YOUR STORIES ABOUT SELF-DIRECTED LEARNING
TGS High School graduate
OR WRITE TO US:
I am definitely not made for sitting in front of a mac book for long periods of time. I need breaks. Nature. Hands-on contact with people. Experiences. I am much more of a doer than a researcher. I crave adventure. I learn by failing and talking and observing.
I graduated at a project-based school. There I learned to design my own learning method, finding ways to make anything interesting, by relating it to my own experiences and interests. This also helped me find a strong sense of belonging - something that I don't see a lot in teenagers.
Through the process I acquired key skills like design thinking, time management, scientific inquiry. But especially during the online learning term, I also learned that I needed to be aware of and actively manage my mental health and well-being.
If I had to go and design remote learning, I would not choose to do it on a mac book. For the first two weeks I was able to take it: I structured my time half online and half asynchronous, off-screen learning. But when my workload got endless, I lost the balance and starting feeling physically unwell. I was drained, my brain fried. I don't think human beings are made to sit in front of screens...
TGS High School graduate
A completely remote learning environment can work but for me personally I would not enjoy it. You are not applying your skills... Getting to know your place, presenting back to the community. I would not be as involved with my learning.
My school is a travelling school. Every eight weeks we spend one week at home, where we conduct research and we structure our next place-based learning project.
Conducting desk-based research you investigate and acquire the content, skills and techniques to prepare for the project and you plan what support you will need for it. I enjoy the independent learning discipline this method has taught me and I like being able to pick the specific topics I am most interested in.
Whilst the remote learning experience has taught me how to investigate topics and structure my work, which are important skills for the workplace, I also missed the collaborative projects, where I get to share and discuss my work with my classmates.
BSc Civil Engineering
Overall, I have found the remote learning experience to be a positive one. But what essentially lacked was the emotional aspect of learning, the non verbal interaction, the more casual conversations with the teachers and the peers, that direct dialogue for building shared learning and understanding.
My classes and my exams were not interrupted - save a few connectivity glitches... But teachers have had to respond to an emergency they were not prepared for and this has caused some complications.
The structure of the class was not always adapted for online delivery and I lacked - and missed, the relationship with my teacher, which is key to every learning process. Without a direct interaction with the teacher, the lessons took a more formulaic and less dialogic format. Dealing with the odd clarifying question or comments by the students was only done in the chatrooms and at points teachers would not check the chats until the end of the lesson, only to realise that their mic had been faulty throughout the class and the entire content missed!
During the lockdown, I also missed engaging with my colleagues to confront and learn from each other, or to work on common projects, or even just to have that odd conversation in the hallway.
Lockdown has been a challenging time across all aspects of life, school included.
What I missed the most has been the direct access to the teachers, in order to ask questions and tackle learning challenges. And when access was there, it was restricted to very short interactions that did not fulfil the learning needs.
What I did enjoy was having flexibility in my schedule of learning, thanks to the recorded sessions we could access at any time. However, I would still choose an in-person learning experience over a remote, asynchronous one because of the student-teacher interaction that supports my learning and understanding.
If we were to go back to a remote learning experience again, I would prefer to have shorter but more frequent online classes and to include student-directed, Q&A classes in the schedule. Given the situation of emergency we found ourselves in however, I am in awe of the rapid and effective response that my school put in place for all students to proceed uninterrupted with their learning.
Abruptly changing one’s habits is never an easy task, so going from a full in-person learning experience to a remote one in a matter of days was not an easy transition.
Neither the school system nor the students were ready for it, and no one knew how long it was going to last. Everything, from the lectures to the exams, had to be adjusted to fit the new format.
Overall the aspects of a remote learning experience I disliked outweigh the ones I enjoyed. Not having to commute to and from university meant more time to sleep in and less stress before an exam. However, I found out that I couldn’t focus as well as on either lectures or independent studying because I need to associate distinct spaces to different activities.
With remote learning, everything merged in my mind, and my distraction increased. But what I found truly challenging was the lack of human interactions. It felt less like an organic classroom and more like watching a documentary on Netflix. I couldn’t interact with my classmates or ask questions to the professors, if not in chat.
What I consider a valuable compromise is the blended learning activities format, which many universities are currently adopting. It maximises each student’s learning experience by giving them a weekly chance to choose the option that best suits their needs.
MSc Mechanical Eng.
Globally, remote learning during the lockdown has brought the learning experience on higher levels for some aspects, but has also underlined the importance for students, teachers and people in general to meet each other in a ‘real’ format.
My personal opinion about ‘remote learning’ brings out several pros and cons.
First of all, remote learning allows those students that live far away from the university to save time and money spent in mobility and rent. In addition, remote lectures allow students to be more active and less ‘shy’ by means of the online classroom chat or even by the microphone, when allowed.
On the other side, one of the biggest cons of the remote lectures is the lack of human contacts, which is necessary in a educational experience, from primary school level up to the academic one. This is necessary both for people well being and also, from a scholar point of view, for those lessons that are in their nature not-theoretical, like laboratories, exercise lectures and so on.
University, in my case Politecnico di Milano, is a place where we are asked to learn, study and undertake several obligations, but it is also a fundamental location where students and teachers enlarge their knowledge by reciprocal and synergic dialectic, dialogue and comparison.
I did not like the experience of the lockdown at all because I had to be strapped to my chair, always sitting down and I could not play my favourite "Baluba" game!
TGS High School graduate
Learning is discovering something new and understanding it. How it functions in the world, in its system. If I don't discover it myself I am not really interested.
I was not happy with the lockdown experience. Not only because of having to learn remotely, but also because I did not get to see my friends. And I missed my graduation: I did not get to dress up, wear my heels, read my speech and cry!
At the start of the remote learning term, we were given a very lose weekly schedule organised in curriculum modules day, personal project days and one Capstone day. But we also had the flexibility of tailoring the schedule to our needs, which I appreciated.
We had weekly discussions for our modules and one group call a week where we could talk about what we accomplished in the previous week and what in our module we would like to change. I found the advisor calls especially useful.