We know that studying in the UK as an international student brings on plenty of excitement – whether it’s through experiences in a new culture, environment and way of living. We also know that universities are adapting to a hybrid-styled classroom where lessons are being offered online or in physical spaces, or through a blended model as part of Covid-19 safety measures.

In the past, online learning was limited to distance learning, giving opportunities to students living elsewhere to access the same course materials as physically enrolled students at the same institution. But in today’s setting, universities are innovating to provide the best of both worlds, so studying can still be fun and safe at the same time.

Generally, we find that students are no strangers to technology but what about their fluency in virtual learning? An online classroom presents various opportunities and challenges. Without the physical presence of teachers and classmates, alongside supporting equipment or props, students are encouraged to adapt to a new way of learning.

University resources are increasingly turning digital, accessible to both physical and virtual classes, while study materials can be repeated and revised. How can students best prepare for the virtual and physical classroom? Here’s some simple tips to have the best experience, for blending learning in today’s university.

Setting up

With the option of studying virtual, ensure that you have the right equipment. These days, most students are equipped with their own laptops, smartphones, tablets and other wearable gadgets to keep track of lessons and deadlines. Not every young person is a gamer or spends time socialising virtually, so making sure you have the right tools gets you ready for class.

Check with your lecturer on the hardware requirements for the class. You may be required to film videos or record audio, or download free or affordable software to measure data for experiments and other coursework. Make sure that your laptop’s processing speeds can handle your course requirements, while ensuring you have enough storage for your files. Small laptops with 11 or 13-inch screens are a great choice if you have a strict budget, need extreme portability, and only need to complete basic tasks.

Recorded lectures are accessible 24 hours so ensure that you have good headphones or speakers that allow you to listen well, and a camera for online tutorials if the need arises. Laptops have inbuilt microphones in them, so check that your equipment is working properly so you can take part in discussions or ask questions. Some universities may allow equipment loans, depending on safety policies set at the campus.

Etiquette for virtual classes

It’s common sense when we attend a physical class to be professional. That means be punctual and respectful to your peers and lecturers. These same principles apply to online classes. Be on time and turn on your camera where it’s technologically possible.

Lecturers need feedback from students to deliver good quality live classes, so be a responsible student so you can benefit from a richer learning experience. Most lessons have basic etiquette shared before class, so respect them. University learning requires maturity, both for the online and physical space.

If you’re picking a virtual option for a live lecture, be sure that your space is comfortable, with plenty of ventilation and good lighting so you can pay attention to the coursework.

Always check that your equipment is working and batteries are charged if you choose to be away from a power source. Of course, it goes without saying, download materials in advance to prepare for the coming week’s lessons.

If you’re studying offline, either writing or watching recorded lectures or discussion, lo-fi music may help keep you attentive and focused on your task. Take plenty of walks as a break in between virtual classes to stay physically and mentally well.

Working together – online and offline

Online learning can be liberating. Those students who excel at self-management and independent learning will thrive under these freedoms. As an online learner you are free to choose a location to study, or revisit materials multiple times, and develop an in-depth asynchronous discourse with your classmates.

It’s not news that students are savvy at finding resources to meet online for chats and socialising, and using appropriate platforms can help with online learning – if the situation calls for it.

Using Discord channels, a common online platform for gamers, is fun and effective for collaboration. On Discord, users have access to GIFs, memes, videos and various channels to manage multiple discussions and encourage interaction.

Likewise the usual Google Meet, Zoom and even Microsoft Teams offer features for easy digital chats. Using file share software is common but becomes more important as more universities turn digital in their blended classroom settings. Be open and flexible to these tools so you can harness the best experience from your UK study life.