15 January 2021

How to Tackle Online University Learning in Lockdown

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Face-to-face teaching should be restricted to those reading subjects in these areas, and only where face to face teaching or placements are needed to deliver learning outcomes. Wherever possible, teaching and learning should be provided online(Department of Education)

Universities across the UK have introduced a series of changes to university teaching and to the accessibility of facilities / resources for students, in line with government restrictions on COVID-19.

With some students spending lockdown 3.0 pursuing their degree virtually from the family home or from their uni digs, the university experience this term will be hugely different for most students.

That’s why we’ve put together this blog. To help you adapt and respond to some of the key challenges you might be facing. It covers:

  • How to organise your workload and stay productive with online teaching
  • Ways to keep yourself entertained during a national lockdown
  • How to look after your mental health this term

Keeping Organised and Productive

This term will be challenging. With changing guidelines in response to the shifting nature of coronavirus, it’s important that you take the steps to stay on top of things from the get-go!

#1 Get set-up and connected

First thing is first. You will need a timetable for this term.

As well as the name, date and time of your lecture or seminar, include the ‘virtual location.’

With teaching delivered through video softwares (like Zoom and MS Teams), it’s essential that you download relevant video meetings apps on your laptop, turn-on audio and camera permissions in your settings and jot down relevant access links/ sign-in details in advance.

If you can’t find this information drop your lecturer an email. After all, you don’t want to miss essential teaching because of technical difficulties or denied access.

With remote learning, communication is key. So keeping note of the emails of your lecturers in case of emergency or on-the-day connectivity issues, means you can get in touch quick.

#2 Establishing a Routine

We all know that routines are invaluable in providing structure to your day and enhancing focus for important activities. A realistic and consistent routine will help you accomplish your goals, dedicate time fairly to different activities and achieve a good ‘work-play’ balance.

Here are five nifty steps to establishing a solid learning routine:

  • Set-up a tidy and clutter-free work station (ideally close to plug sockets and natural lighting)
  • Get dressed each day as you would any other day, to separate your ‘work’ from ‘chill’ time
  • Make a plan for the day at the start of each day and tick off tasks as you complete them
  • Schedule in regular breaks away from your screen (for a walk, cooking, reading etc)
  • Establish a regular sleep pattern aiming for 7-9 hours each day

Working remotely means you might not have the resources or the optimal environment for effective learning. Whether that’s a crowded living space, no Wi-Fi access or a lack of material resources like textbooks, a desk or even a computer or laptop, it’s important you speak up.

Many universities have COVID-19 support funds available to students, and staff should support you with accessing the necessary equipment for you to complete your studies.

#3 Maximising Productivity

You have a timetable and planned out a routine. Great.

But if you don’t sustain the motivation to keep productive and on-task, things can go quickly go south. Think Estelle’s sales for every record released after American Boy. (Ouch.)

Follow these 3 tips so that when you are supposed to be getting on with university work, you are…

  • Limit distractions: put your phone on silent and tuck it away into a drawer to collect after you’ve completed your work. Turn off non-essential notifications on your computer or laptop.
  • Get into a regular meal routine and keep water and a snack at your desk. That way, you won’t need an excuse to just ‘nip to the fridge’.There’s no time to procrastinate.
  • Have a clear awareness of all your deadlines and exam dates so you can prioritise your workload and plan for things in advance. You don’t want to feel overwhelmed all of a sudden.

Keeping Entertained in a Lockdown

If you’re like us, you might find Searching and Applying for Placements, Internships & Insight Schemes a thrilling way to spend your evenings.

But if you’ve already secured work experience, try out these 5 activities to keep you entertained during lockdown 3.0…

#1 Have a virtual bake-off

Coconut panna cotta. Passionfruit pavlova. Apple tarte tatin.

Banana bread was so 2020.

With literally millions of online recipes, weeks of being stuck indoors and let’s face it, having nothing better to do with your evenings, there’s never been a better time for some competitive baking. And it wouldn’t be a lockdown if you didn’t send out a Zoom link to get all your pals involved.

If you’re feeling particularly daring, take a look at these boozy bake recipes.

#2 Knit yourself some new clothing

Knitting has become one of lockdown’s hottest trend.

And we can understand why. It’s cheap, requires minimal materials and is a great excuse to get away from a screen. The best bit? You’ll be rewarded for all your hard work with something you can actually use in your day-to-day life. Whether that’s a scarf, a woolly hat or a blanket.

All that you’ll need are some knitting needles, scissors, a crochet hook and some yarn.

#3 Run a marathon (and badger friends into joining you)

Yes, you read that right. But it’s not as daunting as it sounds.

Whilst you can’t meet up with your pals at the pub, there’s nothing stopping you from teaming up to get fit together. Get your friends on board and set up a ‘virtual’ running group on Strava. Before you know it you’ll be piling up the mileage. And then you can tell everyone you RAN A MARATHON.

Why not fundraise money for a charity of your choice at the same time?

#4 Have a paper chain making contest

This is a GREAT way to get your competitive streak on.

Gone are the days of online quizzes. Instead, you and your friends should invest in some coloured paper, a pair of scissors and a glue stick each. Get comfy, set up a group Zoom call and challenge your friends to see who can make the longest paper chain in an hour.

Lizzie currently holds the RateMyPlacement HQ record, with a staggering 286 rings.

#5 Produce an artistic masterpiece

Reports show that just 45 minutes of creative activity can significantly reduce stress levels.

And you don’t have to be the next Picasso. Whether you’re a skilled artist or just want to make a colourful mess, painting is a fabulous way to have fun, experiment and let your creative juices flow.

If you’re struggling for ideas, invest in a paint-by-numbers pack. You can grab some really impressive designs for less than £10, including paints, paintbrushes and a sizeable template to work with.

Looking After Your Mental Health

Coronavirus has led to a considerable rise in mental health issues amongst young people. Papyrus, a charity for the prevention of young suicide, reported that 90% of contacts using its digital services cite the pandemic as a source of poor mental well-being.

Despite the disruption of COVID-19, there is help and support available.

Remember that you have access to many university support services and wellbeing services remain open to students. You can also reach out to the Nightline Association, a “confidential, anonymous, non-judgmental, non-directive and non-advisory support service run by students for students”.

You can also reach out to student union welfare officers for university-specific issues.

Here are some ways that you can look after your mental health day-to-day…

  • Limit your news intake. Staying informed regarding COVID-19 and changing government regulations is important for your safety. But restrict viewing so as not to feel overwhelmed.
  • Stay in touch. Whether you’re living at home or at university, regularly contacting friends and family is a good way to combat loneliness and allow you to share your anxieties or concerns.
  • Focus on what you can control. Making a list of things you can control, and the things you cannot is a good way to rationalise your concerns and invest your time in positive things.

Feeling overwhelmed with your workload? You can request an extension to assignment deadlines by reaching out to your lecturer or faculty support services, to help ease the pressure.

For more support and details of helplines that you can reach out to, have a look at a blog we recently wrote: Mental Health: Taking Care of Yourself.

It’s been a tumultuous start to 2021. That’s for sure.

But we hope this blog provides you with some nifty tricks and nuggets of wisdom to help you transition to the world of online learning, whilst looking after yourself during lockdown.