COVID has thrown many surprises at us and the transition to online university is something that a lot of students have felt apprehensive about. Luckily, the University of Surrey have handled these challenges well and I, personally, have found my studying at university to still be to an amazing standard. In this blog, I’ll share my experiences of studying with online learning.
How has my timetable changed?
I still have all of the usual teaching components in my timetable, they have just been adapted to make us as safe as possible. The lectures have been interactive and have made the best of the situation by including features such as PollEverywhere, Q&As and Kahoot quizzes (my favourites!). In Veterinary Medicine, we complete a lot of group work which hasn’t changed at all! Now, we make full use of breakout rooms and make group presentations through Google Docs, which allows everyone to edit one document from different screens. Our lecturers have been very supportive and are always on hand to help facilitate this work.
Certain courses are exempt meaning our face to face teaching is still going ahead. For VetMed this means our group practical’s, which we have every other week. I’m very happy with how the university have addressed the safety concerns by putting us into smaller groups and putting in place solid protocols for sanitisation and PPE. This means we still receive great quality clinical teaching for all the skills that we need to know, whilst being reassured that we are safe. I actually prefer the smaller groups as well!
How do we deal with technical problems?
This is definitely another area the university have been very successful with! This year a new platform called MySurrey Voice was launched, which is incredible! You can raise new ideas and suggest improvements, which your classmates can interact with and add their own opinions. For example, you may raise that a lecture recording is missing. This is then escalated to course representatives and members of staff, who can address any concerns and action new improvements. This has been so helpful as, with online learning, you still feel that you have your lecturer’s attention and you can still discuss with them and your peers in the same way as before – just virtually! You can find out more about MySurrey Voice here.
The university has also adjusted their exam policies appropriately and successfully with extra time given in exams in case of any issues, an easier policy of applying for Extenuating Circumstances if you felt that your performance had been unfairly affected by technical problems and the use of the library space to sit your exam if you are worried about connection or having a quiet space. All of these measures have made me feel very reassured that I would not be disadvantaged if something was to happen and that possible problems have been well thought out.
What are my top tips for studying online?
For me, I really enjoy using checklists and the Forest app which really helps me avoid distractions. I also find it really helpful to have study sessions with your flatmates as this minimises distractions and helps you keep motivated together!
The most important thing, in my opinion though, is to make sure you look after yourself and take breaks. This could be as simple as moving to work or socialise in another part of your flat, treating yourself to a take away with your flatmates or catching up with your current Netflix series. For me, going for walks has done wonders for my mental health and has broken up days spent at my laptop really well! Luckily, Surrey is so beautiful so there are plenty of spaces to get out and explore – including our own gorgeous campus!
Transitioning to online university has definitely felt quite strange at times but I’m very proud of how students and staff have pulled together to make it just as successful as face to face teaching. There is also so much support available if you are feeling apprehensive or are struggling from personal tutors to the Centre of Wellbeing to support you. A list of support can be accessed here.
Make sure you check out our Student Instagram to see how other students are adapting to online studying and to see their top tips! You can find us at @surreystudent.