Tag Archives: University of Plymouth

Life in Lockdown Update: amber weeks

Lockdown was easy at the beginning; having a few lazy days, thinking that this madness would only last three weeks. But then it got harder and longer. 97 days. 139,680 minutes. 8,380,800 seconds – and counting.

Luckily, lockdown restrictions are starting to ease. For people like me, who started this lockdown alone, being able to see other people makes an enormous difference.

I guess I don’t need to keep talking to my bedside lamp anymore. Sorry, Sebastian.

The worst thing about lockdown is the effect it is having on my mental health. It wasn’t at a great point before all this started, but I had begun making progress. Now I am back to square one. I am still struggling daily, just like so many people out there.

Life returning to normal is just as daunting as lockdown. I am scared about life going back to something normal. After so long, am I ready? Are we ready? What even is normal anymore? How will life change again now? 

I wasted the first few weeks of lockdown doing nothing but playing games and watching TV. Then I started trying to stay proactive and be constructive. That lasted a little while, but I soon ran out of assignments and I’ve now taken a pause from my blog. In fact, I have stopped writing in general – this is the first thing I’ve written in weeks.

I feel I have lost my voice, lost my fire. I have completely lost track of the days and do not follow any sort of plan now. I spend some days in bed doing nothing, but other days I get up dressed and find something constructive to do.

It isn’t easy. But with lock down easing, and hopefully ending soon, it is time to start getting back to normal life. It is time to start getting back into a routine.

I haven’t personally gone out and experienced the city centre since the shops have started to slowly open again. I did, however, experience going on a train recently. Just seeing how empty the station and train were was a completely weird experience, but it was reassuring to see most people following all the guidelines to keep themselves and others safe.

So, maybe we are ready to start appearing from our homes and having some normality back. It is exciting to see what our new lives for the next few months will be and how we will continue to band together as a society to get through this year together.

I personally don’t care that the shops are opening again, as I am a hoarder and this time has been good for me to stop buying things. I only really wanted McDonald’s and the clubs to open again. I miss being able to gather with my friends and relax together, dance and sing, meet new friends, and just be young and free.

Two members of my family tested positive for the virus at the beginning of the pandemic, and it was horrifying, but to be able to sit here and tell you all both members made a full recovery makes me feel so grateful and lucky.

The Covid-19 lockdown has affected everyone in different ways. At first everyone was enjoying the time, then the isolating nature of lockdown and the impact of how deadly the virus is really hit, which made us all scared and confused. But it is amazing to see how every community, big or small, has come together to help and support each other through this time.

It’s also great to see how humans taking a step back has helped the planet heal, even if only a little. It is amazing to see these positives come out of such a negative time, but they are important and should be acknowledged and appreciated.

University of Plymouth Students Reflect on Lockdown Exams

By Tobias Chalcraft

COVID-19 has impacted our lives in many ways and exams are clearly of no exception.

While you might think alternative coursework, or even a classic essay, may be wise in these circumstances, most departments at the University of Plymouth decided to push ahead with exams in an online format.

Rather than receiving a 2-hour exam in Nancy Astor or Plymouth Pavilions, these new exams involve a paper becoming unlocked on our Digital Learning Environment (DLE) at a fixed time. You then have 48 hours to type up responses on a word document and upload the completed work onto the same site before the deadline passes.

This has understandably been interpreted as a less intense alternative to usual exams.

Casually researching appropriate academic literature on the internet replaces trying to access information that has been etched into your brain over the last few weeks. The heart-stopping declaration that “YOU HAVE 5 MINUTES REMAINING” is replaced by the beats of your favourite playlist. The only strain on your hands in these exams comes from picking up your sixth cup of tea.

We interviewed a handful of students from University of Plymouth to get a better insight into how they interpreted completing their exams during these unprecedented times. We started by asking if they preferred this format and responses generally showed a preference for this year’s arrangement, as opposed to preceding physical exams. 

Hannah, a University of Plymouth student, said, “I think it allows for students to fully show their understanding and depth of a topic as they are able to identify and use literature which is relevant to the subject”.

Another student added , “I found it easier to collect my thoughts and think more rationally and the [extended] time limit was an even bigger bonus than the usual two hours”.

On the other hand, some students felt “pretty indifferent”, or even said they preferred the traditional way of completing exams. One commented, “it was fairer in the sense that it allowed a better evaluation of students’ preparation”.

Although lockdown measures put in place to tackle COVID-19 have increased loneliness, there seems to have been a positive effect on students’ anxiety. One student said that online exams have “been so good for anxiety. I barely go outside as it is and having to go in an exam hall is b******s”.

Furthermore, there seems to be a divided opinion on how stressful these digital exams were, in contrast to the traditional format. One student said that she preferred the online experience because “cramming loads of information into my mind and trying to remember it isn’t really a good test of knowledge”. Meanwhile another undergraduate, Taku, said this year’s practice was “definitely a benefit as I felt more confident and sure of myself”.

Other students like Giulia, on the other hand, believe that these tests have been more demanding because “if you are ‘competitive’ student, you will not be able to simply work for half a day. [This year’s exams were] 48 hours of stress and constant perfecting, so I think that it was harder on my mental wellbeing than the normal 2-hour exams”.

When asked whether these online exams will be of benefit or nuisance to their grades, it was clear that most interviewees were unsure. Hannah said, “I really don’t know! You would think it would be easier to get a higher grade as you have access to books and the internet but as a consequence of this, the marking criteria will be a lot harder!”

Meanwhile, some students remain optimistic. Levi found having more time to find relevant sources to be “very beneficial” and thus hopes this will translate into a desirable outcome. 

Aside from lacking clarity and varying impacts on mental health, remote exams have also removed closure for students. One third-year student summarised this: “These exams seemed so anticlimactic. I missed having the satisfaction of hearing the invigilator telling me to stop writing and knowing I was done. This being the final year of my course added to that dissatisfaction. Submitting an exam on the DLE and then going back to play video games didn’t feel nearly as rewarding as finishing a physical exam”.

Adding to this, final year students are mourning their final nights out of university life: “while Zoom gives you the chance to celebrate with a couple of beers, it is a poor substitute for that last messy night out to put you off alcohol for life”.

Likewise, Giulia added that “being able to enjoy a drink with all my peers to celebrate together and the feeling of having accomplished something are the things I missed the most”.

COVID-19’s dramatic theft of students’ last few months of university can be seen in this final contribution from a final year student: “I have missed everything. The sounds, sights, smells. As jarring as they could be, they will not be there for me again. I’ll treasure university as an experience, but it’s passed now.”