every opportunity (including virtual learning!).