Ireland’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic has seen third-level institutions and schools closed across the country, as educators move quickly to adapt to a new way of teaching, using technology to deliver lessons directly into students’ homes.

Their efforts were recognised by an Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in his St Patrick’s Day address to the nation, in which he thanked “The teachers and lecturers finding new innovative ways to teach students on-line and putting together contingency plans for the Leaving Cert and College exams.”

With that in mind, University College Cork, in collaboration with its Students’ Union, has developed advice to aid those learning from home to make the most of this new arrangement and to adequately prepare for online assessment. 

The Ten Top Tips for online learning will help students adapt to studying and completing assessments from home, and provides advice on issues such as accessibility, study routine and learning space, mental health, and guidance on the supports UCC provides to support its community. 

Deputy President and Registrar Professor John O’Halloran said: “UCC management is continually working to ensure that our students’ learning experience remains consistent in challenging times. 

“We are acutely aware that this challenge will not be met by only assisting our colleagues in delivering their teaching online – we must also support our students to adapt to this new reality, to ensure they are best prepared to learn and conduct assessments at home,” he said.

Catherine Dawson, UCC Students’ Union Education Officer, said: “Learning online will now be the new norm for the next while, and students will have to work collaboratively with their lecturers and their departments. With online lectures you can study in more ways, and during this time of isolation it is important to discuss what you are learning with other students in your classes. 

“This can lead to a deeper understanding of your subject as well as combating isolation. Most importantly, look after yourself and your mental health, if you need supports reach out to what is available in your area,” she said.

10 Top Tips for Students Learning Online in UCC

  1. ACCESS to Online Learning Resources and Assessments: Make sure you have what you need to access content online in terms of reliable internet access and a reliable desktop or laptop. We appreciate that this might not always be possible and where you cannot secure reliable internet access, please ensure your lecturer/module coordinator is made aware of the challenges you are facing. Information on available support is included at the end of this document. ASSESSMENT: UCC expects to keep to the current Assessment timetable, which means any examinations you were scheduled to take will now take place online at the same time. Please ensure you are registered on the correct modules and have appropriate access to the Internet in order to be able to complete these.
  2. DEDICATED STUDY SPACE: Create a study space which works for you. You may have a dedicated office space for your study which is ideal, but not at all the only option. You can carve out a space in your bedroom, kitchen, living room etc. and critical to this is ensuring minimal distractions. Communicate this to others in your house so that they are aware of your space, and your time within that space. Studying in the same place each day is recommended. A quiet space is ideal and limit social media time during your study. Make this ‘your’ space which is personalised to meet your study needs.
  3. DEDICATED STUDY TIME & ROUTINE: Create a study plan that works for you and your life. Stick to it. Routine is critical to study success. The ‘right’ study plan is the plan that works for you. Create contingency plans in case something changes. Do not leave anything to the last minute. Keep on top of your online content and coursework. Make sure you are working within strict timelines, either set by yourself or your lecturer. A schedule that works for you, which is responsive to your individual needs, will be powerful in terms of your study success. Be disciplined, consistent and you will reap the benefits. And remember, take regular breaks also!
  4. KEEP INFORMED and COMMUNICATE: Please stay in contact. If you have questions your first point of contact on your module/course is your lecturer or course coordinator / module coordinator. You can email your lecturer any questions you have in relation to course content, assessments and to clarify any expectations you have of each other. If they cannot answer your specific question, they will certainly guide you in the right direction to someone who can. Uncertainty is not a place you want to be – so PLEASE ASK! Communication is the number one thing that will make online learning a positive experience.
  5. CONNECTING WITH OTHERS: It is also important to stay in contact with your fellow classmates and friends. You are a huge resource to each other. Perhaps your lecturer has already established a virtual discussion board on Canvas or you can set up a group on google hangouts, or chat via Canvas, or indeed via social media platforms /texting etc. The most important thing is to communicate and connect with each other regularly as you will learn a lot from each other.
  6. YOURROLE – STAYMOTIVATED! Learning online can certainly create different challenges and opportunities for those of us used to learning in the ‘traditional’ classroom environment. While we can appreciate that this is a challenging time for all, try not to view the experience as an obstacle, but rather a new and exciting way to learn. The key to success as an online learner is motivation. While there are UCC supports available for you, if you are organised and motivated this will ensure a more positive online experience for you.
  7. PREPARATION FOR ONLINE ASSESSMENTS: Familiarise yourself with what is now expected of you to complete your assessments online. Ensure you have access where possible to the resources and platforms involved. Ensure you regularly log into Canvas for notifications and updated content and assessments.
  8. DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP: Be kind and respectful to your online classmates and lecturer. Think of the social conventions and norms that exist in a face-to-face classroom – these same rules apply when online.
  9. MENTAL HEALTH & WELLBEING: Mind yourself. Be kind to yourself. If you feel frustrated or confused at any stage, remember this is absolutely normal. Take a break. Speak with someone you trust. Get some fresh air. Remember, there are others who are experiencing very similar feelings so please reach out to friends and classmates too. Isolation can be challenging so keeping regular contact with people is critically important. We in UCC will always be there for you our learners, so please reach out and ask, and we will do our very best for you.
    UCC has a Student FAQs section to answer any questions you might have at this difficult time.
  10. FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE: This is an opportunity to collaborate and connect in a new and exciting way. There is an opportunity to manage your own time and work in the way that suits you best. There is technical support available as well as academic support – and so make sure to avail of this when you need it. This experience will improve your technical skills, as well as your life skills and this will stand to you in all future life challenges and opportunities. Remember, we are all human, there will be days where it will be challenging to motivate ourselves, but tomorrow brings a fresh start and you are in charge of that.