And all of a sudden, you’re studying online…
Okay, so here’s the 911. You signed up to start this whole new thing called university, you picked your degree and daydreamed about your future career all summer long as you prepared yourself for this new journey. You’ve enrolled, your classes and tutors are all ready to go and so are you. The first few weeks are full on, you’re meeting your fellow students, navigating the maze that is the university campus and every other little thing that your lecturers, fellow students and campus life is throwing at you. Then all of a sudden, COVID-19 comes along. Wait what? Our study will be online? You’re feeling like the world is closing in on you. This wasn’t what you imagined and you’re suddenly in a strange new world rapidly thinking of a way to hit the eject button. Pause, take a deep breath and read on.
To all my fellow students who have unexpectedly found themselves studying online for the first time this year, I want to give you the best tips I’ve learnt to encourage as you make this transition. I know that life for everyone is very unpredictable at the moment and I hope these tips help you succeed on this journey and realise that whatever curve balls university life throws at you, you’ve got this, trust me.
Get back to basics
So, let’s go back to basics and remember why you signed up to university in the first place, and why you were daydreaming about the future career all summer long. The cornerstones of your courses are all designed to do the same thing. That is, help you to acquire new knowledge in a meaningful way.
Firstly, you should know that I’ve had experience studying on campus and online, so I’m not just making this up to help you feel better. I can tell you the learning experience may look different, but the fundamentals are the same. A great first step is to recognise the similarities rather than the differences of the changes you’re experiencing. There are more than you may think.
Recognise the similarities
Whether online or on campus, you will have lecturers and tutors, readings, lecture content and tutorial sessions, assessments and exams with due dates. These things remain unchanged. And from my experience, in the really good courses, the lecturers are available for questions, clear assessment explanations and helpful feedback, irrespective of what technology they use or whether their online or in a lecture hall.
You will still have classmates. Remember, there is a human behind each username – with feelings, their own stresses, goals, ambitions and stories. Each person in the class has different views, life experiences and challenges. Understanding this, saying hello and showing respect and empathy along the way is one way to begin putting colour behind that seemingly cold, digital screen. Get talking to your classmates and build a sense of comradery because you are all on this journey together, whether that was once sitting in a lecture theatre or all sitting at your laptops around the world. In fact, I got to know more people through my online studies than I did while studying on campus. There is a benefit to being able to discuss your stories from a distance. I found that it somehow provided me a sense of freedom to express my thoughts and ideas more than I did during physical campus life. A good starting place is to introduce yourself to your fellow students and the teaching team.
Stay on track
The most important thing you can do is to hang in there and go with the flow of these changes. Resisting the changes you’re experiencing as you transition to the online study environment will only make adapting more difficult. Remember, online study offers the same learning experience in a different way and one of the most important things you can do is believe in yourself during this time and hang in there while you adapt. My mantra throughout my uni life has always been ‘you’ve got this, trust me’. Even when I felt like my back was to the wall. Even on those late nights cramming that last bit of study before undertaking that impossible quiz. Even when my hands felt like they were going to fall off as I frantically typed that hurried last draft or that stomach churning moment when you realise how many assessment pieces you’ve got coming up. Through the good times and the bad, my online student experience has been built around believing in myself and giving myself the best chance to succeed. Set yourself up at home as you would in your lectures on campus. Have a dedicated study area and dedicated study times, just as you would when attending lectures and campus. Learn to support yourself by giving time and space that encourages your online study.
And remember… You’ve got this, trust me.
By Sam Daniels