Online vs in-person – from my perspective
I’ve been wondering about the impact of online learning recently. I’m in my third year now – and was lucky enough to have a largely uninterrupted first year (with the first two terms being normal), before Covid appeared. And then, of course, everything went online, and suddenly second year consisted of Microsoft Teams, online lectures, and group projects where no one turned their camera on – and I still don’t know what some of them look like today. Although, with masks on in seminars now, I still don’t fully know what a lot of people look like!
So, what impact has it had? Well, I’ve definitely met less people on my course than I think I otherwise would have done. In first year I went to things like design jam, which was every Tuesday in the build space (the maker space in the engineering building), where you could (as the name suggests) design whatever you wanted to, and then make it for free. You could also join a design project going on at the time – I think it was especially popular because of the free pizza.
Cut to second year, and none of that! Minimal reason to go into the engineering building, and no way to easily meet other people on the course through the normal means of lectures, seminars, group projects and labs. Of course, group projects were still a thing (although as I’ve already mentioned, they maybe weren’t quite as good as the face-to-face version).
But hang on, weren’t there good parts too? Well, yes, actually, loads! Maybe I’m among the few who has liked online learning, but I’ve found it so much easier to be productive when I have 100% choice over how I spend my time. If there’s a lecture I’m finding difficult to understand, stopping the video and rewinding just a little bit is so much more time efficient than in-person lectures where, when you get lost, you have to sit there and take notes anyway in the hope that when you go home you can figure it out later!
It’s also saved quite a lot of time, not commuting to lectures and back. I also find it easier to concentrate in my room or the library, rather than in lectures where someone might be talking to you and then you miss a bit (which is super annoying by the way). I definitely value the efficiency of being able to contact lecturers by email too – and for having Teams meetings, all instead of traipsing to their office. So much time inefficiency before all of that!!!
Of course, I think it depends on the person. Some people prefer structured timetables of online content, and rely on those to keep on track. But personally I like being able to structure my time and using the flexibility and lack of commute time to my advantage. I also like having fewer labs that are timetabled to finish at 6 or 7pm (although there has been one of those this term!).
Exams have also been online – and structurally they have changed a lot, at least from my experience. I can’t say I’m a fan of not being able to go back to the previous question, but I have overall found that I’ve done well in my online exams (in fact, better than my in-person ones in first year). I wonder if that’s because of time efficiency and having more time to study, since there not a huge amount else to do, especially last year!
But definitely, this year has been better than last – now that it’s a mix of online and in-person learning, I can meet the people in my group projects, and actually get to know people and make friends with people on my course and in seminars who I meet sort of by accident – but would never have met at all if it was all online only! It’s also been nice to be able to do my own laboratory experiments in the gait laboratory for my third year project – something that definitely wouldn’t have happened a year earlier! Things are getting back to a new normal – and I think I like this (most efficient) version most of all!
Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash