Hi, I’m Grace, a fourth year Business and Management student and Digital Learning Assistant here at the University of Exeter. Last year I completed a year studying abroad in Brisbane, Australia and so this year has been a really big change in terms of online learning.
There is no questioning that this year has completely revolutionised the university learning experience. The normal 5 days a week on campus has been completely flipped around and I have found myself having very little face-to-face seminars and no in-person lectures or office hours to attend throughout the year. Large scale change like this is always going to be a little nerve-wracking. Although at first, I found myself a little apprehensive and unsure as to how my final year was going to pan out, I have actually found many positives to come out of digital learning…
- More Control Over My Schedule
I’ve lost count of the number of times spent rushing across campus from one lecture to another, sweating after a trek up the dreaded Forum Hill. Although I’ve missed the bustling campus atmosphere, digital learning has allowed me more flexibility with time management, and the ability to control my schedule. Asynchronous learning is perfect for doing in your own time and fitting in around other commitments, which I’ve also found reduces the pressure on those days during lockdown where the motivation just isn’t there. My housemates and I have made more of an effort to get out of the house for walks and being able to get some fresh air as a result of a more flexible schedule has been a welcome change!
Credits: Emily Jepp
- No Need to Commute
As well as the reduced pressure of a fixed schedule, digital learning has also simplified my learning experience as I am not bound by geography. Going home for a weekend during term-time used to be difficult to plan around lectures, but now I can be anywhere and still complete all my work just as easily. I enjoy finding out where all my classmates are in the world when we get a chance to chat in online lectures and have saved time on the daily commute to campus. Last year I studied abroad in Brisbane, Australia and I actually started my role as a DLA while I was there due to getting stuck there thanks to COVID! Being able to work and learn, without having to worry about time differences or where in the world I was definitely means one less thing to worry about.
- Easier and Quicker Feedback
A further advantage of digital learning is the increased ease of receiving and asking for feedback. Shouting out a question in front of a large lecture hall I know many students can find intimidating. Since starting digital learning, I’ve found that there are a greater number of methods to ask for feedback, that also give a quicker response. Notably, using the chat function in lectures, asking questions via the Padlet feature integrated into many ELE pages and even receiving peer feedback via breakout rooms in seminars have all been extremely useful feedback tools for me. Online office hours I have also found of great value, as sometimes being unable to get to in-person office hours due to timetable clashes meant I missed out on this feedback opportunity.
- Working at My Own Pace
Everyone works at their own pace. In-person teaching was sometimes challenging if a lecturer went too fast, or you worked quicker than others in group tutorials. Now, digital learning has allowed me to work at my own pace, allowing me to learn how works best for me, as well as being able to go over elements that I don’t understand as well much more easily. Not only has this reduced an element of stress involved with trying to keep up in a lecture, but I can also tailor my working day to how I am feeling. The tick list feature on ELE has been particularly helpful for me, to keep track of where I’m up to, particularly given final year can feel a bit of a juggling act!
My study-life balance has definitely improved as a result of the transition to digital learning, and I am sure that as online learning continues to develop, there are many more benefits to be reaped. What benefits have you found to the ‘new normal’ ways of working?