Talent Makunura is a 25-year-old Zimbabwean student studying an MSc in Finance, Investment & Risk at the University of Kent. In this blog Talent describes the changes to the delivery of her masters program that have been implemented as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as some of the concerns that she now has.
“It was on a Monday evening when my school announced the shift to online learning with immediate effect. Our Monday had progressed as usual and we were hoping to have the rest of the week to put our things in order to transition to online learning as scheduled, but because of how the Covid-19 cases were escalating in the UK and everywhere else, it had to be done immediately.
As a postgrad student, so used to studying in the school library to avoid distractions at home, with exams, course work and projects to work on and no student-teacher interaction to improve clarity on academic issues, this change seemed impossible. I had no idea how this was going to pan out, whether I was going to be able to meet my deadlines, sit for my exams as scheduled or even graduate at all. I had a lot of questions.
From the date of the announcement, my uni – the University of Kent – has kept in touch with everyone via email and social media. It has also created web pages that are dedicated to keeping us updated on the Covid-19 issues where necessary, and this has helped ease the panic. The student support system has also reached out to offer advice and support to help us navigate these difficult times. Like any type of change, the shift to online learning is not seamless, it is untested with a lot of trial and error, and needs every student to adapt and catch up, but this is better than closing schools altogether.
During this period, I have seen my lecturers hold the fort for us given the circumstances. They have made sure all the materials and lectures have been uploaded in time and all questions in relation to coursework and projects have not gone unanswered. This means we can submit our projects and coursework as planned with a few extensions and adjustments, and sit for exams as originally scheduled. However, as exams are not going to be conducted traditionally, this has raised concerns as to whether our degrees will still be accredited by their respective boards and if our degrees will still match the efficiency required on the job market, all these questions and more are all yet to be answered.
It’s a time of amorphous uncertainty, this means making the best out the situation, rising to the challenge and making a few adjustments of my own to make sure I come out ahead. Off-campus study means figuring out how to stay on task by experimenting with different ways of learning and creating boundaries to improve productivity. This has personally taught me the importance of structure in my daily schedule and to be very resourceful. To keep our spirits up, my friends and I have set aside time for virtual study sessions to keep each other motivated and focused as we prepare for exams. It’s not the same as before but it sure is getting the job done.”