Esther Ikejie, MPharm Pharmacy (Hons)
Despite the global pandemic, I still remain a student…the ‘course must go on’ I guess. Here is a brief insight on what it is like being a university student during this period.
Unless you are living in space or under a rock, you must know that the world is currently experiencing the Coronavirus crisis (with the endless news reports and forwarded WhatsApp messages, trust me it is very hard to miss it!).
Undeniably, there have been enormous impacts on the health sector, however there are other sectors that have been affected too and forced to adjust to the new and very strange ‘norm’. The education sector has been majorly affected and has been forced into adopting a new teaching/learning style. I present to you…BLENDED LEARNING!
So, what exactly is this new way of learning?
Blended learning is a combination of face-to-face and online learning experiences. Studying a health-related course such as Pharmacy means that unlike many of the arts and humanities courses, a purely online learning style may not be feasible due to the vital need of practically applying what is learned to improve the provision of care when dealing with patients.
The majority of my classes are now held online, with very few such as lab sessions delivered face-to-face (with rigorous health and safety procedures put in place, of course). Honestly, online classes have not been easy. Ironically, I miss the days where I complained about waking up early to have to go into class – I guess you don’t appreciate what you have until it is taken away.
My programme team have been brilliant at responding to this new style of teaching and are constantly making efforts to make online classes as ‘real’ as possible, with different activities to make the sessions as engaging as possible.
Online classes require a great deal of discipline, focus and motivation. It is easy to fall into the habit of simply signing into the Zoom classes and then falling back asleep or occupying yourself with other unnecessary activities and not fully engaging in the sessions. Take it from me, self-discipline is so so important!
There is also the issue of reduced interaction with staff and peers, which can negatively impact student engagement. However, I am getting accustomed to this way of learning and implementing different ways to maintain my focus and engagement during these sessions.
This includes going offline on my phone to limit the temptation to respond to notifications, actively asking questions and contributing in the sessions, having a hot drink or snack next to me (because sometimes we all need the extra kick to stay awake) and taking notes during the sessions rather than relying on the deception of “I will look through the slides later” (which many students are prone to).
I cannot forget the positive impact that the addition of online classes has had on my digital literacy. I feel like a Zoom genius! There is also the benefit of saving time and money by studying in the comfort of my own home, which also allows some flexibility which can be useful in uncontrollable situations.
With all the uncertainties in the world, it is not easy being a student (or anyone really), but I am hopeful and remain steadfast in my faith!