Maria Jamal, known to her friends as MJ, is from India. Now in the second semester of her Diploma of Engineering at UTS Insearch, she is experiencing a new way of learning since the change to Remote Learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
My first semester was face-to-face classes,” she says, “So for me, it was a bit of a change. But due to the guidance of UTS Insearch, it was pretty easy. Everything is almost the same, except that you’re not physically meeting – you’re using an app like Zoom or Ring Central. You’re still getting the same guidance, the same assistance. I’m really enjoying the remote classes."
She has also found some unexpected benefits. “You can sit at home and do your classes in comfort, sitting on your bed or at your study table, and have drinks or food whenever you want. The other thing I like is that it saves a lot of time."
It took Maria a while to get into a new rhythm of study. She says, “At first, it was difficult for me to maintain focus on the course, because at home we have lots of distractions like Netflix and YouTube. Then I stuck to a timetable like the one I had at UTS Insearch. Watching the lectures and attending to everything in the given time has helped me. I have a clearer picture of what things are due this week or in the coming month, and can plan my day accordingly. I also think it’s very important to have regular intervals for snacks. That gives you a boost of energy to keep studying."
The key role of teachers
Maria says the teachers at UTS Insearch have played a key role in her positive Remote Learning experience. “They help us the most,” she says. “I think their workload has doubled because they have to do so much online. But they are guiding us through every step and keeping us aware of new assignments and online quizzes. And I must say that they’re really approachable. They have regular consultation times, similar to the face-to-face classes. Every week we have special online meetings just for consultation with our teachers. Also, when you email them, you get very prompt replies, which is something I really like. Above all, they praise you if you do something right, and they guide you in a very positive manner if you’re doing something wrong, which encourages you."
Although she remembers being anxious about the switch to remote learning, Maria would like to reassure future students. “You don’t need to worry. I thought it was going to be like other online courses I’ve tried, which were generally video recorded stuff. But at UTS Insearch, it’s not like that. You’re guided through the course, and you’re there at your laptop with your teachers in front of you. You see them. They see you, and you know your classmates by their face, and by their name. You can interact with people, and there are even breakout rooms where you can do group projects. My advice is that there’s nothing to be scared of."
Remote Learning has also helped Maria develop some skills outside of her curriculum. “I was never really good with emails, but every time I need to ask my teachers something I need to send one. I never thought I would send so many emails and now I’m comfortable with them. Another thing is learning to work on group projects remotely. We’ve learnt different technologies to use for them and how to share our work and have a document we can all edit at the same time. I feel that in industry, with lots of people working in the same group, this is a critical skill that might help me in the future."
"Also, with more time at home, I’ve tried so many different recipes I feel that I can now call myself a good cook. I’ll be able to host good parties for my friends and family."