Student Interview- What Is Online Learning Like?

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Hafa is studying for an online master’s degree in Public Health (MPH) at The University of Sheffield. We caught up with her to find out about her online learning experience so far.

If you are considering taking an online university course, we hope you find this interview gives you insights into managing online study.

Introduction to Online Learning Tools

What digital tools, apps or platforms are essential to your online learning experience?

My online learning ecosystem relies heavily on Blackboard for discussions, readings, and other course materials. To stay organised and keep track of deadlines, I rely on Microsoft To-Do, Sticky Notes, and Google Calendar. I also use Microsoft Office for assignments and Google Chat to communicate with peers.


Comparing Online and Classroom Experiences

How does the online learning experience compare to your previous classroom experiences?

The flexibility and convenient access to online learning resources allow me to tailor my studies to my needs and schedule. However, I need to be mindful of distractions and prepared for the occasional technical hurdle. But overall, it’s a refreshing experience.


Engagement and Motivation Strategies

How do you stay engaged and motivated in a virtual classroom setting?

I try to stay engaged in the virtual classroom by setting weekly study goals and participating in online discussions and workshops. I reward myself afterwards and take breaks to keep myself motivated. Also, connecting and seeking support from friends helps reduce stress and make the learning process more enjoyable.


Impactful Online Learning Experiences

Can you share an example of how an online course has been particularly impactful or memorable?

While not an official MPH course module, an online workshop on R, a statistical computing and data visualisation language, was quite memorable for me. Learning to wield commands, manipulating data frames, and participating in interactive exercises with Q&A sessions was an interesting experience.


Collaboration in Online Projects

How do you approach group projects and collaborations in an online format?

Online group projects thrive on strong teamwork and communication. I prioritise effective communication through video calls, messaging apps like Google Chat/Meet, and collaborative tools like Google Docs and Slides. My approach starts with outlining the project and then assigning tasks with timely deadlines. Transparent communication through task updates and reminders ensures everyone’s on the same page, avoiding misunderstandings. Project management tools like Trello or Clickup can further streamline the process.


Effective Learning Materials

What types of learning materials (videos, readings, interactive tools) do you find most effective?

I find a combination of interactive tools, such as simulations or case studies supplemented by readings and recorded lectures or videos, most effective. This blended approach reinforces concepts, deepens understanding, and keeps me engaged in learning.


Instructor Interaction and Feedback

How do you interact with your instructors and receive feedback?

My primary interaction with instructors occurs through Blackboard discussion forums and email. The module instructor delivers specific feedback on assignments through written comments on Turnitin.


Learning Style

How has your learning style adapted to the online format?

Online learning has made me adopt a more self-driven approach, where effective time management, organisation, and strong discipline became essential. I also remind myself to set realistic goals, especially considering my tendency to procrastinate, which is crucial for avoiding frustration and staying on track.


Reflecting on Learning

How has your online education changed how you view your profession or the world?

Online education has broadened my perspective on public health by exposing me to diverse viewpoints and global issues. Engaging with classmates from different backgrounds and regions has helped me appreciate the interconnectedness of public health challenges and the importance of collaborative solutions on a global scale.


Further Reading and Next Steps

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