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Hope's Story: What is Online Learning Really Like?

By Hope
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For those who are struggling to get an idea of what online learning is like, we've asked our current undergraduate students to tell us about their experience. Read how Hope is finding online learning below.

How did you feel about a new term of blended learning? 

I expected the new term to consist of blended learning to be honest, so I had mentally prepared myself for what this meant in terms of self-learning and the lack of socialisation.

I also know it is the safest and best option for both myself and the rest of the cohort and staff.

Obviously, I felt disappointed about this new style of learning - given its my final year at university and I rely heavily on face-to-face teaching to learn, alongside peer support. Having said that, I also know it is the safest and best option for both myself and the rest of the cohort and staff.

The fact that the staff are always punctual and reliable with responding to emails is reassuring, and it's made me feel like I have access to the right support. 

 

How has your degree’s blended learning style impacted teaching on your course? 

This is difficult to answer, as we are not usually in university much in the first term because we're working on our dissertations. But all our seminars have been on Zoom, A lot of students have all their dissertation meetings on Zoom also, but I have had a mix of Zoom and face-to-face meetings.

This blended learning also meant that students can't do laboratory-based dissertations, and everyone has to complete what are called ‘dry projects’.  

 

How have you found online learning so far, and do you have any in-person sessions?

There are changes to our assessments, as we usually have presentations in fourth year as part of our dissertation, and problem-based learning – but these will both be online now.

We haven't had a great deal of online teaching as we wouldn’t normally be in university much the first semester anyway. But I am aware there will be more teaching next term, when we'll have to do our clinical skills sessions in full PPE.

There are changes to our assessments, as we usually have presentations in fourth year as part of our dissertation, and problem-based learning – but these will both be online now. We have also been informed that our examination next summer will be an online assessment. 

At the moment, I don't have a lot of in-person sessions. Some students do have dissertation meetings in-person, and next term we will have more site-based teaching in clinical skills. 

 

What are online lectures really like? 

Online lectures are good in the sense that you can still converse with lecturers, and ask any questions. But I do think some people find it awkward when getting split into breakout rooms.

I think it’s the artificial element of it, as people would not usually feel uncomfortable in a more traditional setting. But the lectures are still recorded, so you can revisit them after the session and go over any areas you're unsure of.

 

Do you have much 1 to 1 time with teachers or tutors? 

We have one to one time with our dissertation tutors, but this can vary depending on who your tutor is, and how much support is required for your topic.

Some students have weekly Zoom calls, but this varies for each individual student. Students will have also arranged or completed a Zoom call with their personal tutors.

But that is the only one to one time so far for most of us – which is similar to the amount of one to one time students get under normal circumstances.

 

What are the benefits and downsides to blended learning?

A benefit of online learning is that you don't need to travel to Newcastle to attend university, which is safer for students and academic staff. 

It is also more flexible in the sense you can complete work when you want and listen to recorded sessions in your own time.

t is also more flexible in the sense you can complete work when you want and listen to recorded sessions in your own time – which makes for a lot more of a laid back experience in terms of teaching, organising dissertation meetings etc.

Unfortunately, the social aspect of university has changed a lot.  

Unfortunately, the social aspect of university has changed a lot. I do believe it is a lot easier to focus and stay motivated when you're in university and in that environment. For me, there aren't a lot of benefits to this new way of learning – I rely a lot on communication in my learning, with both academics and also peers.  

It's been hard to stay motivated at home, especially when I think about whether 'normal' university life will ever come back. I have found that keeping a list of daily tasks has really helped me keep on track of weekly goals and tasks. I miss all my friends and also just seeing the academics around campus and being in university (and my regular Starbucks!). 

 

Are you using the university facilities to help you? 

I have used the online library, and I've booked in to access the library to help improve my concentration and restore a sense of normality. I've also used the online library training to help with my dissertation searches, and the structure of my dissertation, which have been helpful also. 

 

Describe your experience of blended/online learning at Newcastle in 3 words. 

Appropriate, flexible, simple. 

 

How would you describe your experience overall?

I believe online teaching is essential given the current climate, and fully comprehend how challenging delivering these services must be for all the schools in Newcastle University. I do believe the university has done a great job in facilitating this for students.
Overall, I believe online teaching is essential in the given climate and fully comprehend how challenging delivering these services must be for all the schools in Newcastle University, and believe the university has done a great job and facilitating this for students.
I think it's great how they have organised library bookings and allowed students to still have this access to facilities, and they are still open good hours.
We hope you have found this blog post useful. We understand that this is trying time for students, current and prospective, and you may be feel worried about what this upcoming year will look like. For more information, read our blog on what is online learning. Alternatively, you can find answers to all your burning questions on our FAQs page.

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Tags: Undergraduate, Student Stories, UG Pre-Application, UG Post-Application