In this post, Amelia Rouse, who graduated from her PhD in Civil Engineering in December 2019, shares her experiences of online learning.
I’ve always been an avid virtual learner; it is just part of the life of a PhD student. During the ongoing pandemic, I started learning basic video editing. I’ve been a film enthusiast for as long as I can remember but I also needed to solve a problem. The lockdown caused many businesses and schools to halt their regular activities. My mum’s primary school violin classes had to stop as part of the lockdown in Barbados. She wanted to find a way to continue teaching. Videos were a simple solution. My sister could record the lessons, send them to me for editing and then distribute them to the students.
Virtual learning has allowed me to improve my skills for little to no cost. I wanted to learn Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects. The main platforms I used were Skillshare and YouTube. I used Skillshare, honestly, because I’m constantly bombarded by their ads on social media. Skillshare provides students with an overview of the course, tasks lists and feedback from the instructor. However, the drawback is you must pay a subscription fee. YouTube, on the other hand, is completely free. Importantly, though, you must know what skill you want to learn and be willing to do some trial and error to find an appropriate video. Sometimes you might not find anything useful, so you’ll have to do some Googling.
For me, the advantage of virtual learning is flexibility; you set your own curriculum. You can cover the lessons as quickly or slowly as you like. You can complete lessons whenever and wherever you want to and not feel pressured to complete assignments. You can learn while doing, which sometimes means pausing the video while you find that hidden menu. You can find several methods to approach a problem. You can engage with a community within the course or on the wider internet and be inspired by their works in progress.
The main disadvantage is staying motivated and having the tools. You have to stay engaged with the lessons and keep progressing, which can be hard without peers and teaching support in a classroom setting. Also, if you’re really struggling with a problem you don’t have hands-on support and feedback. Unfortunately, YouTube is not the most sociable place to learn. You must have some tools which could be barriers to virtual learning. I needed to have access to a computer, internet connection and most of all the pricey Adobe software subscription, which could be barriers for some students.
I’d say if you like learning at your own pace, you should try virtual learning. If you know what you want to learn, put together a short plan and go look for some resources. Stay motivated, set mini projects and persist. If you need more structure go for a platform like Skillshare. The University has access to LinkedIn Learning, which has hours and hours of resources on topics from video editing to coding to business negotiation. Get going!
Are you learning new skills via online learning during lockdown? How are you getting the best from the online learning environment?