Online Learning for Students

As University Centre South Devon moves to online learning in response to the COVID-19 situation, we know that many students will be wondering what this means for them. 

What to expect from online learning 

You can think of the teaching taking place in two different ways: some teaching will be synchronous (it happens live) and some will be asynchronous (you work through it in your own time). 

You can still expect: 

  • lesson 
  • tutorial 
  • activities 
  • group discussions 
  • and more…

They will all have a different feeling and character. 

Take advantage of online spaces 

Learning online is challenging, but can provide unique opportunities for you to connect with your peers. 

One of the best ways for you to stay motivated is to stay connected with your teaching team, support services and peers. 

We’re all in this together and staying connected to each other will be the key to your success. 

  • If you’re heading on to an online video and audio space, remember everyone is feeling nervous. It’s not just you. 
  • Find out when your lecturers and support staff are dedicating time for you to contact them. If you’re clear when you can get in touch and how, you’ll feel more prepared and less isolated.  
  • Contact the HE Study team for additional support. 
  • Start with informal activities, open discussions or quiz polls. 
  • Work on tasks in smaller groups in online breakout rooms. If you’re unclear about the task, ask for clarification before moving to a breakout room. Try taking on different roles: timekeeper, recorder, reporter, etc., so you can complete the task effectively together. Make sure to write down all the points you produced, ready to be shared with the rest. 
  • Use the screen share function to share work on your computer. 
  • The chat function will allow you to post your comments and questions. 
  • Try to make the most out of the live sessions, chatting on group chats and asking questions. 
  • If you are watching pre-recorded lessons you can still follow them up with chats on your module forums. 
  • Use video conferencing outside of class-time too. Try online chats with your classmates; initiate virtual study sessions. It’s important to feel connected to the rest of the group. 

Independent study time  

We know in the transition to university, students find themselves unclear how to use their independent study time effectively. You are given more responsibility for your learning, but you need to be supported to learn how to learn. Some of the ways you can: 

  • Using the content of your sessions, see if you can identify a ‘wicked problem’. This is something that is difficult or impossible to solve as it is interconnected with other problems, is incomplete in our knowledge, has a wide range of people or groups involved, and is a large economic burden. 
  • See if you can identify different points of view or contradicting theories on the topic you are discussing. Can you find two contrasting online journal articles you can read to start considering the different perspectives around the topic? 

Consider your digital wellbeing 

In the transition to online learning, it is important to think about your wellbeing and the time you spend in front of the screen. 

Think about activities or tasks you can do to help you move offline. These could include: 

  • Freewriting. Simply write for ten minutes with pen and paper without stopping. Do not edit, look back over your work or worry about spelling. It encourages you to stop editing your thoughts and voice and makes the task of getting something down on the page easier. 
  • Create a mind map of a lesson or topic you are covering through your online teaching. See if you can identify key themes and concepts from your topic and start to consider how they are related. 

Online assessment 

Your assessments may change now that we are moving online, but what your academics are looking for hasn’t changed. 

It is important to remember you are still being assessed on: 

  • Demonstrating your application of knowledge 
  • Showing your analysis and understanding of topics 
  • Meeting the learning outcomes of the module 

You will likely have assessments that are as similar to the ones you expected as they can be. Make sure you are familiar with the learning outcomes of the module and the expectations from your module team. Your module team will make sure that they explain the new types of assessment to you and give you time to discuss it with them. The types of assessment you might be asked to do include: 

  • Quizzes and online activities on Moodle 
  • Narrated PowerPoints instead of presentations 
  • Posters 
  • Peer assessments 
  • Take-home tests rather than ones in class 
  • Video diaries or portfolios 

Whilst some of these types of assessment may be new to you, you will still get the option to use draft submissions so you can have feedback to see how you are progressing. Think of this as an exciting opportunity to learn different skills and abilities. 

Evaluate your learning 

Think about evaluating your learning. After each online session, use simple post-its to consider: 

  • What have I learnt? 
  • What have I found easy? 
  • What have I found challenging? 
  • What do I want to know now? 


How can I get the most out of online learning?

  • Engage fully with the online learning activities within sessions, as well as the activities provided to support you in between.
  • Always prepare for the sessions as you normally would for face-to-face classes.
  • Focus on your reasons for learning and review your progress and goals regularly.
  • Make a timetable with deadlines and plan your tasks.
  • Take the time to review and reflect on your approaches to the online learning; consider if they are working for you. Are you taking notes, are you getting useful feedback, is your time management effective, are you learning in the way you expected to?

How do I create a successful learning space at home?

It is important to think about your learning space(s), to make sure you have a learning environment that suits you. Everyone is different and has their own learning space requirements so they feel comfortable and can learn effectively. Think about where you will do your learning. Do you need to make changes to your home environment to create a learning space that works for you?

How will I interact with my classmates?

A sense of community and belonging with students on your course is really important, and so is maintaining this within online learning. Your lecturers will provide lots of opportunities for you to work with other students online through interactive activities, so try to really engage with these opportunities. There is lots you can do yourself to develop your network online:

  • You could organise regular study sessions with others on your course MS Teams video calls, to allow you to discuss recent lesson content remotely, but also catch up with each other whilst you are all learning online.
  • Utilising group chats can help you discuss and debate your subject with other students, ask questions and share resources.

What do I do if I am struggling with online learning?

The online environment will be new to everyone, so it’s perfectly normal to feel uncomfortable with it, especially at first.

Focus on the advantages to learning online; for example, it gives you a lot of flexibility regarding when to access the material as resources are usually recorded.

If you are struggling with the online learning, don’t suffer in silence but seek help and support from your lecturers, your personal tutor, or contact the Student Support Hub.

Can I access support with my academic writing remotely?

The HE Study team are here to support you with your academic writing whilst learning online through MS Teams, please email them for a call back.