From Campus to Digital Learning: The Journey of a Final Year Student

What my learning used to be like:

My first and second year did look completely different to the set up this year. Over the previous 2 years, my learning has consisted of a mixture of lectures and seminars. I had enjoyed my learning experience; it was mainly focused on being led by the lecturer and there were a few discussion opportunities throughout my seminars, even though this sounds disengaging, it worked well for me and my course. I found this way of learning and working easier to create a structured day.

So, what has actually changed?

The thought of a complete restructure of the way I must learn at university, whilst moving into my final year, was quite daunting at the start of September. The restructure towards the digital platform has brought forward a new outlook on learning at university and has allowed courses to steer away from the traditional methods of learning to focus on more engaging material.

Each week, I have tasks to complete, that I can do in my own time and at my own pace. These tasks range from forum discussions, quizzes, film-watching, reading and short-answer questions.

To accompany the new interactive learning; I am still taught through pre-recorded videos, the material that would have previously of been covered in lectures. In addition to the independent working, I still have small group online meetings each week that covers the set work- kind of seminar style, so not completely different.

What was most unexpected for me:

This may come at a surprise for some, but I now have more of a chance to converse with course mates and lecturers. Every week, each of my lecturers host a Q&A session, that gives us the opportunity to ask any course related questions.  I’m sure the thought of the zoom breakout rooms brings a slight fear to us all. But as a final year, I appreciate the chance to converse with people on my course and discuss module (or non-module) related stuff.

In one of my modules, we use Padlet to write our comments discussed in the breakout groups. This is a great resource as it is anonymous and allows everyone to contribute to questions even if they’re unsure on their answer.

What I like the most this year:

I love the use of the online platforms for discussions and questions, that can be viewed by everyone. For example, Piazza has been introduced by one of my lecturers this year and I genuinely think it works really well to get answers and view questions of other students. You find answers to those questions that you have secretly been dying to ask. If your lecturers have not made use of Piazza, I would recommend encouraging them to do so!

What I miss the most:

I can’t say that I don’t miss campus learning. Because I do and I presume we all do. There is something far more motivating about getting up for an 8:30 when there is a place to be for it. Procrastinating sat in the forum with a coffee and friends is far more appealing than sat alone procrastinating at home. I definitely have struggled and I sometimes find it harder to get motivated but adding some structure in my day, I’m adapting to a new normal. If you asked me this time last year, I probably would have loved an online 8:30 instead of an in-person one; so I appreciate the extra time asleep now.

The DLDs do Movember!

By Scott Jackson, Digital Learning Developer, UEBS.

It’s November, and for many people around the country that means a month of dodgy moustaches and limbs aching from running. Globally, on average, one man dies by suicide every minute, meanwhile over one million men are diagnosed with prostate cancer annually. Every year, Movember swings into action on November 1st with the aim of tackling these two issues, with people growing moustaches, shaving heads or “moving for mo”, all with the sole aim of raising money for a good cause.

Last year the University of Exeter raised nearly £90,000 for Movember, the highest total by any university in the country. To put that amazing achievement into context, the University of Oxford came in second place with £40,000. Groups of people can come together in teams to fundraise and I took part with the other members of the Touch Rugby society, you can see the rather questionable results below…

Remote working can be lonely at times, coming in to the role I was worried I would feel isolated and that I would struggle to build the bonds which come much more naturally in an office. And yet, despite having never actually met in person, we’ve struck up a real bond as a team. There are fantastic online tools out there which can help you feel connected with people, and as a group we make a real effort to virtually socialise as best we can. We realise not everybody is as lucky as we are, and many people may be struggling with their mental health working from home and away from friends, so we wanted to do something outside of our daily work which could make a difference. Arguably, this year mental health is more important than ever, as we enter a winter lockdown it is inevitable people will struggle. With this in mind we’ve set up a Movember team for the DLDs.

We’ve set ourselves the target of £1,000 and over the course of the month myself, Bradley Hale and Louis Clement-Harris will be gradually ruining our faces with sketchy facial hair. Meanwhile the amazing Maria Georgouli Loupi, Annabel Ilic and Kate Prior will all be running/moving to raise money and support the cause. Even though there’s only six of us so far, we’re spread out all over the UK and beyond, with Team members as far abroad as Spain and Greece. This just goes to show the incredible power Movember has to bring people together, and even in these strange times where working together in a physical office is impossible, colleagues can still come together for a good cause.

As the month goes on we’ll be posting updates of our moustaches and the distance we’ve managed to cover, plus we might even see if we can host some sort of virtual charity event. In the meantime, you can check out our Movember fundraising page where you can keep an eye on what we’re up to and donate if you wish.


Developing my skills as a DLA

By Maria de Oliveira Pazzianotto Pinto, Digital Learning Assistant, UEBS.

Last summer I was appointed as a Digital Learning Assistant (DLA) at the University of Exeter. In this role, I had the opportunity of working with many people, from academics to colleagues, doing a number of different things. The best part of this internship has been the opportunity to create video tutorials to help students in the digital environment.

When I first started the internship, I had no experience in creating videos. Last year I had a group assignment in one of my modules which involved creating a video, and the first thing I said to my group was: “I can do as much research as you want, but please don’t ask me to edit the video!”.

However, circumstances changed, and as a DLA, I was required IT skills to help bringing the University’s teaching to the online platform. One of my first tasks was to create a video tutorial for a tool named ThingLink. Maybe it was because I wanted to impress my superiors in my first activity as a DLA. Maybe it was because I had been quarantining for the past 3 months and had a lot of free time. Whatever the reason, I was determined to deliver the best video tutorial I could create. I researched on editing tools, how to record voiceovers, how to add music to a video, etc.

ThingLink video:

At the end, creating the video was great. I recorded the screen as I worked my way through the tool and recorded my voice on top of that. The video was very well received by my Digital Learning Developer (DLD) and after that I was asked to create many other videos. The more videos I made, the better the quality would get.

Now, studying entirely online for my second year in University, half of my modules required video assignments for the mid-terms. What seemed like an impossible task during my first year, now is an exciting and inspiring assignment for myself. Because of the knowledge I acquired as a DLA, I try to deliver creative videos in my assignments, aiming to keep it interesting to who is going to watch it.

This is just one example of how being a DLA has helped me in University. This internship has been an amazing opportunity to develop skills that will be useful for my studies and career.