During the next few weeks, thousands of students are set to arrive at England’s universities. Under new Government COVID-19 guidance, students must limit socialising, stay within separate households, and be taught in managed groups or online. As the mass return of students raises the risk of a COVID-19 second wave, many universities have chosen to switch to full online learning. But for students, how can they effectively learn without classroom-based interactions? Richard Evans, of the Tutors’ Association and founder of The Profs, shares his top tips on how to study during COVID-19 for university students.
1. Ensure you have all the right tools to study
Online lectures will require a well-functioning laptop and a good internet connection. Some students already own these but if you don’t, it is important to speak to your student services office about how this can be facilitated. Your university may offer a laptop loan service, or you could get a student discount which will help you get the equipment you need. Don’t forget to make use of the vast array of online resources you have access to, including the library, peer mentoring and digital workshops organised by the student’s guild.
2. Consider your work from home space
Without lecture halls to visit, most large-scale group teaching will happen online. Therefore, it is important for students to set up a study space in their home, so they can differentiate between work and their downtime. Some students are lucky enough to have a desk in their bedroom but if you do not, try using the kitchen table or the sofa. Then, make sure you keep your study materials nearby so that you don’t have to keep getting up and ensure your space is free from distractions- whether that be from the TV or your flatmates. Whilst you may feel productive without a study space, working this way can lead to burnout and a sudden lack of motivation over time. A study space will allow you to concentrate on your work better and, when the time comes, you’ll find it easier to switch off.
3. Find out what type of learner you are
You don’t have to stick to a 9-5 schedule if it doesn’t work for you. Identify the hours that are most productive for you and schedule your individual study time around that. However, you should try to attend your lectures during their dedicated time slots, so you get the opportunity to ask questions and interact with other students on your course. It’s a good idea to stay active and take notes while listening to or watching an online lecture, as you would when attending in person. For this, it may be useful to identify what type of learner you are too. Perhaps you are a visual learner and organising lecture notes in pictures, diagrams and written directions would be the most effective way of studying, or perhaps you are an auditory learner and have an easier time understanding spoken instructions. Using this time to understand your preferences in which you absorb, process and retain information will prove useful for years to come.
4. Keep socialising where you can
Online learning doesn’t have to be anti-social. Forming a study group will make you feel less alone when you are studying. Whether this be with your housemates or virtual group chats, study groups maintain social contact, so you don’t feel too isolated studying alone. If you are studying with course mates, study groups allow time to discuss ideas, analyse texts and share academic difficulties together. So that the session is productive, ensure that you set a plan in place beforehand and try to stick to the topic. It may also help to schedule in group study sessions each week, so you have something to look forward to.
5. Embrace the freedom
Whilst studying without the usual structure of a university timetable can feel daunting, it is your chance to make your routine your own. Do you prefer to take regular breaks during the day to keep your mind fresh? Or perhaps you like to listen to music while studying? Well, you can do these things now! You now have complete freedom to adapt your timetable to your preferences- so make the most of it.