I’m a second year biochemist studying at Oxford, and I’ve now had two terms of online learning at home, and one term of mostly online learning while staying in College. By sharing my experience of online university, I hope that I can reassure some of you future students that if a similar situation occurs again, it’s definitely manageable, just different to what ‘normal’ university life is like!
All our lectures have been online, with the majority of them being pre-recorded. One of the advantages of this is that you can pause and rewind them whenever you like, and watch them at a time that suits you, e.g. before a tutorial/supervision essay is due. It does mean that you need to motivate yourself more than with in-person timetabled lectures, because it is much easier to procrastinate and put off watching them! Our department released all our lectures for a week on Monday, and gave us a timetable of two lectures per day to watch, which you didn’t have to stick to, but it really helped some people stay on top of watching them. We had some live lectures over Zoom which included a Q&A with the lecturer which was really useful, and a nice opportunity to see everyone! I planned my week out and scheduled different tasks for different times of the day, and also made the effort to include more social activities like societies and going for walks with friends, so that I wasn’t in my room all the time.
As a STEM student, we’ve had to have our labs online for the most part, and the lab demonstrators have been available on a Teams call for us to talk to if we get stuck. It has been sad not to do in-person labs, however, there are lots of computational aspects and areas of research, and the staff worked really hard to make them as realistic as possible! When we were in Oxford, we had tutorials in person for the most part, all socially distanced, but this term we’ve had them over Teams and Zoom. Despite the odd technical problem, it has worked out reasonably well!
Having uni online has increased my participation in some societies because it’s so easy to attend meetings on Zoom, and with pre-recorded lectures its easier to arrange my day so that I can fit in everything I want to. Although it’s not the same as meeting people in person, I’ve made lots of new friends from it, especially ones at other colleges in different years doing different subjects to me, which has been lovely.
I shared a kitchen with some of my friends, but some people, especially freshers who didn’t know anyone, could feel quite isolated at times, so as welfare rep at my college, we’ve been putting on online events for people, such as submitting photos of where we’ve gone for walks, as well as poetry and baking competitions, and encouraging people to make use of the college family system and reach out to friends. The arts rep at my college held a virtual mask-making workshop which was really fun. At university, even in lockdown, all sorts is going on!