Embrace the Unknown
By Communications Team | January 25, 2021
Written by Ashleigh George, Bachelor of Business (Human Resource Management).
Last year, I was barely a month into the semester when COVID-19 reached our shores. The unprecedented situation affected learning at all levels, decelerating our learning progress. Online learning became the catchphrase of the day. Suddenly, I was required to watch lectures instead of attending them and to take part in tutorials virtually, all of which needed a bit more effort compared to mindlessly scrolling through social media or playing Among Us! Yet, I can honestly say that my experience of learning online during the coronavirus pandemic has been a positive one.
Making the most of online learning
With some motivation (and a lot of prompting from my mom), I treated each online lecture and tutorial as if I were physically going to them. Luckily for me, many of my tutorials started later in the morning, so I didn’t have to fight against myself to tune in to a morning video lecture.
By the second semester, I’d learned that sticking to the usual lecture timetable as much as possible helped set some structure into my day of learning and studying. Early in the week was always my ‘busy day’ during semester two, and oddly enough, these are also the day I looked forward to the most. Instead of shying away from schoolwork, I stuck to it and achieved a real sense of purpose in my education. Of course, it’s more appealing to stay in bed, checking Instagram and TikTok until noon, but the opposite can also be true.
Motivation through structure
Staying motivated can be challenging even at the best of times. This is especially true when you’re stuck staring at the same four walls almost daily during the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) period. However, Swinburne Sarawak provided the perfect schedule for me to create the learning structure I needed. All I had to do was to log in to CANVAS for my assignments and collaborative work with my course mates or sign in to MS Teams for a virtual tutorial and lecture session with my lecturer, or to discuss assignments with my peers.
I must add that it is crucial to find a balance. There were days when I had to take it easy, the benefit of which is equally as good as ploughing through my studies when my productivity is high. There is only so long you can look at a screen with any online activity before you start to zone out. No one wants to sit through a 4-hour lecture, so I definitely will not attempt that from home either! It is not good to have too much screen time when on our phones. The same rationale applies to online learning. So I took breaks when I needed them, giving my eyes and brain a rest. With or without COVID-19, there is a whole world beyond the laptop screen.
The all-important online support
I can’t find any fault in terms of the support and advice I have received, either from my lecturers or as a member of the Swinburne Sarawak student body. During the early weeks of CMCO, I received numerous emails from my lecturers, unit coordinators, and even the Deputy Vice-Chancellor himself. These communications outlined everything a student would need to know about what the university was doing while ensuring that my peers and I received the best online learning experience during those times. As recently as early January, I received an email update on how we can expect Semester 1 2021 to be, so I cannot say students are left in the dark.
This support is not just for academic matters but also in other services. For example, the Student Services unit is ready to provide well-being support and counselling, and the university’s trained counsellors are available for a chat when you need them.
My Swinburne Sarawak online learning experience
Online learning differs for each person, especially across different courses and years. My personal experience consisted mostly of watching live lectures and attending tutorials via MS Teams. Assignments and documents were shared using CANVAS with regular emails from lecturers on class schedules, projects, and anything students need to know to succeed.
The good thing about this was that lectures were recorded, allowing me to re-listen, pause, and repeat the lesson at my convenience, something you cannot do in a real-time lecture.
Besides online lectures, my learning also included participating in group work, which involved many video sessions with my tutorial group. Nothing new in that as people of my generation do video calls all the time. However, I found MS Teams video sessions to be a bit awkward. It felt different talking to my tutor and course mates while sitting at my study desk in my bedroom instead of being in a professional-looking classroom.
What I find most helpful is that tutorials require us to listen and absorb the content first, followed by the opportunity to discuss and ask questions later. For those who are not feeling particularly talkative, we were always able to email our lecturer privately. This online learning format did not make me feel disadvantaged in any way.
My lecturers provided many online resources to help me solidify previous learning. These additional online links were significant when it comes to my end-of-semester assessment since they were in an open-book format. With the many links and references provided to me, assessments were completed by finding and applying information and knowledge learned throughout the semester.
Two semesters have passed by, having spent them wholly through online learning. As I await the start of the 2021 semester in March and the prospect of studying both digitally (online) and on-campus (face-to-face), I am grateful that I can attend class in whatever manner. For me, the opportunity to study unhindered is the most significant advantage of online learning.
So to new students, my advice would be to familiarise yourself with the online learning portal and eLibrary system as soon as you have access to them. Come up with a weekly schedule, and work your other commitments into it. Similar to when you’re in a face-to-face setting, reach out to your lecturers, unit coordinators, and course mates when you need to. Your peers are going through the same process as you are, and your lecturers and tutors want you to succeed and are ready to assist.
And perhaps, like me, you will get a lot more out of your online learning experience than you would ever think possible.
This article was written to commemorate the third International Day of Education, which falls on 24 January. With the theme ‘Recover and Revitalize Education for the COVID-19 Generation’, this year’s event hopes to empower education through collaborative effort and international solidarity, and making education and lifelong learning the centre of recovery from the pandemic.