A Different Learning Experience

Hi everyone!

Back on the lock-down series…

This week beginning on the 27th of April, we begin the final term of the 2019-2020 academic year. For many of us, this is a term characterized for the very first time, only by distance and/or virtual learning; but this is not an entirely new phenomenon.

Before coming to university, I wondered for a long time how my academic student-life would change. As a student ambassador speaking to many prospective university students at a time, one question that I am constantly bombarded with is, how much harder is university compared to A-Levels? What is the difference? How do you cope? How do you spend your time?

Much like going to university for the very first time, solo distance learning has incited all the same questions. Is it hard? How do you cope? How do you spend your time?

As a new student, these were my two major changes:

Contact hours. Already, there are far fewer contact hours in university as compared to A-Levels. The idea is to give students the opportunity to manage their time and design their learning in whatever way they want to. Your module leaders would give you just a small percentage of what you need to know, and the student then goes back to their books to research the whys, whens, hows and wheres. Of course, there is a lot of support. Here at the University of Surrey, in my course, we have seminars or tutorials every other week. These are similar to lectures but smaller than lectures with about 10 students at a time; and we have the opportunity to ask module leaders about the more difficult concepts from a lecture. Module leaders also have office hours where you can go to see them one-on-one for a more detailed explanation.

Now, contact hours are replaced by video conferencing and Zoom chats in the same way.

Independent study. Following on from reduced contact hours, it is easy to see that our studying is a lot more independent. In university, you are the master of your future. Time management proves to be a very useful soft-skill. There is no one really chasing the student for coursework and/or assignments. You do it if you want to… and for many students, the motivation is usually because they thirst for knowledge, they want the opportunity to expand their career prospects with the skills they learn, and best of all, they have paid thousands of pounds for this opportunity. Usually, this is motivation enough, but we all have our different reasons to be in university.

Here in Surrey, we have personal tutors, academics from your field of study who guide, advise and/or help push you through your studies.  In addition, most departments have academic societies where you can meet other students from different year groups but within the same field. With this network of people, you do not need to tackle every challenging concept on your own. This has not changed much during this lockdown- save for the introduction of technology instead of face-to-face meetings- we still have to manage our time wisely in order to do everything we set targets to achieve.

So, for the prospective student wondering what really changes academically when you come to university, I hope you find this information useful.

Hoping and praying that everyone remains safe during this time.

That’s all for now folks,