In early 2020, the coronavirus pandemic caused universities to close their lecture theatres and libraries, taking learning online. Zoom became the new classroom, and courses were conducted - as far as possible - over the internet, with students encouraged to return home to reduce the spread of the virus. A lot has changed since then. Though we’re unlikely to return to 2019 teaching levels any time soon, this year’s university classes will be blended.
Depending on your course, you’ll probably spend some of your time in the lecture theatre, and some of the time learning the theory behind your chosen subject at home. It’s not perfect, but it’s a compromise that ensures you can study and work towards your degree.
Below, we’ve put together some of the pros and cons, and offer tips on blended learning…
One of the biggest benefits of blended learning is that you have more flexibility in your day; though some lectures will be live, other parts of your course can be conducted when you’re ready. That’s good news if you’ve got a part-time job or you enjoy playing video games on an evening and don’t want to study from 9 am. Because you have access to all of your learning materials online, you can study when it suits you best - even during the middle of the night!
Another reason why blended learning works so well is because you can learn the theory of your course in your own time. If you’re struggling with a particular concept, you don’t have to quickly scribble down a resource and then access it from home. You can spend as long as you need getting to grips with your studies and look elsewhere for tips, and if you’re still not able to fully grasp a concept, you can speak to your lecturer during your contact sessions.
Cast your mind back to your GCSEs and A-Levels, and the chances are you discovered the right way to learn for your brain: visual, authority, or kinesthetic. You’ve sat through lectures and want to spend time studying, so create a learning strategy that works for you. You won’t have the pressure of your usual university timetable or the hustle and bustle from the library; find a revision style that works and stick with it until you’re confident in your course material.
One of the biggest challenges of blended learning is that you might not be as motivated to revise and study when you’re not physically attending lectures every day. It’s so easy to see a “free revision time” space on your timetable and use it for online shopping or to catch up with friends. But in order to maximise your chances of success, you’ll need to put in the hard work. Properly schedule your day, give yourself breaks, and come up with rewards for when you do well. For example, after every 2 hours of study, you can have 30 minutes of free time.
Now is your chance to ask your parents for a new MacBook! If you’re going to be spending more of your time at home studying, you need to have the right equipment for the job. Okay, you don’t need to spend thousands on a new laptop, but you do need a computer that’s fast and has the software you need to learn, whether that’s Photoshop or Microsoft Excel. You also need a space in your student pad or family home where you can study uninterrupted; if that isn’t possible, see whether your university library is open and book out a study room for an afternoon. After all, you’re paying thousands for your uni course, so utilise the facilities!
If you’re only just starting university this year, taking a blended course will no doubt feel like a bit of a let down - you haven’t managed to make friends and you’re not sure what campus life is like. Do your best to make the most of your visits to the university, check out facilities that are open, and remember: it won’t be like this forever. As the government relaxes some of the restrictions on contact and universities innovate, we’ll see more classes be conducted face-to-face and, sooner or later, get back to the way things were. Hang on in there!
Finally, don’t feel like you’re on your own. Everyone else on your course will be sitting in the same virtual lectures and spending time at home studying, so lean on them. Set up a group on Facebook where you can motivate each other and ask questions, and consider splitting off into smaller study groups where you can chat over FaceTime and test each other. With the COVID-19 crisis making it harder to meet up with friends, take advantage of your contact time at university by catching up with classmates after a lecture and running through the course. Sometimes, knowing someone else is in the same boat makes revision much easier.
If you’re already on campus, check out our all-inclusive student bills packages to give you one less thing to worry about this year. And check back to the Billing Better blog soon for more tips and tricks on making the most of your studies during the coronavirus pandemic.