The COVID-19 crisis has the UK on lockdown and universities are following government guidelines on social distancing in order to protect staff and students.
This means that on-campus events are cancelled and all non-essential facilities are closed. Teaching has been moved online, and as such face-to-face lectures, seminars and workshops have been replaced with virtual meetings and tasks.
As the fight against the virus rages on, the restrictions on day-to-day life are set to be in place for the 'foreseeable future'. Some might see the order to stay at home as an opportunity to further their knowledge or learn new skills, perhaps by enrolling on a distance learning postgraduate diploma, applying for an online Masters or signing up to a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC - to find out more visit online learning). However, full-time students currently in the middle of their degree will likely view the restrictions as a disruption to their learning.
Benefits of studying at home
When in a situation not of your choosing it's easy to focus on the negatives. How will you keep in touch with classmates? How will you interact with lecturers and tutors? Will online systems be able to cope? What about all of the practical assignments and placements you're missing out on?
Bear in mind that before coronavirus many students chose and benefited from distance learning and while you might be used to attending lectures and seminars, there are plenty of positives to studying from home.
- You can study at your own pace - while you'll still have deadlines to meet online learning usually gives you more of a chance to work at your own speed. If you need extra time to digest what was said in a seminar - no problem.
- Flexible hours - on campus lectures and seminars are often scheduled at specific times. Studying at home is more flexible. Perhaps you're more productive in the mornings or work better in the afternoons after a lie in. Either way you can fit your study hours around other commitments.
- Less distractions from classmates - virtual lectures mean you'll probably be more attentive without the distraction of sitting next to a friend.
- The facilities are your own - studying at home means you don't have to fight for a computer in the library. As the majority of library facilities are closed, a lot of the material will be online so there's no need to worry about the textbook you need being out on loan. What's more you can study from the comfort of your own surroundings.
- You'll save money - being homebound means you'll save cash on takeaway coffees, on-campus lunches and after lecture drinks. If you use public transport to get to and from campus you'll save here too.
While hopefully a temporary measure, here are five tips to help you effectively study from home.
Establish a study area
Do your best to create an individual study area, separate from your sleeping and living space. This can be a challenge if living at home or in shared student accommodation, but at the very least this means getting off your bed and sitting at a desk, kitchen or dining table. It's hard to be productive while buried in your duvet.
Before getting started set the space up and make sure everything's to hand. You'll need a laptop, charger, stationary, printouts, textbooks and a drink of water.
If others use the space use a rota system that enables everyone to use it for a set amount of time, as and when they need.
Schedule your day
To use your time effectively and to keep on top of assignments you're going to have to plan your day. Rising at 11.30am and seeing where the day takes you won't cut it.
The best way is to establish a routine and stick to it Monday to Friday. Leave your weekends free to recharge your batteries if possible. If you're unsure how many hours a day you should be putting in try following your normal routine (as if you were still attending university).
Virtual lectures and seminars will likely be scheduled at set times but studying from home gives you the flexibility to work around these. Remember to schedule in breaks for lunch or to get some fresh air.
Another good tip is to get dressed. Wear what you would usually wear to attend a lecture. Sitting in your pyjama's isn't a great motivator.
If you're worried that studying at home will negatively affect your productivity set yourself daily and weekly goals. For this method to be effective make sure that they're achievable - this could be ticking off two or three tasks in a day or reaching a set word count on an assignment by the end of the week.
Having something to work towards is a fantastic motivator; it'll also help you to avoid distractions such as Netflix and social media as it's hard to relax when you've got a to-do list waiting on you.
Keep in touch
While you're studying at home it's important to keep in touch.
Regularly check in with tutors and lecturers and don't be afraid to ask for clarification if there's anything that you don't understand. Email or call them if you have concerns about deadlines or access to course materials, they might be working from home but they're still available to help.
Socialising is a big part of university, so use technology to stay connected to friends and coursemates. Set up WhatsApp groups to discuss lecture slides, seminar tasks and assignments and use virtual meeting spaces to work on group projects and presentations. Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, Join.me and Microsoft Teams are all useful.
Know where to find support
Students across the country are having to change they way they study due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation. Take comfort from that fact they everyone's in the same boat but if you're struggling to adapt to this new way of studying support is out there.
All student support, health and wellbeing services remain open and available, and are now being delivered remotely via telephone or video call. Many university careers services have also moved their entire programme of activities and events online to support students and graduates during the current crisis. Check your university website for contact details.
If you don't have the necessary equipment or are struggling to access software and course materials contact your university but remember to be patient - they're figuring this out as they go along and are doing their best in an unprecedented situation.
Regularly check your university's website as they'll update this with all the latest developments. Many institutions have also added coronavirus FAQs to their websites and these could answer any queries you may have in the first instance.