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'My teachers, library staff and career advisors were fantastic during the pandemic', 'This experience has also taught me a lot about myself and my own strengths'

Last week we caught up with some Magee Law students about the move to online learning. This week it is the turn of our Jordanstown students. Here are some of their thoughts about the move to online teaching in March 2020.

‘The beginning of your university career is an exciting and yet a daunting prospect. I understand that in these unprecedented times the thought of embarking upon your Law degree through online classes brings its own anxieties and worries. I wanted to share my experience of completing my final semester of my Law with Criminology degree at Ulster University through online teaching.

‘As you can imagine the thought of transitioning to online teaching during my final semester was extremely worrying. I wondered how my lectures would be formatted, if any of my assessments would change and ultimately how this will affect my performance? These anxieties were quickly suppressed by the support from the lecturers and alternative staff within the law school.

‘The transition to online teaching was seamless as the recorded lectures were extremely easy to follow. Our seminars were held through ZOOM which enabled us to feel comforted as we could still partake in some form of face to face teaching. The library staff facilitated the effortless access to books and materials which enabled my studies to continue as normal even from home.

‘This experience has also taught me a lot about myself and my own strengths. I have learnt that I am able to adapt quickly to new situations and that I can still remain focused in times of grave uncertainty. My experience with online teaching was more positive than I ever expected, I felt as though I was still engaging in thought provoking discussions and that the enjoyment of my studies was not lost in the transition to online teaching.

‘Above all, I know for certain that this would not have been possible without the support and community at Ulster University. I have no doubt that you will experience the same support that I have received not only during these challenging times, but throughout your entire university career. I wish you all the best for this forthcoming year and I hope you thoroughly enjoy your time at Ulster University.’

Cara Smart, LLB Law with Criminology Final Year

‘I have to admit, I never really realised how heavily my life was governed by timetables. They governed how I structured my week, helped me manage my time, my priorities. Then lockdown happened and that familiar timetable, my routine, had suddenly disappeared.

‘Whilst we suddenly began to prioritise our health and the wellbeing of others, admittedly, it was hard to keep my degree at the forefront of my mind. The lack of my normal routine created the fear of becoming unproductive, which held the very real possibility of hindering my progress in my degree. Suddenly I was in complete control of my studies, I was no longer able to ask a question in a seminar or take detailed notes through a lecture. I felt as though I was entirely on my own. However, that was just not the case.

‘I was incredibly fortunate in Ulster’s implementation of creating an online framework for us to rely upon during our studies at home. For instance, online lectures enabled the core of my studies to continue, whilst the library enabled easy access to online materials that I needed in order to complete my assignments. My lecturers were able and willing to reply to any of the questions I had in a timely manner.  The ability to have access to materials online, as well as the continued communications of University staff, prevented me from becoming overwhelmed, I was able to find the materials I needed and with any questions I had answered, I simply carried on with my studies. Whilst there is no doubt, the way I managed my time would determine the outcome of my results. The time that would’ve been taken up attending lectures, was now free for me to use as I pleased, enables the risk of procrastination to occur.

‘However, I was surprised at how quickly, with the help of University resources, I was able to stay motivated. Deadlines didn’t feel as much of a threat as they could’ve been and I’ve learnt that despite outside disruptions and a lack of normality in terms of a routine, working independently is a lot easier that I first thought.  When you make the decision to begin studying for a degree, you don’t have to be in the University to continue to learn or feel supported. Online learning at Ulster enables us to continue to study what is important to us, with a support system in place that goes beyond the confines of a building.’

Amy Mullan, LLB Law with Criminology Year 2

'Despite my initial fears, the student experience with online learning last semester was great. My concern that the lack of face-to-face teaching would reduce the ability to question lecturers was addressed by the excellent online accessibility of school staff. I received quick and useful responses when contacting for help, whether that be for a particularly confusing area of law or getting access to the wide-ranging library resources.

‘Working from home took some adjusting to but quickly felt comfortable, with the constant support and guidance of the school. In fact, I feel like I have developed skills that I wouldn’t have otherwise. For instance, a greater amount of self-discipline was required to ensure I was keeping up to date with my modules weekly work. Further, I developed strict time-management skills towards the end of the semester to efficiently divide up my time between assessments, allowing myself to deliver work to a high standard.

‘Although the initial move to online learning was daunting, Ulster University delivered seamlessly with their expertise in e-learning and ensured my LLB experience remained at a high standard.'

Chris Swann, Year 2 student/Course Rep, LLB Law with Politics

‘Naturally, I was hugely apprehensive when Ulster University announced that its campuses would close and that my lectures and seminars would be facilitated online via Zoom and BlackBoard. As someone who thrives in a work/classroom environment, I was worried about losing my motivation and worth ethic; I was anxious about my WIFI connection and the quality of the teaching. Needless to say, these concerns were unnecessary because my lecturers, and in general, the School of Law, went above and beyond to maintain contact and provide excellent support and reassurance at every opportunity. I have since finished my degree (result still pending), confident that I was not disadvantaged.

‘When I spoke with friends from neighbouring universities, it became apparent that Ulster University’s response to Covid-19 was exemplary. My teachers, library staff and career advisors were fantastic during the pandemic; even PHD students surrendered a few hours to help guide us to the finish line. I can honestly say that I have enhanced many of my skills during lockdown, specifically, time management. With exam cancellation, many of my assessments were replaced with coursework and so, my workload doubled. The self-discipline involved when creating and maintaining a routine was initially very challenging, however, it became second nature.

‘My advice to incoming students: do not be discouraged by online learning, Ulster University has incredible resources and teaching staff that will make it both a successful and an enjoyable beginning to your university journey. Remember, it will not last forever. Good luck.’

Rebecca Kelly, Final year, Law with Criminology