My Experience Learning Online as an Engineering Student
Having come back to university for second year, we are all experiencing a very different kind of learning to what we were expecting or experienced last year. With the unpredictability of the virus, we are unsure how long online learning will continue for. In this post, I will outline how this has changed my learning experience and the pros & cons of this.
Of the four components of my learning, this is probably the most straightforward change from last year to this year. Typically during my first year, I would have around three lectures a day for different modules, in different lecture halls. These had around 300 students at a maximum, in the 50-minute-long session. Now with this being online, I have fewer lectures a week, but these are longer in length. Typically I would say I have 8 lectures a week and these are all released on the Monday of each week. This means you ultimately have more autonomy over when you are learning. Moreover, one of my modules released all of the lectures at the start of term however I still complete these each week.
One major positive for online lectures is that you can choose the speed you listen to the lecture at and rewind parts you don’t understand. Ultimately, this means each lecture takes me longer however I find it more enjoyable, as I am understanding what I am learning.
Additionally, each lecturer has also indicated virtual office hours in which we can book and attend on Microsoft Teams for extra help.
Last year, I typically had around three labs a week in the afternoon, with these being 2-4 hours in length. These were a great way to apply our theoretical knowledge to practical applications and I gained a variety of skills throughout. These included becoming proficient in MATLAB, Simulink and Autodesk Fusion 360, on top of learning how to solder and connect electrical components.
Ultimately, these have been the biggest loss with the transition to online university. I have had 6 laboratory sessions this term, with one of them being in person. The rest of the labs are self-paced online and assessed using online tests and lab reports.
Assignments, essays, group projects and reports have remained relatively consistent compared to last year. The submissions still take place online and they are evenly spread throughout the second half of term. Group projects have been conducted through MS team calls and more emphasis has been placed on our software skills, instead of hardware.
I have already had experience with the new form of exams, due to my year 1 exams being placed online in the summer. These are conducted through a QMP (Question Mark Perception) test, which consists of multiple-choice answers. You typically have an hour to complete the test, which is different to the 2-3 hours I had for exams before the transition, however there are less questions in each of the exams. Additionally, you are required to submit your working out for each question at the end to ensure you didn’t guess the question.
In conclusion, it has been a steep transition to online learning however both my department and Warwick have created the best possible outcomes to support us in our learning. Studying indoors gives you more flexibility in your time, so I would create yourself a timetable at the start of term, adding in both breaks, and exercise.