Starting university can be overwhelming. If you’re feeling nervous about online learning, the good news is you’re in great hands at Deakin. We spoke to three students from the Faculty of Business and Law about the challenges, the unexpected perks and their top tips for online learning success.
Deakin has ‘extensive experience’ operating online courses
Tasha Goonting, a student in the Bachelor of Commerce, had always studied on campus until her course shifted online last year. ‘I think I adapted quite quickly with the transition to online learning because Deakin has always had a strong digital presence for students,’ she says. ‘They already had past recordings of lectures that would always be online for you and accessible and the discussion space was always really active with questions.’
Rachel Curtis, a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of International Studies student says that while transitioning to online learning was not without its challenges, she feels fortunate that Deakin have extensive experience operating online. ‘One of the key reasons I chose this university was because online learning meant I would be able to balance my work commitments, university commitments and anything else I want to do on the side,’ she says.
Rachel was really impressed with the engagement of lecturers and fellow students. ‘The online classes had a lot of energy to them and there was a sense of camaraderie between students,’ she says. ‘I felt like everyone wanted to engage and learn in a really meaningful way.’
Rachel also appreciated the fact that some students were overseas or interstate. ‘It was cool having these students in the class and sharing their perspectives that are quite unique – you miss out on that in a typical classroom,’ she says.
Make your schedule suit your study habits
Rachel says her best advice to other students is to set up a schedule. ‘Ensure that you are blocking out time to watch lectures and attend seminars,’ she says. ‘And then also allow time to yourself so have a moment to breathe. It’s important that you're stepping away from the computer at regular intervals because it can be draining sitting in front of a laptop for 8-10 hours of the day.’
Julius Torres, a student in the Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Criminology, found that he really utilised the fact that everything was recorded and published online. ‘If a lecture is at a time that doesn’t suit you it's perfectly fine,’ he says. ‘Just schedule it to watch the next day.’
With many law lectures being two to three hours long, Julius really benefited from being able to take his time to watch them. ‘If a lecture was three hours long, I would just split it into two or three parts,’ he says. ‘It’s about managing your time to make it easier on yourself. Another benefit of recordings is that you can just stop and start them and you can rewind them when you don't understand something.’
Tasha found that online learning made it easier to make her studies fit with her working life: ‘When I was on campus, I’d have to finish work and rush to a class whereas with everything online you can work and do then study after hours if need be.’
Build your social connections
Julius found that it can be harder to make social connections when studying online. ‘I’m usually heavily involved in the Law Student Society and we tried our best to do things online,’ he says. ‘We made the most of it and did what we could and it was good to still have that social interaction with each other.’
Tasha is a part of the Commerce Student Society and she really encourages people to get involved as much as they can. ‘It helps you feel more comfortable in an unknown environment, particularly when you’re coming out of high school.’ She also attended some Deakin Talent events. ‘There was a graduate workshop and resume workshop that I attended and I think that's really cool that you can do it from the comfort of your own home,’ she says.
Tasha really appreciated the capacity to build relationships online. ‘Socialising was a big aspect of my university life and it was a struggle to always be at home,’ she says. ‘I think it's essential to not isolate yourself.’
Group assignments and unit discussion forums can offer a great way to connect with people. ‘I developed a friendship though one of the discussion board messages and ever since then I’ve had a virtual study buddy,’ Tasha says. ‘After lockdown we actually finally caught up for coffee and it was really great.’
Reach out for help when needed
For Rachel, the easy access to support was one of the highlights of studying online. ‘The IT staff are really great and they always follow up if you submit an inquiry to make sure it’s fulfilled,’ she says. ‘Student central has been fantastic too – I'm always blown away with how thorough they. They have a really clear idea of how Deakin operates. Having that kind of wraparound support was definitely an added bonus.’
Tasha encourages everyone to reach out to the support that Deakin offers. ‘They have a really incredible support network – they are extremely friendly and I think being able still put yourself out there and to reach out to people easily was essential.’
Rachel is grateful to be able to relax with confidence that this has been done before: ‘Deakin has been operating distance learning for 40 years, it's definitely trialled and tested and reinvented,’ she says. ‘I’d just say jump in with all you've got and give it a really good go.’