It felt strange to wake up on Monday knowing that a new term had started. I’m so used to separating university and home that I had to remind myself regularly in week one that there were lectures to do and assignments to get through.
But we’re all through the first week and hopefully settling into yet another new routine.
Back when I was choosing where to study for the next four years, I couldn’t have imagined doing so much of my learning online and even as recently as the start of this year, I still didn’t quite know what to expect. It’s been a big change but I thought, for anyone out there considering coming to study at Warwick, getting an idea of an online day might be helpful at this point.
I’ve taken the approach of trying to make working from home as much like working at university as possible so the alarm goes off at 06:28 (I don’t know why 06:28 rather than 06:30 but it is what it is at this point) and I get up and dressed for work.
I try and start my work for the day between 08:00 and 09:00 but some mornings I’ll go for an early run and allow it to be a little bit late or if I’m really keen to get on with something, normally if there is something I know I can make decent progress on, I might start a little bit earlier. Regardless, live events don’t ever start before 09:00 so I know I can be ready by then if I need to be.
So once I’m up, the day begins. I check when my live events are that day if there are any and then I get on with lectures. At the start of every week I like to make a list of how many lecture videos I have for each module so that I get to enjoy the satisfaction of ticking each one off after it is done.
That’s most of what I do when learning online but it’s not all of it. I also have labs, tutorials and assignments but I’ll get into those later.
Now I suppose I should explain what a ‘Live event‘ is.
On the physics course at Warwick we have online lectures and live events. The main content of the module is covered in the lectures. These are pre-recorded videos (varying between ~10mins and ~55mins) and most of the time a lecturer will upload a week’s worth of content to the online ‘Moodle‘ page on a Monday morning.
The way these lectures work can vary from lecturer to lecturer. Some opt for fewer, longer videos while others will go for more, shorter videos. The constant thing across all physics modules this year has been the live events.
Live events are 1 hour sessions that we have once a week for each module. These are set up on Microsoft teams and the lecturer will be on screen and this is our main opportunity to ask questions about the course content or sometimes for them to go through examples and exam style questions.
So last term we still had compulsory labs. Over nine weeks, we carried out three lab experiments. One experiment was a computer simulation, one was a lab like those we have done in the past where we had to go in to the labs and take the data ourselves and for the final one, the data was given to us so we just had to use the data and write a full report on the experiment.
It certainly has been strange.
Online labs have been quite difficult and even when we were allowed into the labs it was only allowed to be one person from our group of three in at a time. That meant that the other two of us would be on a call or group chat the whole time and trying to process the data sent to us from the labs.
Again, it was very strange but kind of worked.
Assignments are probably the things that have changed the least. In physics we have had assessed online quizzes every couple of weeks for some of the compulsory modules and a few other assignments to get through.
Most lecturers will put up problems sheets and links to past exam questions but these aren’t marked. They are definitely useful to have to get some extra practice in though.
The only modules that I am taking this year that aren’t exam based are labs, the compulsory group project which we haven’t started yet, and the computational module.
As you might have expected, the computational module is the one that has been changed the least by the coronavirus situation. We have an assignment every few weeks as well as lectures to cover the course content. These have been quite challenging coding tasks (for me at least) but have been a nice way to break up the day when everything else has meant watching lecture after lecture after lecture.
And for me, that’s it. There’s not a lot of variation in it but it seems to work quite well. I tend to focus on trying to break up my lecture watching with other things like exercise and even just stopping for lunch or to read for a while otherwise it can become quite a daunting task.
I’m glad that this year my tutor has continued out tutorial sessions every week just to check in and see how we are all doing because it’s just nice to know that no matter what else is happening, I’ll have that chance to have a conversation.
The other thing I have made a real effort to do is to stay in touch with my friends on my course because, in normal times, it is often their enthusiasm for the subject that helps me find my own. It’s tough at the moment but hopefully everyone is getting through it and coping with the new online style of learning.
If you wanted to find out any more about physics online at Warwick, feel free to message me.