I’m sure no one could have imagined that the academic year would have ended this way. The disruptions from the global pandemic have brought about a new normal in more ways than one. Online learning at university is most definitely one of them and although it comes with its own concerns and challenges, it could be something we see more often in the near future.

When campus was closed, many classes and lectures made the shift online fairly quickly and this included revision sessions with lecturers on Zoom. The experience was straight forward, with students being able to access sessions via a link sent to our emails. The majority of the Zoom classes were recorded and put on Moodle so they could be re-watched if anything was missed in the live class. Alternatively, some seminars were recorded as a voice note and uploaded alongside the corresponding PowerPoint topic. This way, students could listen in their own time making the experience a lot easier.

When it came to exams, the instructions were made very simple for us all to understand. The assessments took place in the form of ‘take-home exams’. In the Economics department, we were given 3 hours to download the paper at the time of the exam, complete the exam and re-upload our answers onto FASER. Fortunately, I was able to work in a calm environment away from distractions to make the examinations as stress-free as possible. If I had to mention one thing that was a little bit of a pain, it would be the process of uploading the exam paper. I had made the decision to hand write all my exams because that is what I was most comfortable doing. However, it meant I would need to scan my answers and put them into one word document before submitting them. I completely underestimated the time this would take and so felt the time pressure during my first exam. This error was avoided in the exams that followed as I was better able to estimate the time needed to complete the paper and upload it in time.

Naturally, new experiences come with their own challenges and adjustments. The main challenge for me was maintaining the same levels of discipline to my studies despite being at home. It is fairly easy to get distracted whilst being stuck at home with the entire family. Secondly, the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic has been another challenge in and of itself. There have been moments during this period where motivation and morale has been low. This is particularly due to the devastating implications and effects the virus has had on many thousands of people.

Fortunately, I was able to secure a 12-week internship with an AR/VR company via the Essex Interns Programme a week before lockdown was announced by the government. This role helped me build a daily routine and remain focused whilst working from home. Despite only being in the office for the first 2 days, I am grateful to have still been able to complete the internship remotely. Meeting and working alongside new people allowed me to gain key skills that will most definitely be useful in future employment opportunities. Aside from this, I was also determined to ensure that regular exercise or physical activity became part of my routine. Most of the time, this would simply be a walk around the local area. Other times, I would have work out sessions with a few friends via Zoom in my back garden. This played an important role in helping to de-stress from the pressures that came with completing a degree during a global pandemic.

Overall, my experience during lockdown and with online learning has been as positive as it could be. The support from the university has allowed it to be as smooth as possible with students being kept up to date at every stage. In the near future, online learning could be a key part of university learning and the past few months have proved that it has the capacity to be successful for many students and institutions.