Savva Pistolas discusses his experience of blended learning
Savva Pistolas is a Cyber student at USW and has experienced what is it like to learn via a blended approach over the past year. Here, he discusses his experiences learning from home, his personal feelings towards the change, and some advice on how we can all stay connected as we look towards an exciting return to campus.
“I recently had the opportunity of getting involved with a presentation given during the Cyber Education & Training Cluster Meeting. The meetings are hosted by Cyber Wales (www.cyberwales.net) - which is an organisation that aims to engage and connect the different cyber communities in Wales. I spoke alongside a presentation done by two of my lecturers – it was about the way the University delivered its Cyber Security course throughout the pandemic, and in preparation, it gave me a lot to reflect on about my experiences of the year.
I spoke about the efforts that have been made by my University to accommodate the way we've had to be educated, and how different aspects of the University experience have been affected by the restrictions. The feeling of being a student this year has been much like being in orbit around the earth on a spaceship. You can see what everyone is up to from your little perch, you’ve got access to all the material and the internet up here is fantastic! A lot of energy and focus has gone into building your rocket, and although you’ve got the platforms, the contacts, the resources, and the schedules – you still don’t quite feel grounded.
A huge part of what keeps me driven and ambitious is other people, I love meeting, talking, and learning from others. The feeling of listening to someone who is in love with their field is unrivaled – it can be inspiring and is indeed where I’ve found my direction in life on more than one occasion. We are creatures designed to find drive from each other. A reason this course with USW was so appealing from the get-go is that the faculty seem to understand that a direct connection to the industry can be engaging and self-directive.
This is done primarily through events where businesses come and speak with us, fielding questions and sharing their processes or problems with us. These have been arguably unaffected by the pandemic (It’s a lot easier to get a bunch of working people in a room together if that room is a Teams meeting!), and I must say that I’m more than grateful the University has been continuing to organise them. Universities ought to work on closely tying the student experience with real-world knowledge and wisdom – both for personal and professional development. As the last year has taught us, most things just can’t be prepared for in a classroom.
USW, from my experience, is a communicative and compassionate organisation that made every effort to provide a window directly from my laptop to my University, but still, we (both Students and Faculty) felt the hole left by the inimitable experience of being face to face. Walking in the same direction after a lecture and striking up a conversation, awkward silences in lifts that lead to chats that lead to contact information being shared – and texting a mate to check in when you notice they’re not at the lecture that day.
There are so many organic and analog experiences that even we as cyber-lovers must admit are just not possible to replicate digitally. Protecting student minds, communities and spaces are vital if you want a prosperous body of graduates. We need to remember this as we aim to get back on campus and prioritise the social and communitarian needs of students as we do exam results and coursework deadlines.
I’m hoping we can land all of our little spaceships soon and get back to seeing each other, the stars and galaxies of home study are great and all – but I really am beginning to miss the simplicity of sitting in a lecture theatre and taking notes on a pad of paper.”