Online Learning at Surrey University

As you will all be aware, social distancing measures and protocols have been in place everywhere in the UK to keep people safe in the current climate we are in – the Covid-19 pandemic. This has meant that places have had to adapt to new structures and ways of doing things in order to maintain safety. In this blog, I’ll talk to you about how Surrey adapted by transferring all learning online, and will give you an insight into the structure of this new format.

A new ‘hybrid learning’ format will be rolled out from September, with a mixture of online learning and small tutorials, lab and practical sessions being delivered in person.

Surrey Learn

Our virtual learning environment, Surrey Learn, is the online hub for everything, from lecture notes, to Turnitin (the similarity checker), submitting assignments and finding important updates from lecturers.

This is used a lot regardless of online learning but has been even more important in recent times as the place to go for pretty much any part of work. Two of my favourite features are the ‘News’ part of each module where academics will post messages to update students with any changes or announcements. Also, it depends on the individual, but rather than email, many lecturers choose to use the ‘Discussion board’ where you can post questions that will be answered and public for the cohort to see – sharing information and learning through this is great.

Surrey Learn – Virtual Learning Platform

Panopto

This is the platform the academics use to record their lectures and can be accessed through Surrey Learn. The lectures are saved on the system and can be watched back at any time. Often, the lecturer’s slides will be seen, and sometimes the lecturer too, or just their voice, depending on the format. You are able to slow the lectures down, speed up and pause them as you wish, to learn at your own pace.

Zoom

You have probably heard of this platform recently but may not necessarily have used it for academia. This is the form that some lecturers choose to deliver live lectures or tutorial type sessions. This means that people attend at the same time (like in a live lecture theatre, but just virtually in their separate rooms). Lots of lecturers will also record sessions for people to look back on, or if you’d been unable to tune in due to time differences or other at-home commitments.      

You generally will have your camera and microphone off so that there are no disruptions or distractions, but sometimes more discussion-based, smaller group sessions may require interaction.

MyTimetable

Here is where you will be able to find your timetable once the semester gets underway – it will let you know what subject, topic, lecturer, time and (potentially) room that the session will be held, so that you are able to manage your time and keep on track of when you should be learning.

At Home Desk

Not knowing how and if the library is able to operate, it seems that lots of your work could well be done at home or in your flat. From doing schoolwork and exams, you may well be used to working at home, but perhaps not in such close proximity to your bedroom before.

Try as best you can to find a quiet place where you can sit at your desk and concentrate on your work without distractions, as this will help to get you into the right mindset to focus. If you need to play music or shut your door, do this. And, as you are spending a lot of time here, you want to make sure it is comfortable and feels like a workspace.

My desk at home

Organisation

Lay out the books or notes that you need and plan what you are going to get done with a diary so that you don’t miss anything and keep on track of your deadlines and work.

Try to keep your desk space tidy because it will help to keep your mind open to learning, rather than distracted. And, if possible, separate working from relaxing, so even though you are likely not to have separate rooms or spaces, put your books away once you are finished with them, to distinguish between the two.

I appreciate that it is a lot to comprehend at the moment, especially if you haven’t taken this form of learning before, but everyone will be doing the same! Despite adapting very quickly back in March, when it became apparent that learning would go online, the lecturers have time to understand the online platforms. They have found the best ways to engage with students virtually and will be able to deliver brilliant content whether that is online or in person.

Best of luck for the new academic year!