I have personally greatly enjoyed the combination of hybrid and virtual learning at Surrey, but at the beginning, I was definitely feeling a bit apprehensive. Having taken a year between my undergraduate and postgraduate degree, I hadn’t studied during the pandemic and experienced virtual learning. I hadn’t even watched a lecture online before, as my previous university didn’t record any of our lectures! I had no idea what to expect, but during unprecedented times, I was looking forward to undertaking a new challenge. It took some time and adjustment to get used to the “new normal” of learning – and for those of you who are starting hybrid or virtual learning for the first time or just looking for some hints and tricks – this is for you!
Set yourself up for success
Malcolm Gladwell famously stated that it takes 10,000 hours to master something. Whilst my MSc in Human Resources Management may not have taken me 10,000 hours yet, I have spent countless hours in front of my laptop screen, hunched over the keyboard on a hard wooden chair. Halfway through my first semester, I started to feel aches and pains in my back and wrists. At first, I feared that after 23 years, my body was already giving up on me. Thankfully, this was not the case. After some Google searching and chatting to a friend of mine who is doing his PhD, I learned how important it is to set up your workspace to be ergonomic and suitable for long hours of work. I traded my wooden chair for an (affordable) adjustable office chair, I bought a mouse to use instead of my trackpad and I invested in a computer monitor. By making these small changes to my workspace, it made such a huge difference, I have had no pains since!
Sticking to a schedule
Prior to my postgraduate degree, I was working in the hotel industry. The concept of a body clock was almost unfamiliar to me, as I worked a variety of shifts from morning, to afternoon, to night. Instead, I usually jolted awake after hearing my alarm blaring. It was hard to imagine that I could stick to a schedule, but I was determined to do so. I had seen some students on the @surreystudent Instagram account page sharing their tips for virtual learning, and one piece of advice was to stick to a schedule. Just as an office employee works from 9 to 5, decide upon a period which are your set working hours, and schedule in your start time, regular breaks, meals, hobby time, and social time and of course, set a time to turn off your laptop and unwind. Whilst it may seem a little strange to add rigidity to your university life, I found that it was hugely helpful when studying in the comfort of my own home, as it can be a little more challenging to feel motivated.
Juggling your life
Let’s think back to that 10,000 hours statement… although it may be true, the Surrey experience, and life itself is about so much more than just mastering your degree. Maintaining a work-life balance is key for your well-being, and society involvement is a fantastic way to meet new people, connect with others over common interests, or even try something new. Surrey is home to over 160 societies, so there is really something for everyone.
Make sure to maintain a healthy balance for your physical health too and take some time away from your laptop. I try to address this by keeping track of my water intake using a mobile application that sends me reminds me to drink and helps me to reach my goal of 8 cups a day. I also use the SurreyMoves+ mobile app, which synchronizes to your mobile device to track your activity and gives you points accordingly. You can redeem your points for rewards to motivate you a little more to keep active!
By listening to the experiences of others, I found what works best for me to manage my time and life around the demands of my programme. I hope that some of my advice, tips and tricks can help you to make the most out of hybrid and virtual learning during your degree.