Now that the first semester as an online student is officially over, I want to use this blog to discuss three important skills that I have developed through distance learning so far.
One skill definitely relates to time management. Since I do not have to attend classes in person, it is my responsibility to effectively manage my commitments, even those not related to my studies, and allocate enough time to ‘attend’ the pre-recorded lectures, make notes, explore the readings, and prepare for the related seminars. In fact, the flexibility and the levels of control over your studies given by remote learning could easily lead into procrastination, especially if other commitments such as part-time jobs are also there. In order to avoid the piling up of lecture materials and work load, I usually assign each commitment to a specific day or two of the week through my phone’s monthly calendar app, according to the levels of priority given and with university being at the top. The more I do so, the more I learn how to effectively manage my agenda and my time, a soft skill that is fundamental for one’s career development.
Another skill essential in today’s working context relates to the ability to handle different technologies and online tools. Since most live interactions such as seminars and group working activities take place through online platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, I consistently coming across and learn about different functionalities such as breakout rooms and screen-sharing or session-recording buttons. Similarly, websites such as Mentimeter or SurveyMonkey are useful in carrying real-time online presentations and surveys, collecting aggregate data for research projects in a very quick and straightforward way for example. It is important to learn and practice all of these different aspects, since technology, digitalization, and online meetings are becoming integral part of every workplace. Twitter, for example, will allow its employees to work from home even after the current pandemic. Also, firms have started to hold entire recruitment processes online. I am sure that the last thing you would want is to appear unprepared or clumsy when attending a job interview through Skype or handling an online PowerPoint presentation at work.
Lastly, formal online communication skills. As a remote student, I communicate with the University, ask questions to my lecturers, or exchange opinions with my dissertation supervisor, mainly through e-mails and, although it might sound strange, writing formal e-mails does requires practice. In fact, these are not a form of instant messaging, and it is essential to type down them in a way that the purpose and contents are clear to the reader, avoiding the wasting of our and our recipient’s time. I feel confident in saying that I have never sent as many emails as I did in the first semester of my postgraduate studies at the University of Manchester alone and, the more e-mails I write, the more I learn how to select and well-structure the information to include. If you have to ask an important favour to your boss or supervisor through an email, it is important to know how to type down an effective one.
In conclusion, and as I always like to point out at the end of my blogs, we should learn to see the positive things in every new circumstances or change of routine that we encounter. The potential long-term outcomes could become beneficial for our future and future career developments.