The COVID-19 situation, otherwise known as Coronavirus, has impacted and disrupted how we undertake day-to-day activities. As a society, many of us were not ready to face this kind of issue. Companies were obligated to transition their staff to working remotely, many employees from the hospitality industry and many other industries in Australia have lost their jobs, and International students, like me, are quite confused and perplexed about the issue.
Universities, of course, must follow the procedures established by the Australian Government in order to guarantee the safety and health not only of their students and staff, but also the community. Moreover, universities and indeed the community must work to address the mental health issues that can be trigged by social isolation and the inability of international students to travel back home as the Australian airport and most of our home country airports are closed.
At CQUni, our on-campus classes have transitioned to online classes. This involves the immediate necessity to learn how to use Zoom, Microsoft Teams and effectively use our CQUni systems such as Moodle. As a result, we have had to adapt our houses, apartments and rooms to be suitable to join the online units, address the assessments and communicate with classmates by harnessing the available technology and tools.
CQUni has a large cohort of international students who are facing uncertainty, and the University is providing a range of support services and initiatives. Most of us work to afford some of our living expenses, and as a result our income has been sadly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. CQUni has provided the opportunity to pay our tuition fees during the term, paying half of it before the Census date and the remaining part in installments. Secondly, departments such as student support, the library, the academic learning centre, and careers team are providing one-on-one support via Zoom, helping students to solve any issues, just as they would if we were on-campus.
For the rest of term 1, all lectures and tutorials will be delivered online. After the first 3 weeks of the term, it has been a bit challenging for me and for lecturers as well. CQUni is one of the universities in Australia that has an outstanding reputation for online learning. However, for on-campus students and lecturers it has still required a fast adaptation and training in the online learning systems. My classes have been a bit delayed as my classmates and lecturers became familiar with how to participate in an online lecture. However, as the term continues, each class has become more effective and efficient. I have felt quite comfortable studying online, as I have direct access to the slides, while the lecturer performs the lesson. Somehow, it feels more personalised. Also, the online meeting software, Zoom comes with a bunch of useful features to communicate with the lecturer, classmates and the entire group.
Getting the best from studying online
Studying online does not only mean viewing the lecturer on the screen and watching them address the lesson topic. It also involves communicating with classmates as we address assessments and do our own research.
In order to get the best out of online study, I have set up a small desk in be bedroom, a study lamp, my computer and notebook. Additionally, as my flatmates are also international students and are adapting to the new studying mode, we have set up new rules to make it easier for everyone to focus on our academic duties. Putting the phone away, isolating from flatmates and trying to reduce all the distracting stimulation has been an important part of focusing on my classes.
Times of crisis are hard for everyone, and keeping a positive attitude, remaining motivated and finding opportunities for personal development is important. The University services you would normally use to undertake these things are still available and accessible online.
Moreover, there are a few things we could do to improve our skills whilst at home. First, LinkedIn is giving away premium membership for free for one month. With LinkedIn we have access to all the job opportunities in the labour market, and we can evaluate what kind of skills would be strategic to improve in order to obtain our desired career in the future. LinkedIn premium comes in a bundle with In-Learning, an online learning platform with short courses to develop and improve soft skills, such as excel, marketing, entrepreneurship, photography, social media for business purposes, among others.
Uncertainty can be quite overwhelming. Our mental and physical health should be our current priority in order to avoid getting ill and unmotivated. Developing healthy living habits such as exercise, balanced diets and meditation are the key to succeeding in this situation. YouTube hosts a range of videos that feature easy home exercise workouts, healthy diets and tutorials about how to cook healthy dishes. Similarly, meditating can help reduce anxiety, distress and those overwhelming thoughts that can take place. Mobile apps such as Mind Space provide free meditation routines of 3, 5 and 10 minutes that have helped me to focus on my academic goals, reducing anxiety.
And don’t forget to join in CQUni online sessions like the Eat. Chill. Sweat series and Mentor Coffee Catch Ups. These sessions are open to all students. You can find out how to access them by reading the latest Student Broadcast email newsletter or visiting CQUniLife.
Finally, considering that the COVID-19 situation is affecting pretty much the whole globe, keeping in touch with our family and friends in our home country would help us to feel emotionally encouraged. Talking with our parents, sibling and the childhood friends we left behind in our home countries when coming to Australia would encourage us to remain emotionally strong and have some fun through video calls. Thankfully, technology is quite developed nowadays, which will help us to stay connected until everything settles down.
Here are my tips to enjoy the transition to online learning and how to get the best from this new academic experience:
- Set up a study space reducing all distractions.
- Keep the phone off or away.
- Learn and apply healthy life habits such as training, balanced diet and meditating.
- Communicate daily with family and friends.
Carlos Bravo is a current Master of Human Resource Management student and a member of the Social Squad – a group of content creators helping to promote student and campus life at CQUniversity.