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What is it like to learn online?

5 May 2021

5 mins

Hi, I’m Lilymae and I’m a UX Design master’s student at Loughborough Design School! 

Having completed my undergraduate degree mostly in-person (if you can even begin to imagine what that’s like), I was definitely sceptical as to whether I would really get the most out of my masters knowing that it was going to be mostly online. Switching from a Philosophy undergraduate degree to a master’s in the design school was daunting enough as it is, and I was worried at first as to whether I would get the quality of teaching that I needed to make the most of my experience. 

My new home for 2020/21!

Fast forward to now, I have been studying online for 6 months, and to my own surprise, I have actually preferred the online teaching experience over being in-person. Of course, there are some downsides to being totally online, such as not being able to properly experience the social side of being at university, but there are also a lot of positives that have come out of the virtual experience. 

More Free Time 

Gone are the days where you have to wake up at least an hour early if you want to make it to your first lecture or spend half of your Easter break sifting through the months’ worth of handouts you picked up that you swore you would organise later. With everything being online, everything is right there at your fingertips.  

All of my teaching is done through Microsoft Teams meaning it is really easy to attend the classes you need to on time. Even just having that spare hour every day that you would otherwise spend commuting really does make a difference, as you have more freedom and control to spend that time however you wish, whether you want to go on a nice walk, take some rest or spend time catching up with friends. 

Easy Access to Help 

Another key benefit to learning online is being able to communicate with your teachers and peers very easily. From my experience, the teachers have really made an effort to make sure that they were active and online during the working day so that we could get help whenever we needed it. Sending messages through the chat feature in Microsoft Teams really helped with not only making the most of your learning, but also helps you to build good relationships with your teachers, with it being a lot less formal than emailing back and forth.  

My virtual learning workstation

Digital Confidence 

With the future of work heading in a more digital direction, my biggest take-away from this online learning experience has definitely been learning how to adapt and collaborate in the digital world. I have been able to practice so many transferrable skills which I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do had we been completely in person. Even simple things such as setting up meetings, participating in group discussions online and getting to grips with collaborative tools has really set me up for a job in the future, as more and more firms start to shift some (or all) of their work online. 

Having said that, don’t be alarmed if you don’t consider yourself tech-savvy. No-one is expected to know how to use these tools like the back of your hand when you first start out, and there is a lot of support available from the IT services if you’re having any difficulties. 

Don’t forget, your lecturers are still learning too, and from my experience, they have made a huge effort in being transparent and being open to feedback to make sure we are getting the most out of our education. Making the switch to online in a short space of time doesn’t come without its technical difficulties of course, but knowing that your voice is being heard and feedback is taken on board is what has made my experience of learning online so positive. 

My Top Tips for Online Learning  

  • Slowly build up your confidenceit can be difficult at first to reach out to tutors or speak up in class when it’s so easy to hide behind your screen but taking small steps to put yourself out there can do wonders for your confidence later down the line. 
  • Know when to switch offit can be easy to lose track of time when you’re working from your computer all day, so set a time in the evening to go outdoors or do some exercise to separate your working time from your free time 
  • Listen to yourself: if you find yourself feeling unmotivated, don’t force yourself to work – you’ll only give up sooner. Instead, use that time to do something you’ll know you’re going to enjoy. Putting yourself back into that positive mindset is likely going to bring back that motivation without you even realising! 
  • Stay organised my academic diary has been my best friend when organising my life, not just my study schedule. It really helps with making sure that you stay on top of everything, and it’s also nice to put pen to paper once in a while instead of relying on technology for everything! 
There’s still a place for pen & paper!

What does the future look like? 

As lockdown eases, whether universities decide to return fully in-person or to remain somewhat online, rest-assured your learning experience will not be compromised whichever way it goes. Even through the worst of the pandemic, Loughborough made sure our voices were heard and that we were getting the most out of our degree by listening to our needs and being proactive about it. Personally, I’m looking forward to being back in-person soon, but had I not had such a great online experience too, that might have been a different story. 


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