Having the world of virtual learning imposed on me unexpectedly and when I didn’t ask for it has been hard. It’s taken me a while to accept that at the very least my next five Executive MBA modules will all be delivered virtually. Saying that, I fully accept that it is the right thing to do and it is short-term pain for a long-term gain, especially when it will no doubt involve one big messy celebration when we do all eventually get together in ‘real life’.

I am embracing this new way of learning and working in the virtual world for the past few weeks has definitely helped me adapt. I have completed many an online course in my time but virtual live lectures are different; they bring the human side to the virtual learning world. The lecturer is teaching in real time and still yearns for engagement and interactions from us students. Talking to a screen for hours is draining so receiving responses, even if it’s about the snazzy waistcoat you are wearing sure does make it more rewarding for the lecturer.

My cohort was the first to have its lectures delivered virtually; for me the experience was a little different to that of my peers as I was in the lecture room with the faculty for two out of the three days. That said, other than having the odd face to face interaction with the lecturers I didn’t feel like I got more value than everyone else on my cohort as I didn’t have my learning team there besides me. Having them around really enhances the whole experience for me and however good a WhatsApp message is, it is not a great substitution – it’s like a chocolate bar being substituted with an apple in your home grocery delivery. I definitely miss the motivation I get from my team and them stopping me from eating a whole bag of sweets during the mid-afternoon slump.

In a way I still have to walk into the lecture room (albeit virtually) at the beginning of the day just like when on campus. I have to be prepared for the session, have read the case studies and have a pad and pen ready to make notes. The difference is that I am now doing this on my own and from the comfort of my own home. Although, trying to explain to my children that mummy is at university and needs to be able to concentrate on her learning is a challenge and makes for one very confused five-year old.

So what did I learn from my first virtual lectures? A lot that’s for sure; below are my top insights, or tips, I suppose:

  • Mindset – you have to get into the right mindset as learning virtually is a completely different experience to being physically sat in either an ice cold or boiling hot lecture room.
  • Structure – learning this way makes you very tired very quickly, so more frequent breaks are incorporated. You may think this is overkill to start off with but trust me you will need them. When a break is offered, take it and get away from your screen as it’s best not to chance your eyes going square.
  • Interactions – they still happen but are different. We are using the Zoom conferencing software which has many functions to enable you to interact with your peers and lecturers. This includes the chat function and breakout rooms; whether they are random or with your learning team, make the most of them.
  • Notes – you don’t have to take down as many. I would still note down any additional content that is of importance but with lectures being recorded (always check that they are and feel free to remind the lecturers to click the ‘record’ button) it saves you frantically scribbling down the experiences and stories shared that aren’t on the slides. Take time to listen to them because you can always refer to the recording at a later date.
  • Refreshments – this is a big plus as now the tea and coffee facilities are a lot closer, there is no queue for the coffee machine and no waiting in the long line to pay for your lunch. ‘Reggies’ has now been replaced with ‘Heggies’ – the home equivalent.
  • Patience – have some. As well as this being a new way of learning for us, it’s also a new way of teaching for many of the lecturers. It won’t be perfect but know that the lecturers are trying their best and want to make sure we continue to have a great learning experience.
  • Fun – embrace this experience, engage in some banter in the chat rooms just like you would in the lecture room. If you don’t, I’m not sure how you will manage to survive the three days.

You definitely get out of it what you put into it, so give it a good go. Like me you may even find that it’s not actually that bad and the commute is awesome, although the 7.30 am rush down the ‘A14 stairs’ is often problematic! It’s best to leave five minutes earlier if you can.

I really hope you enjoy this new way of learning as I have and if you have any questions then please do get in touch: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kristy-mccrindle-abb4749

All the best as you embark into the world of virtual learning,

Kristy

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