Rabia Arshad is a PhD student studying at the UWS London campus. She has written this blog post outlining her experiences of online learning:
Studying a PhD can mean you spend a lot of time working by yourself, but in no way could I have ever anticipated just how much that would be amplified by the current pandemic. Around this time last year when the first national lockdown was announced and universities had to close their campuses and libraries, I was sure that my studies were going to be adversely affected and the education system would suffer. Being an international student, I was panicked knowing that I don’t not have unlimited time and funds to complete my research; and feared that the lockdown would only make things worse. But little did I know that it would end up being a blessing in disguise and become the most productive period of my doctorate.
In the beginning, the hardest part for me was to get into a routine and avoid procrastination. It took some time to get used to online learning and working from home, and after spending first few weeks trying to find motivation, I came to peace with the fact that my desk and chair were to be my new library, and laptop became my virtual university.
Ever since the start of the pandemic, UWS has done an amazing job and has been providing phenomenal support to PGRs during the lockdown. Soon after the first national lockdown was announced, UWS Academy and Doctoral College were very quick to adapt to online learning and started various online sessions, webinars, trainings and informal catch up events to support us. This shift to online learning substantially increased student participation to these sessions as PGRs could conveniently attend seminars and sessions without having to travel to the campus.
The convenience of online learning allowed me to attend various online sessions and webinars. I joined weekly Power Hour of Writing sessions, Writing a Journal Paper in Nine Weeks session, Virtual Coffee Chats and even a Virtual Book Club. I could even attend a couple of online external conferences and some training sessions without having to travel. I was able to interact with the most senior academics and meet PGRs from Scottish campuses which wouldn’t have been possible without this shift to online learning.
There were ups and downs, and I have experienced a series of productive days followed by lazy days and so on. The plethora of online learning and support provided by the university kept me motivated, accountable and sane during these crazy times.
I must admit there are few things that you miss out on while working from home during lockdown, but there are some positives to it as well like the convenience to attend events and sessions online, saving commuting time, flexible work routine and not to forget the opportunity to work in comfortable lounge wear (working in PJs in my case).
While the lockdown caused challenges in data collection and slowed down my progress, it also provided enough time to work on and improve other parts of my thesis. It allowed me to immerse into my work without having to fight the temptation of going out and indulging in social activities. There were ups and downs, but overall this period, and the support provided by UWS, have actively benefitted me as a PGR.