Looking back on blended learning
So this has been a very strange academic year…
As a finalist, I’ve had a university experience that was normal, having a first and second year that were relatively uninterrupted, and then there’s this year, my final year, in which life changed drastically. In particular, I had to adapt to a new teaching model. In a way, it was no different to what I’d already experienced, only now most of my teaching was online instead of in-person, but it was still the same quality of teaching.
There’s been a blended approach to teaching this year, meaning there’s been a mix of online and face-to-face learning. Most of my seminars were online, conducted on Microsoft Teams, and all lectures were pre-recorded and made available online.
I had one in-person seminar a week during term 1, which was great, but that got moved online when the winter lockdown was implemented. I found the adjustment relatively easy, and while I did miss in-person teaching, it was more a wider sense that I was missing out on everything else I’d do in normal life, but at least I still had classes to attend. I felt that I was able to focus more on my studies this year, and enjoyed studying a lot more as a result.
Lectures have been online too, which was surprisingly beneficial for me, as I could pause them and take notes as I wished. As lectures are often not interactive, having them online this year didn’t make much of a difference to my learning of the content. Plus, now I can watch them at a time that suits me.
One thing that online seminars improve is the ability to put names to faces because in a Teams meeting everyone’s name appears on screen, whereas in my first and second year I was going to in-person seminars but by the end of the year still only knew one or two of my classmates’ names.
Online seminars also make me feel more comfortable contributing to discussions. I don’t consider myself a shy person, but during in-person seminars it can be difficult to bring your voice into discussions, especially if you don’t feel overly confident in your ideas. Online seminars however, are more orderly. If you want to say something, you can put your digital hand up and the tutor will call on you. In person, it’s harder to get across that you want to speak, so this year I felt I was contributing more than I did before.
I’ve also felt that I’ve been better at managing my time, mostly due to the lack of social distractions and commute times. My commute has been from my bed to my desk, as opposed to travelling to campus every day. It’s saved me time, and also means I feel less tired. Last year, while the amount of walking I was doing was good for my physical health, the travelling was draining. Without that, I’ve found it easier to focus on my work as opposed to feeling exhausted or distracted.
I’ve also seen my grade average improve this year, and I’m not sure whether to put it down to the fact that I’m further along in my academic development, or whether it’s because I’ve spent more time indoors with little else to do aside from study. It’s probably a combination of both.
My assessment methods also changed. Other subjects have transitioned to online exams, but as an English Literature student, most of my assessed work was coursework essays anyway. This year it was 100% coursework. In previous years I would have had one or two exams, but due to the nature of the course they were switched to an alternate coursework assessment during the pandemic. This suited me a lot better as I’ve always disliked exams.
Not every change this year has been a negative one, and overall I’d say the changes have had a positive impact on my academic achievement. Of course I’m looking forward to things getting back to normal, and will mourn my final year that could have been, but on reflection, I adjusted pretty easily to the adapted teaching style this year and still got my education…perhaps an even better education than I would have otherwise had.