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Introduction to online learning

What is online learning?

Remote learning, distance learning, blended learning....

You may have heard several different terms to describe the ways that we are currently studying online, but what makes it different from face-to-face classes? This video offers a concise introduction to online learning at Sheffield Hallam and what you can expect when your modules move online:

A great first step to developing your skills is to complete the SkillsCheck.

This self-evaluation tool allows you to reflect on your current academic skillset and identify areas for future development. You’ll be asked to rate your confidence in essential study skills, academic writing and reading and research. It only takes around 10 minutes to complete and after you’ll receive an email with an action plan tailored to you. Take the Skills check.

We spoke to some Hallam graduates who completed their course in 2020 to get a flavour of what it was like to complete their course remotely during the Covid-19 lockdown. We hope that by offering their experiences, we can demonstrate that these recent graduates understand the concerns you may be having, whilst also offering some helpful tips to get you through.

How did you manage your studies during lockdown?

"It was a lot more difficult than expected at first. Not being able to use the library meant that I had to adapt to studying at home (something I have never been good at because I get too distracted). Studying in the same house as my family was difficult as well as I had constant distractions around me. However, once I created an adequate workspace and got into some kind of routine it was a lot easier." Isobel, BA Human Geography

In order to be more focused when studying, we recommend this helpful video on how to set up your workspace. Need a change of scene? Our libraries are now open for socially-distant study, but you will need to book your space in advance. Find out more on the Library webpages.

"The most difficult part was the lack of motivation, due to not seeing tutors/classmates, not going into the library, not leaving your house. It was manageable but not an ideal situation, I finished all my essays on time, but it often took a long time for me to get started on them." Charlotte, Msc International Business Management

It can often be difficult to get started on your essays, especially when the deadline still feels distant. Online sessions on Planning and Structuring your Assignments and Planning your Research Project from the Skills Centre are a great way to kick start the writing process, and all students can use Studiosity for feedback on their writing drafts.

"I found online learning manageable in some ways, difficult in others. I personally had a brilliant dissertation supervisor who was contactable (we often had Zoom meetings to go over my drafts and chat). Other modules were difficult, struggled not having the one-to-one aspect you would get at university, ability to have a chat with seminar tutor and explain issues/ask questions quickly. I did adjust. I was very used to library working so hated being off-campus, but I tried to make a timetable that I stuck to, created a separate working vs relaxing space so I did uni work in dedicated times." Amy, Msc Forensic Psychology

While it can feel harder to stay connected when studying online, it’s still possible! Use the discussion forums in Blackboard to ask questions or to reach out to others – perhaps someone else on your course wants to chat about the lecture or the reading for next week, but doesn’t want to ask first!

"I found lockdown made me more productive as I had nothing else to do. I had my research project to complete and a massive portfolio, so it really took me away from the reality of what was going on in the news. I believe work can sometimes be the best escapism, I spent every day just getting on with my studies and stopped checking the news so frequently. I felt so much better when I had something productive to focus my thoughts on. It’s so important to step back from Twitter and other news sites if the stress of the world starts impacting on your state of mind." Rebecca, BSc International Events Management with Arts and Entertainment

If you’re finding social media an unwanted distraction, why not try apps like Forest, to help keep your focus away from your phone, or tougher apps like Cold Turkey that block some websites and apps altogether.

How did you stay motivated while studying from home?

"Just make a start on your work, once you’ve made a dent into an essay/piece of work it won’t seem such a daunting task and find good rewards for finishing small sections". Charlotte.

Struggling to get started? Why not book a 1-1 with an academic skills adviser to plan your first step.

"Writing to do lists! It sounds small but it’s so useful to write every single little task down to break up the day, and there’s no better feeling than ticking something off a long list." Naz.

One helpful way of keeping on top of your to do list is to create an 'Eisenhower matrix', where you prioritise tasks based on their urgency and importance. Remember to review your to do list regularly, setting a focus for each day and being honest about how much you've been able to get done - you want your tasks to feel achievable rather than overwhelming.

"Keep in touch with your uni friends/course-mates as it’s quite easy to feel like you’re the only one struggling. I found checking in with course-mates and having virtual study sessions quite motivating e.g. facetime/zoom. Keep workspace separate. Create a timetable with manageable goals that you feel like you can actually achieve (I found it motivating when I could tick things off my “to-do” list that I had accomplished)." Amy.

We have some great tips and recommended apps for working together online - check out our online guide to working with others.

"There are a million ways to work and everyone will give you different advice on how you should study. My advice is to work how and when you feel like it. Work how you want and not like someone else, otherwise you’ll simply sit at a desk and won’t be motivated to get anything done. You’ll only be productive if you want to be. I wrote a lot of my university work just on my bed to be truly honest, not at some fancy desk. Don’t feel the pressure of working in ways you don’t feel comfortable in". Rebecca.

In times when you might feel isolated and alone, frustrated or unable to cope with the demands of your studies, it is vital that you take care of your physical and mental health. Learning online can have a profound effect on your resilience, happiness, and relationships, so make time to familiarise yourself with the support available.

Student Wellbeing provides information and advice to support your psychological wellbeing in order for you to manage your studies and make the most of university life.

As technology is becoming increasingly integral to your course it is important to use it safely and be aware of how to look after yourself whilst working online. For more information please visit SHU guidance pages:

Here are some external resources offering support to people with their mental health:

Adsetts Library

Collegiate Library

Sheffield Hallam University
City Campus, Howard Street
Sheffield S1 1WB