After a year of online learning, here’s a list of things I’ve learnt

I am never taking face-to-face teaching for granted again

It has been a year since the start of the first lockdown in the UK, which means it has also been a year since online teaching began.

I’m sure it did not go as many people expected, but a year of online learning has taught us all a lot.

From Zoom etiquette to dealing with stress, here a list of things I’ve learnt after enduring a year of online learning:

Overall, online learning is just NOT the one

Some students may disagree with me and prefer online learning, but for many, including myself, online learning was a struggle, and certainly not what we signed up for when applying to university.

But with the status of the pandemic and vaccinations improving, I have some hope for a more “normal” university experience next year.

We took face-to-face teaching for granted

Even if, at times, we hated going to 9 am lectures having just barely woken up, we really took the quality of face-to-face teaching for granted.

Face-to-face teaching also gave us natural breaks throughout the day, where we could get lunch with friends and sit on the portico steps or hang out in a common room between lectures. Online learning has really taught me to appreciate what we had back then.

Two students sitting in UCL's main campus

Take me back to these times, please

What we got was certainly not worth £9,250

This one is plain and simple. The lack of facilities we had at our disposal and the quality of teaching we were given really does not add up to the £9,250 we pay in fees (and even more for international students).

Granted, the limited access to facilities is not the university’s fault, but it really has made me wonder where that £9,250 is going.

No amount of online accessibility can make up for practical activity

As a physics student, I have had plenty of experience with this. My department really did put in a lot of effort to try and make the best out of a bad situation, and I thank them for trying to make things work as smoothly as possible. Regardless, watching someone do an experiment over Microsoft Teams is just not the same as being in the lab and doing it yourself.

The old morning commute was not so bad

Commuting during rush hour can be jarring at times, but I really do miss hopping on a train and watching the views from the train window as I approach central London.

It was also the perfect opportunity to just listen to music and forget about all my worries.

Tube in the evening

Okay so this is at night but you get the idea

Time management is a challenge always

One good thing that came out of online learning was waking up later and still being able to attend lectures on time. But tell me why there were still plenty of times where I ended up rushing to my 9am?!

Zoom is anxiety-inducing

We can all relate to triple checking our cameras are turned off and our mics are muted during Zoom lectures, even though everyone could see and hear us perfectly back when we had face-to-face lectures. It just feels different when you are at home.

It will be weird having to get used to being seen and heard again once face-to-face lectures return but I’ll just have to get over the feeling of being exposed.

People who show their face in class are elite

Following on from the previous point, whilst I don’t like showing my face much in online lectures, it is always nice to see other people turning on their cameras during lectures (hypocritical, I know).

Even if you don’t know the person, seeing them makes everything far more personal than just staring at a blank screen with names on it. Plus, lecturers always seem happy when people turn their cameras on.

The temptation to procrastinate is too real

When you are working from your bedroom, it is all too easy to get back into bed and spend ages watching YouTube or Netflix.

I only started watching Netflix to cope with lockdown in the first place and I intended to stop before university started again. Clearly, that hasn’t happened, and now we’re mutually dependent.

My sweet, sweet lifeline

The difference between good and bad lecturers

Online learning has really shown me which lecturers actually care about their students and their content, and which don’t.

You will find some amazing lecturers who still manage to make lectures online interesting, but you will also find lecturers who really don’t spare a second thought.

We don’t want to spend one hour watching a 20 minute video because we have to keep pausing it. We also don’t want a disorganised module where we don’t know what’s going on!

Maybe it’s time to finally upgrade the broadband

Online learning has really shown us whether our internet is actually good or not. It’s like survival of the fittest but with Wi-Fi bars.

Friends are what make university manageable

Every university course gets intense. Normally what makes this manageable are the friends that surround you, who understand the struggle. Now that we are all in different locations around the world, the stress can get too much so it’s important to cherish every moment.

The rare Zoom calls that weren’t awkward are truly elite

Vocalising how you feel is important

As many of us may be without our friends right now, the importance of vocalising how you feel should not be understated.

If you are overwhelmed or struggling, it is much better to talk to someone about it rather than bottling it up. Family members may not understand how you feel, but it is guaranteed that someone from your cohort will and are ready to listen. Whether it be your partner or your friends, call them and tell them and talk to them.

Otherwise, it could lead to a breakdown at a later stage, which is not fun.

Even if you think you will be organised and stay on top of things, sometimes you won’t

I have always been organised and able to stay on top of work. So, naturally, I thought that I would cope with online learning perfectly fine and not have anything go wrong. But at times where I have had a lot of deadlines or lost motivation, I have felt very stressed and overwhelmed.

Having everything online can be really challenging mentally. I dealt with it by talking to friends and by accepting that all feelings are valid especially during times like these.

Taking breaks is the key to not burning out

Depending on how many modules you have per term, it’s easy to feel like you are constantly working and never relaxing. I have learnt that whether it be taking an evening off, or even taking a full day off, a break has been crucial now more than ever.

This term I ended up doing all my work during the week, and then taking Saturdays off entirely. I wouldn’t touch my computer, sit at my desk or even think about university, even if I was behind on work. Taking a break like this really helped me relax and refresh my mind, and actually gave me something to look forward to each week.

Brain = fried

Not to pick both optional modules in one term

I made the mistake of picking two Term 2 optional modules. I thought it would be fine and that I would cope, seeing as I really was interested in both modules and wanted to do them both.

Needless to say, the lesson was learned.

It can be very difficult to keep a routine and strike a work-life balance

Having a routine is super important but I have, at times, found it difficult to maintain one.

Related to my previous point, a successful work-life balance really depends on how many modules you have. In Term 1 I had a very good work-life balance, I was always done with work by 7pm and could spend the rest of the evening relaxing. But in Term 2 there was no separation between work and life, I would frequently end up working until the early hours of the morning for multiple days in a row. Work was my life, and that really wasn’t healthy.

Getting through this year is an accomplishment

This is not something I take enough time to think about, but we should all give ourselves some more recognition. Despite everything, we have managed to get through this challenging year of learning.

It has been a difficult experience for many, but we’ve made it through and now we can see light at the end of the tunnel.

You’re doing great sweetie!

These points are just my personal opinion. I do not speak for all students and I really do feel for the students that have had it a lot worse. But I think we can all agree that we are very much looking forward to returning to university in person.

Related articles recommended by this writer:

One year later: A day of reflection to mark a year of lockdown and remember those lost (

Pandemic stress and how to manage uni burn out this year (

The 15 stages of applying to a grad scheme in lockdown (