Take it from a seasoned online learner: Study with Kate Donnelly

24 November 2020

In our ‘Study with’ series, we hear from Crawford’s students and graduates about their time studying public policy. Despite it bringing many challenges, COVID-19 has also opened up fresh opportunities for online study. In the coming weeks, our students will talk about their experiences studying online, and share their tips about how to make the most of it.

Kate Donnelly was already very experienced at studying online by the time lectures transitioned to digital platforms. From setting up creative workspaces to Zoom trivia, she talks about studying online whilst in lockdown in Melbourne.

Having already studied remotely for a while, Kate was looking forward to accessing a greater range of courses than before. 

She said that it was great to see that people were able to work together in a crisis like this, no matter on what platform. 

“I’ve studied remotely for the duration of my degree so far, so I was actually a bit excited by the extra course choices that opened up after ANU transitioned to online delivery.

“I think there are some real gains from this year’s online arrangements: we know now that we can work together remotely, including through blended classroom delivery for people who can’t physically be in the room, and I hope that flexibility endures after this crisis has subsided.”

Before COVID-19 forced Melbourne into lockdown, Kate enjoyed studying in public libraries. Not being able to leave her house much in the last few months, she got inventive about setting up a work space for herself, and drawing a line between study and leisure time.

“I find it helpful to have a space to study in that is separate to where I live and work - it helps me focus. It’s been a bit different this year: I’ve spent most of the year in Melbourne under stay-at-home restrictions: my housemates and I have had to get pretty creative with finding workstations around our home. We’ve rigged up a desk with crates on our back steps which is my current favourite.

During this difficult time, attending the ‘Environmental Policy and Communication’ course actually became a high point in her week.

“The lecture content was exceptional and the course was delivered so well. Our course convenor and tutor fostered a beautiful class culture – our tutorials were often the highlight of my week throughout lockdown.”

Kate found that there were also a lot of opportunities to have a laugh.  

“My policy and communications class had a team trivia night at the end of this semester, which had plenty of video-filter inspired laughs. In another class, and taking the risk of exposing my sense of humour as incredibly basic, there was a great moment towards the end of a full-day seminar where a classmate fell asleep with their camera on. I think we were all wishing we could slyly do the same!” 

Kate said that it’s naturally been a difficult year to focus on productive work, particularly for people who are stuck far away from home or who are doing more care work.

From reducing stress to building new routines, Kate recommends that people find ways to break up their days to stay positive and grounded.

“I think for me, the starting point was to take off some of the pressure by reminding myself that this year is not ordinary, and that my grades are not a reflection of my worth or a full measure of my learning.

“I’ve found that a weekly routine helped me to keep putting one foot in front of the other, especially when my mental health wasn’t great. Breaking up the day with walks helped me to keep perspective and get ideas flowing for assignments. I’ve really struggled to switch off after work and class this year, so I’ve also found that spending more time experimenting in the kitchen was a great way to eat well and give myself time away from my laptop.”

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