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Surprising benefits of learning online

23 July 2020
Student engagement key to online learning
First year commerce student, Khuat Son Tra (Hazel) Nguyen, adapted remarkably well to learning online thanks in large part to her tutors and lecturers at the University of Sydney Business School.

First year commerce student, Khuat Son Tra (Hazel) Nguyen (right)

An international student from Vietnam, Tra spent much of her first semester at the University of Sydney like many of her fellow students, studying and learning in her room.

While she found the adjustment to online learning challenging at first, it also had some surprising benefits.

I found online learning gave me more flexibility and control of my schedule.
First-year commerce student Tra Nguyen

“At the beginning when we had to quickly move to online learning, it was challenging because I wasn’t sure what to do. But after the mid semester break, I sat back to reassess and after that week I felt I was able to really enjoy learning remotely,” Tra said.

“Because our lectures are recorded, I found online learning gave me more flexibility and control of my schedule. That’s really helped me study better. For example, I find I am more creative at night, so I like to work on the more creative subjects then and concentrate on maths subjects during the day.

“It’s helped me better understand the material too, because I can watch the lecture over and over again. This is helpful for international students because there are some specialised English terms that we aren’t familiar with."

Connecting with students online

“For a first-year student like me, it was sometimes hard for me to approach other students during large in-person lectures. However, with online functions, I can text them through the chatbox comfortably.”  

Tra singled out the efforts of her tutor for Marketing Principles 1001 unit, Jamie Loveday, in engaging the class and making the experience fun and enjoyable.

Jamie knew how to engage everyone in conversation and made us feel comfortable learning online. He even wrote a song that he sung for us at the end of semester.
Tra Nguyen

Tutor Jamie Loveday said he wrote and performed the song to thank the students in the semester’s final workshop.

“I wanted to use the song to honour the students and to recognise the incredible work they had done throughout the semester under some difficult circumstances. It was a good opportunity to also let them laugh at me for a while,” Jamie said.

I knew it was going to be tough to engage students online, so I focused on making the one hour I had with them every week the most fun I could.
Marketing tutor Jamie Loveday

 

"I used a lot of story-based learning because that is what marketing is, storytelling. I gamified some of the tutorials, turning lectures into multiple choice games and pitting teams against each other," Jamie said.

“But I also made sure I offered a smorgasbord of learning options because I know students learn in different ways; some are visual learners, while others are more practical or abstract learners. I wanted to cater to each student’s learning style.

“It’s been a challenging semester but having the students show up each week, take initiative and share their perspectives has been really rewarding.

“Your first year at university can be a scary time, so it’s important to have educators care about each student. I feel a lot of empathy for students who aren’t sure about their career; students want mentors to help guide them.”

Pursuing your career path during COVID-19

Despite the pandemic, Tra has been actively pursuing opportunities to gain insights into future career paths, including volunteering for the United Associations of Vietnamese Students for NSW and being involved in the Beta Alpha Psi society for accounting, finance, business analytics and digital technology students at the University of Sydney.

Through the student society, she met with a University of Sydney alumnus now working at Deloitte who has given her valuable advice about her future career.

“He told me to keep being involved with the student society, stay focused on my studies and to get as much experience as possible through internships,” Tra said.

Tra is the first in her family to study overseas. She completed her high school in Canada but wanted to do her university degree in Australia because she felt the education system was a better fit for her.

“It’s a multicultural and open society here which I think really suits my personality. My family has always wanted me to study overseas because they saw it as an opportunity to open my mind. In fact, my mum had a premonition when she was pregnant with me that I would study abroad,” Tra said.

“My advice to new students ready to start now is to think of COVID-19 as a challenge, instead of bad luck. We are all trying hard to get through this, and believing in yourself and others is important.”

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