Jump to accessibility statement Skip to content

Online learning during Covid-19

Home / Student experience / Discover Sunderland blog / Your university experience / Online learning during Covid-19

The coronavirus pandemic has changed all our lives in many ways, with those in education experiencing one of the biggest upheavals. Universities across the country have spent the majority of 2020 and all of 2021 so far delivering online teaching and learning for their students, who are carrying on their studies from their family homes or halls of residence. Here at the University of Sunderland, we have delivered a combination of online and, safe, on campus sessions in the past year, although many students have been at home for the duration of the pandemic, if their course can be delivered fully online. 

A student wearing a face mask is sitting in front of a computer and writing notes on a notepad

The return of our University of Sunderland podcast series in February 2021 began with an episode about how our students have found online learning during the pandemic. We were joined by three students, each with their own individual experience of online learning: 

You can listen to the full episode on Spotify and iTunes (remember to rate, review and subscribe!).

In the meantime, here is a sneak peek of their conversation...

The podcast discussion 

Do you remember where you were when lockdown was announced in March 2020? 

March 2020 was a strange time for everyone; as Seb explains on the podcast, the coronavirus pandemic was all over the news, we didn’t yet have all the information and some people were taking it more seriously than others.  

On the day that the University of Sunderland decided to move all teaching online, Eddy had just finished a lecture. When he heard he would be studying from home for the foreseeable future, like many students, he was worried about how he would manage. Similarly, Josh said he felt a mixture of emotions and wondered how long online learning would last and how not being on campus would affect his course. Luckily for Josh, his course has a small cohort and so the programme leader was able to deal with any queries quickly and offer lots of support as he and his classmates adapted to online learning.  

Seb told us that there are several international students on her course who were worried that they wouldn’t be able to get back home to their country as they were being told their borders would be closing. The day after those students managed to book their flights back home, the University announced it would be closing and moving teaching online, advising students not to interact with one another for their safety. As a university community, we had to adapt to working and studying from home.

How do you think the University has handled things during the pandemic? 

At the University of Sunderland, we pride ourselves on the support we offer our students, whether that be from tutors or from many of our excellent student services. We asked Josh, Seb and Eddy for their thoughts about how the University had continued this support.  

From Seb’s point of view, she thought the University had handled things really well and supported students with everything from helping them travel back home, to support with technology if students didn’t have access to the internet. Seb admitted that technology isn’t her forte and making sure her lab reports and assignments were properly formatted to be handed in over the internet was a struggle. Her tutors helped with this by telling students who couldn’t do this to simply hand in their work as best they could, and the tutors would format it correctly for them. She’d also never used Microsoft Excel before and was worried when she had to use it to create graphs, so used to drawing them by hand. But it only took a phone call to her tutors who walked her through it to make her feel reassured and able to complete her assignment 

Eddy agreed with Seb and added that the University has done a great job looking after the wellbeing of students too. Eddy is a Care Experienced and Estranged student and lives on his own with no access to his family. Our award-winning We Care team have offered him and other Care Experienced and Estranged students a lot of support during the pandemic. There have been weekly catch ups, virtual cuppas and there was even a call from the team on Christmas Day.  

Josh’s programme leader has created online drop-in sessions and has set times of the day where she is available for a phone call if students prefer that. Josh joked that she is very understanding if siblings burst into the room during a lecture or if dogs start barking! 

Did you worry about how your course would translate online? 

For many of our courses, being on campus and using specific facilities and equipment is very important. Seb explained that she was worried that she would be missing out on a huge part of her education when her lab sessions were suddenly cancelled; being in the lab at least once a week manufacturing and making cosmetics was standard. But in the end it has been fine; in her first year her class did lab reports on the lab sessions they’d done earlier in the year and now in her second year they are back in the labs with the appropriate PPE and health and safety measures.  

"Do you have any tips for other students who might be suffering during lockdown?"

Lockdown has been tricky for us all and sharing our tips for getting through it has been useful. Some of our students are living in family homes with parents, siblings, children and pets around them, while others live alone or in student accommodation with other students. We asked Josh, Eddy and Seb what they do to keep their spirits up.  

Josh said that having a dog has been helpful for him as it means he has to go out each day and get some fresh air and exercise. He recommends home workouts if you are self-isolating or shielding; CitySpace has a wide range of online workouts you can explore.  

Eddy thinks maintaining a routine is a good idea; there have been days where he feels like he could stay in bed all day but by forcing himself to get up, make the bed and get dressed, he feels like he can tackle his university work a lot better.  

And Seb recommends getting hobby outside of university work. This year, instead of just binge-watching Netflix all day, Seb has got into looking after her plants! Your hobby can be anything you want; something you enjoy and can focus on.  

"What is the first thing you’re going to do once everything is back to normal?" 

We’re all dreaming of the first thing we’ll do once the pandemic is over, and we get back to some form of normality. This is different for everyone; Eddy said he can’t wait to go out and have some fun, spend time with friends and have a cocktail! He also said he has a new outlook on life and will be taking advantage of things that he took for granted before.  

For Seb, her priority would be for her and her family to go back home to Poland, somewhere she hasn’t been able to visit for almost three years. She would love to see her grandparents and extended family, as being away from them for so long has been hard. Josh agreed and said he was looking forward to seeing his extended family too, although acknowledged he was from a busy household and was lucky to have his supportive family around him. 

Find out more 

We’re so grateful our students took the time to sit down with us and tell us how they’ve really found online learning. To find out more about online learning and what it’s like to be a student at Sunderland, why not chat to Josh, Seb and Eddy directly on The Access PlatformJoin us at our next Online Open Day or see our facilities through our Virtual Campus Tour to discover the University of Sunderland for yourself.

Published: 12 February 2021