I have thoroughly benefitted from distance learning and would love to see it continue long term, says Daniel

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MSc Global Governance student, Daniel Tomkins, was surprised to discover the extent to which he enjoyed distance learning and its benefits. Regular catch-ups with lecturers and virtual guest speakers alleviated anxieties and united his classmates.

Here, he answers some questions about his experience of blended learning and offers his advice to students who will be virtually enrolling this September.

What was your original reaction when you heard about the lockdown, and how it might affect the end of your academic year? 

As my course runs from September to September, I was very concerned about what it’d mean for formal teaching since many of my modules fell within the affected time period. Furthermore, a module requiring work experience would require major changes in the way it would be assessed. The initial uncertainty about what these changes would involve was the cause for some anxiety during the first weeks of lockdown.  

What kind of remote learning has been put in place?  

The most significant change for the MSc Global Governance course is that all of our remaining modules have been delivered digitally via Blackboard. Thankfully, our lecturers have found the time to teach us live, via conference call so the teaching is able to follow a similar format, albeit over distance. 

Have you found it has brought you closer together as a group, or do you find it easier to liaise with academics this way? 

I definitely believe that the difficulties and shared anxieties we have all faced as a cohort has united us. Fortunately, we have a group chat on WhatsApp with our course leader, so help is always a message away.  

Have you been surprised by the ease of remote learning? 

Studying MSc Global Governance has, from the outset required many hours of independent study in preparation for seminars, in which we discuss our different perspectives. For this reason, I think the course lends itself well to digital delivery since these discussions can conveniently be held over distance online. While I’m unsurprised by the course’s adaptability to a digital platform, I am surprised at how much I enjoy remote working. I definitely believe that the difficulties and shared anxieties we have all faced as a cohort has united us. 

Have you learnt anything new about yourself during lockdown, through online learning? 

I’ve come to learn that I had been highly reliant on having a routine if I am to stay happy and productive. Initially, before teaching had resumed online, I struggled to find motivation to research and work on my assignments. Since then, I’ve become more adept at dictating my own schedule, instead of relying on work and uni timetables for structure in my life.   

Is there someone who stands out to have been particularly supportive at USW during this time?  

On behalf of my course mates and myself, I’d like to extend thanks to Dr Bela Arora for her continued support during lockdown. Prior to lockdown, a major part of our learning experience involved attending guest speaker talks. Since lockdown, she has worked extremely hard to arrange weekly and sometimes biweekly conferences with a range of fascinating guests. Furthermore, she has been proactive in requesting feedback from us so she can tailor her approach to our needs on the fly. One such response that has been helpful to me in particular, is that she began to schedule regular catch-up sessions with us to help keep us on track and make us feel part of a group.  

Do you have any advice for someone looking to start University in September who may be nervous about remote learning? 

Like me, prospective students may have reservations about digital lectures. After having first-hand experience with them, I’ve come to appreciate their benefits. Firstly, I believe it is a much greener way of working and for this reason, would like to see them remain in some capacity for the long term. Additionally, I feel they provide opportunity for us to learn new skills that we otherwise wouldn’t with traditional teaching methods. My personal takeaway has been that I feel a lot more confident in front of a webcam, which I hope will help me perform better in digital interviews in the future.  

Jump back in to your studies and join us for a postgraduate degree in Global Governance this September.