Why I Love Online Learning
Students have had a varied response to online learning so far, with some taking it in their stride and others yearning for the old world of education. One person who has come to love distance learning is our IUA EDTL Student Intern, Ruairi O’Gallchoir, who recounts his positive experiences with online learning here.
As colleges kick back into gear for the new year, a lot of people are probably surprised at how little has changed compared to where we were in September in terms of Covid-19. Access to campus is as limited as ever, teaching to even a half-full lecture hall is still a pipe-dream and the idea of students piling into examination centres this May for Semester 2 exams looks very unlikely. This had led to air of pessimism for many people, and understandably so. For all the advantages of online learning, it cannot capture the buzz and fun of day-to-day campus life, especially with current restrictions. Despite all this, there is definitely a lot to be said for online learning, and it is definitely not all doom and gloom.
From a personal standpoint, online learning has gone from being a novelty to being an integral part of my life with such ease that I sometimes forget about the old way of doing things. Especially in the midst of winter like we are now, the thought of braving the cold and travelling into college does not appeal in the slightest – especially when the alternative is a warm mug of coffee at my desk! There is plenty more that I have become to love about online learning apart from avoiding the cold however, and as life gradually returns to normal, I truly hope we can take the best of both worlds and integrate some of the advantages that online learning provides into daily college life. Below are just some of the things which have made learning in the age of Covid that bit more enjoyable, and they are things which should not be cast aside when normality beckons again.
In many ways, it feels like it must have been a past life when I would be rushing to get into college on time for a 9AM lecture. This would usually necessitate a 7AM start that morning to account for adverse weather and unpredictable bus timetables. Nowadays, it is simply a case of firing up my laptop and logging into one of my live lectures when needs be. Even then, many lecturers see the advantages of pre-recorded lectures which makes life even easier for myself.
The advantages of this are numerous, but personally the fact that a 1-hour lecture takes up 1-hour of my day exactly has made planning my day out much easier. Not having to account for travel time (both ways) means that I can schedule group work, study sessions and even the exceedingly rare extra-curricular activity in these Covid-dominated times!
This ties into convenience somewhat, but it truly is amazing in some ways how much autonomy online learning can give students. By removing the need to be in a place at a certain time, students are given the freedom to work at a pace and schedule that suits them. Especially where pre-recorded lectures are concerned, oftentimes I find myself alternating between studying ahead and taking my foot off the gas for a few days – knowing full well that the lectures will still be there when I need them.
Revising for my Christmas Exams this year was different to any other year for many reasons. Apart from the fact that examinations would take place online and that I couldn’t access my preferred study haunt of the UCC Library, I was able to study safe in the knowledge that I wasn’t missing anything. Depending on a lecturer’s style of teaching, oftentimes their uploaded notes can vary from sparsely-populated to full-fledged.
Having both synchronous and asynchronous lectures recorded and uploaded means that when it comes to preparing for examinations, I was safe in the knowledge that I could revisit the lecture of a topic in which I felt I needed a deeper understanding of. Previously, this would involve hoping I could dig out the notes from the reams of sheets in my backpack or asking around – but now I can rest safe in the knowledge that the information I need is just a lecture recording away on my laptop.
With online learning, the Virtual Learning Environment has gone from being a tool in the arsenal to the entire arsenal as far as staying on top of college work goes. This makes staying on top of work much easier. Instead of having assignment deadlines, lecture notes and communications from lecturers spread across multiple platforms, they are now all under one roof.
The VLE used in UCC is Canvas, and one feature which I am really enjoying is the ‘Calendar View’. This takes all open assignments posted across various modules along with other deadlines and lays them out neatly in a monthly calendar view. This ‘birds-eye’ view of what needs to be done and when has made it very easy for me to see what needs to be done and when it needs to be done for.
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