University this year is unlike any other year. If you're a little worried about what blended learning means, read our blog from current undergraduate student, James, to find out what online learning is really like.
How did you feel about a new term of blended learning?
As a Dental Student, my time is shared between in-person teaching on clinic, patient interactions and online lectures.
When I found out that this year would revolve around blended learning, I was slightly apprehensive.
When I found out that this year would revolve around blended learning, I was slightly apprehensive. I thought, will I be able to stay motivated? Will it be harder to study? Will we just be given the lecture slides without any audio? However, these concerns had clearly been anticipated by the Dental School, and I have had no problems at all.
How has your degree’s blended learning style impacted teaching on your course?
It has not really had too much impact on my course, I am still on clinics every afternoon. The only difference is our 8.45am lecture each morning has been pre-recorded with the clinician speaking over the lecture slides.
How have you found online learning so far, and do you have any in-person sessions?
I have actually really enjoyed the blended learning style this year. Being able to work from home means I have more time in the morning, because I don't have to commute to university. The lectures are exactly the same as being there in person, so it really hasn’t impacted me too much at all.
With Dentistry being a practical, hands-on subject, we have had loads of in-person sessions. I’m in my fourth year of Dental School, so we have started our lab course on crowns and bridges. I also see patients every afternoon, where there are usually two or three clinicians supervising. I have really enjoyed these sessions, although some of them are certainly challenging!
What are online lectures really like?
I like to try and treat it as if I am going into the lecture, so I will make sure I am fully dressed, sat at my desk with my laptop open, ready to take notes.
We have not had live Zoom lectures like a lot of the other courses, instead we get lectures on ReCAP. I like to try and treat it as if I am going into the lecture, so I will make sure I am fully dressed, sat at my desk with my laptop open, ready to take some notes.
I feel like it would be quite easy to slip into bad routines, but being proactive and making sure you are up and about will definitely help in an early morning lecture.
Do you have much 1 to 1 time with teachers or tutors?
If you are looking for 1 to 1 teaching with tutors and teachers, Dentistry is definitely the course for you. We have personal tutors who are there for pastoral support.
They are always super friendly, and you can ask them as many questions as you like on clinic. I have found that this year, I have tried to go out of my comfort zone and make the most of the 1 to 1 time I have with my clinicians, and I feel like it has definitely improved my skills.
My tutor specifically has an open-door policy so you can always knock and ask for advice on patients, difficulties you might be facing or just a general catch up!
My tutor specifically has an open-door policy so you can always knock and ask for advice on patients, difficulties you might be facing or just a general catch up! In terms of clinical supervisors, I currently have two tutors on each clinic, so approximately 12 in total.
One of the nice things about the Dental School is that you will know the clinicians really well, you will hear stories about their children, their hobbies and even home life! It is a really friendly atmosphere.
What are the benefits and downsides to blended learning?
I would say not having to walk into university in the morning is a big benefit, especially if I am not on clinic until the afternoon. It means I have the full morning to sleep, work, exercise or socialise with my flatmates.
The only downside is when you aren’t feeling motivated, it is harder to make sure you are up, dressed and ready for the lecture when you're not expected to be there physically. I do think my self-motivation has improved throughout this year, though.
Are you using the university facilities to help you?
The university library and IT facilities are still available, you just need to book a 3-hour slot to attend. I have not yet used these facilities as all of our essential (and even non-essential reading) has been made available online so I can read the textbooks in the comfort of my own home.
Describe your experience of blended/online learning at Newcastle in 3 words.
Enjoyable, Challenging, Fun.
What would you want prospective students to know about online learning?
I would just like to finally say, please do not be worried about online learning.
The university, and especially the Dental School, has everything really well planned so that we are not negatively impacted this year.
The university, and especially the Dental School, has everything really well planned so that we are not negatively impacted this year. Although I was apprehensive about online learning, having the ability to go on clinic has made it feel like any other year in Dental School, so it has not greatly impacted me at all.