Students give a thumbs-up to the new study experience

19 March 2021
Hear why our student satisfaction continues to rise

How have students responded to the transition to fully online or hybrid online/on-campus learning? With a double thumbs-up, the latest Unit of Study Survey results show.

Despite the significant challenges associated with the global pandemic, in Semester 1, 2020, both domestic and international students rated their learning experience higher than ever before. In Semester 2, 2020, our student satisfaction score improved again, receiving the highest semester level and year on year improvement since the survey was introduced in 2015.

“Our latest survey results show a long-term trend of continuous improvement in students’ educational experiences and are testament to the excellent effort and application of evidence-based strategies in teaching, curriculum design and educational technology innovation,” said Deputy-Vice Chancellor (Education), Professor Pip Pattison.

For an honest account of student life at Sydney, plus study tips and so much more, meet some of our students who share it all on social:

Mustafa Dhahir, Doctor of Medicine (BPharm '20)

Find Mustafa on Tik Tok @pharmustafa or @medwithmustafa

"We have lectures online, which means I don't have to come to campus for those, but workshops are in person. So it's a hybrid model – some classes online, some class in person, which kind of takes a load off me."

Why he chose to study at Sydney: “There were a number of factors that went into my mind before I decided to pursue pharmacy and medicine. My dad's a doctor – a skin cancer specialist - and I always enjoyed watching him and I looked up to him. Growing up, I saw he helped a lot of people. He travelled around rurally a lot and I knew he helped a lot of communities that didn't have doctors. I took that into account when I was researching different degrees and I noticed that the University of Sydney was the top in the state when it came to a Bachelor of Pharmacy and also a Doctor of Medicine. It's actually ranked second overall in Australia.

"The reputation isn't the only thing that I looked into, but the professors and the doctors and the teachers at this university are world class. For example, Andrew McLachlan, who is the Dean of Pharmacy, he was the very first person to separate the anatomy of hydroxychloroquine. Obviously, that doesn't mean a lot to a lot of people, but these people are leading edge, they're the ones that are making the change in the real world. And I thought, who else to learn from than the best in the world?”

Rachel Lin, Bachelor of Commerce & Bachelor of Advanced Studies

"I chose commerce at Sydney because I wanted a broad degree. I wanted the freedom of picking a major and then if I didn't like it to switch it up, but I ended up staying with my first pick - marketing and finance.

"I've done two semesters online now, and I'm actually going online this semester as well because I like the freedom of not having to go into uni – it takes me 40 minutes to get to uni and now I can save that time to do something else.

Find Rachel on YouTube and Instagram @rachellin3

"I also feel like it's a little easier to speak from behind the camera. It's less daunting than sticking your hand up in class. You can just unmute, and if it doesn't work out, just mute yourself and no one will know. Participation has been actually easier for me surprisingly."

Danielle Lancer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

Find Danielle on Instagram

"When COVID first hit, we had all our practicals in person stop, and it all went online. Then in the second semester last year, we started to be able to do our practicals in person, usually in smaller class sizes, which has actually been amazing and more hands-on. Because there's only half of us asking questions instead of the whole group, it's a lot nicer.

"This morning, I just came from pregnancy diagnostics. We cattle preg-checked, and I was covered in everything, so you get really hands-on. 

"For a typical day, I'll usually wake up, try to fit in some sort of workout and then start with Zoom or pre-recorded lectures. I actually enjoy the pre-recorded lectures because I can go at my own pace and pause and take notes."

Paul Sebastian Pirie, Doctor of Medicine (BMedSci Hons '18)

"I'm generally quite a self-motivated learner, so I found the transition quite smooth. I could save the commuting, do everything remotely and do it at my own pace, which was good. The students got used to it, the tutors got used to it, and I thought they made it quite successful."

His top study tips: “Another way that you can practice is to teach your friends or talk through concepts with your tutor. Because every time you teach, you're reinforcing an idea that you've remembered. And if they're quizzing you, you'll be put on the spot to critically think and not just regurgitate, but rather to remember and to learn. So I think testing yourself, teaching others, and finding a study group to lift you up and motivate you, are probably the biggest tips I have for keeping on track."

Find Paul Sebastian Pirie on Youtube and Instagram

Amanda Yan, Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Advanced Studies

Chat to Amanda on TAP (The Access Platform)

"I was looking at the ranking of specific subjects, and the University of Sydney, I believe, ranks 22 in the world [for media and communications], which is a very good ranking. Also, the University of Sydney has a very high ranking overall as well, so I thought this could be a good option for me."

Amanda travelled to Australia at the start of 2020 to commence her studies, but when the pandemic hit and her course went fully online she decided to return home to China to complete her studies remotely.

"I have experienced a year of online studying and it's ok with me. I find it's even better than face to face meetings because I can arrange myself on a better timetable. I can keep all the courses on the same day or in two or three days, which makes my timetable more flexible. I think this is the advantage of online studying."

Her top tips for studying remotely: set your computer to Sydney time so you don't miss any deadlines, ask for advice and feedback from your teachers and stay connected with your peers using WeChat.

Find Darren on WeChat

Darren Peng, Masters of Mechanical Engineering

"The first time I heard everything was transferring online, I thought it was a disaster. After a few days, I noticed that having courses online is actually not bad because I can save a lot of time."

As a student mentor lead, Darren says, "Now that everything is becoming more normal I'm enjoying coming back to campus to organise activities for the new students and with my friends."

"As for why I chose the University of Sydney, that's because USYD has a really good reputation and I like Australia very much because of the cultural diversity."

Unit of Study Survey highlights

*Since 2015, the Unit of Study Survey (USS) has collected feedback from students on their learning experience by asking them six core questions on a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). In 2020 we added two more questions to also understand what students thought of the transition to online learning. Highlights from the latest results show:

  • Semester level improvement for overall core survey items was the highest ever in Semester 2, 2020, reaching 4.17 up from 4.11 in Semester 1, 2020.
  • Year on year improvement for overall core survey items reached 4.14 in 2020, up from 4.11 in 2019, also the highest ever.
  • The mean score for online learning questions introduced in Semester 1, 2020, improved in Semester 2, reaching 3.97 up from 3.87.

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