In the lead-up to the beginning academic year, many universities have announced that they will be using a combination of in-person and online learning for the autumn term and potentially beyond. As students continue to adjust to this new approach to education, we encourage you to take part in both options as long as it is possible and safe to do so. Both virtual and face-to-face instruction offer unique benefits, but also disadvantages. While combining them may initially be challenging, it provides the opportunity to truly make the most of each while also taking advantage of the other.

While online instruction has often been seen as a poor substitute for face-to-face education, perceptions are changing. The past few months have shown that virtual learning can, and sometimes has to be, a real alternative to more traditional methods. But even apart from the necessity, online studying can be a great fit for many students’ lives. It offers a flexibility that in-person learning cannot. While classes may be scheduled at certain times, there may be elements in your course that you can schedule to fit your own needs. It can even be easier to focus on an online lecture, with the possibility of adjusting your environment and to re-watch lectures at your own pace. Your virtual classes are accessible from any place with an internet connection, so you have the freedom to create the circumstances which meet your requirements to learn as best possible. In addition, online university is much more efficient: you won’t lose time on your commute or waiting around between classes. In particular for students with many other commitments, this can be much more convenient than traditional university classes.

It is likely that online alternatives to work and study will become increasingly present in our lives. Studying in a combination of in-person and online gives you the opportunity to experiment with online learning and find out how to make it work for you.

Of course, there are also aspects of in-person education that seem like unique advantages. The social component of the university experience is very important to many students, from meeting potential friends to getting to know staff. Some students find it helpful to have their spaces for learning and relaxing physically distinct and find they study best in the learning spaces provided by the university.

It’s important to remember that both the physical university campus with in-person classes, as well as virtual resources are tools for your learning and that their benefit to you will depend on how you use them. Explore what you can do to enhance your experience and make the most of it. Make sure you are using the resources available to you, both physical and virtual, to their fullest potential.

Try to take what works for you from both forms of learning. What aspects that appeal to you from the traditional university experience can you replicate with online learning? If you find it helpful to keep studying and your home life separate, you could try to create spaces to distinguish the two within your day, either by assigning specific hours to university or even by changing your environment as much as the circumstances allow. If you feel like you may miss out on social connections with others on your course, make sure you take advantage of all virtual opportunities to socialise that your university may offer, or create your own.

In this way, your virtual and physical classes can complement each other. While it may take some initial adjustment, taking what works from each style of learning can help you build a university experience that, while unique, is no less rewarding than the traditional student experience.

Author: Teresa Ries, Student Care and Research Assistant