In this Coronavirus world, things are even more unsettled than usual as we start the new term. Let’s face it, you may have moved away from home, you may be commuting, or not yet even sure whether your lectures are going to be on campus or on the internet yet. Despite all this, there is one thing above all that has not changed; if you want a good Uni experience, you need to give good Uni experience! There are two things you need to understand in order to achieve this:
- You are not at Uni to be taught; you are at Uni to learn
- You are responsible for building good communication habits with your lecturers and seminar leaders, with course administration and with your cohort.
Sounds harsh, doesn’t it? I acknowledge, in a way it is, but these are things that most Universities won’t tell you, and they really should!
So, what do these two things really mean? With all due respect to my many valued teaching colleagues and friends, school and college is about being taught. Your teachers teach you the content of the syllabus, they teach you the exam techniques and they teach you, basically, how to get to the answers. At Uni, lecturers will deliver, wait for it… lectures. These will often be quite broad in their subject material, or even very specific (I once sat through 2 hours on the difference Augmented and Neapolitan Sixths with a music student). These will often be backed up with seminars, where between you and your colleagues you will develop the skills to investigate further, around structured tasks and goals. Note that – you will not necessarily be taught the skills, you will develop them. The difference between being taught and learning is where the proactivity comes from – and now it needs to come from you, the student. You lead the learning; yes, you need to answer the question, but you can start tailoring those answers to the things you are passionate about from day 1.
But how can I develop these skills, I hear you cry! (Well probably not, I’m not that exciting a writer!). The answer lies in my second point – be honest with your lecturers and seminar leaders from day 1 (Be appropriate, they don’t need to know you wear Sponge Bob pyjamas!). If you have a concern, or a question, or are particularly enthusiastic about something, let the session leader know! Normally, you would be able to stop for a (short) chat at the end of the session, but there’s a good chance that this won’t be happening this year. Use Private Chat on Teams, send an email, or book a virtual appointment.
All Uni teaching staff have to provide ‘Office Hours’ for students to consult them. Some have these as first come, first served, others use a booking system, but there is nothing more tedious for a tutor to clear their desk for 2 hours when they are in the middle of research and have no company at all for that time. You are NOT a nuisance, you do NOT look like an idiot – go see them (virtually or otherwise). You will look like an idiot if you don’t ask. While we are on the subject, if you have an additional need, such as handouts on blue paper, only an idiot will not tell their tutor. Yes, they should have had a copy of your learning support plan, no, they won’t have had it. No, they won’t want to know the inside of a duck’s bottom about your condition, they just want to give you what you need to achieve, so help them out – give them a heads up!
In my next blog – the finer points of making your communication clear
Have a lovely week