Alex Lovel: Virtual lessons and supportive staff make transition to online learning easy

When Alex Lovel learned he would be taking his Diploma in General Studies (DiGS) classes from home due to social distancing, he was worried he’d find it hard to stay on top of study.

But a few weeks into the University of Melbourne’s ‘virtual campus’ model, Alex says he and his classmates are finding benefits to this new way of learning.

“We all now understand the online format and are finding ways to enhance our learning and use the experience to develop skills that will be used more often in the future as technology advances,” Alex says.

Mehtaab Singh
Alex Lovel says the online experience he’s had in DiGS has made him confident about his future.

“The lecturers made the transition incredibly easy, ensuring we get notifications of when our online sessions are, and keeping us updated on assignments and tasks we have to complete.”

Exceptional support is one of the hallmarks of DiGS, a one-year program taught at the University’s Dookie campus designed to help students develop strong academic skills and allowing them to enter degrees in Agriculture, Commerce, Design, Science and Biomedicine.

Karen Edwards, tutor and student experience coordinator at Dookie campus, says staff and students worked together to identify and solve issues.

“We usually pay attention around campus and in classes to make sure everyone has any support they need and are feeling confident about their progress,” she says.

“With everyone learning from home, we’ve moved that pastoral care online and are making sure we’re reaching out one-on-one.”

They’re also taking advantage of the online tools available to them. Ms Edwards uses digital whiteboards, quizzes and video ‘breakout rooms’ to make sure online classes are replicating the on-campus experience.

WEBS building
Tutor and Dookie student experience coordinator Karen Edwards.

“In an online group of 30, it’s hard for everyone to contribute,” she says. “But when they’re working together over video in groups of four or five, everyone’s a lot more comfortable giving their input and socialising with classmates. It seems to be something they really enjoy.”

Students have worked with agricultural professionals to understand how real-world consultants develop whole-farm management plans, and with University staff to understand how they undertake agricultural research.

Later this semester, lecturers will walk classes through Dookie’s native bush reserve via video, allowing students to observe native plants and animals and understand biological systems.

Alex says the online experience he’s had in DiGS has made him confident about his future.

“Whether it's online or not, the University of Melbourne has given me a great insight into uni life and what people will expect of us in the coming years.”

Banner image: Alex Lovel at Dookie campus in March, before online learning commenced.