‘Reading in window’ (University of Leeds, 2011)


This is the first in our Summer Special series, where we are featuring guest posts from members of the LeedsUniLibrary’s Student Advisory Panel. Thank you to these contributors for sharing their experiences of learning through the lockdowns of the past academic year, and we hope you that you enjoy reading them as we all reflect on a unique year…

Remote Learning: A journey to online organisation

Returning to University in September of 2020, after a year in Industry and in a midst of a national lockdown, brought with it a number of apprehensions and opportunities. In particular the announcement of total online learning encompassing both pre-recorded lectures and live seminars. As the teaching began so did the personal learning curve of preparing for online academic efficiency. At first the announcement of pre-recorded lectures was welcomed, no fixed attendance time meant no early starts, and no early starts meant that the university day could commence at a time which I felt most ready to learn. However, I soon faced the challenge of the much-dreaded lecture backlog, where no fixed lecture time slot meant that I was rushed to learn the content before the live seminar later in the week. Thus, I quickly learnt that I required a fixed timetable to manage my online resources and my journey to achieve online organisation began.

Firstly, I went back to the basics.

I reverted to the pen and paper diary, where I could see on a double page spread the fixed times of my live seminars and could easily plan when lectures should be watched, with time to learn the content and complete the prep for the seminar. Of course, I took enjoyment in the satisfaction of placing a tick in the checkbox which I’d placed next to the lecture timeslot in my diary! I also each Monday noted down all my tasks, lectures and seminar prep for the week ahead on Mindlist so that I could see what I had to achieved on my desktop when my diary wasn’t to hand.

Secondly, I learnt that a tidy desk clears the mind.

I quickly learnt that a tidy working environment eliminated distractions and increased productivity. This – although a simple task – was one which I struggled with. Being a particularly messy person who has difficulty in grasping the concept of putting items back where they came from in an organised tidy manner, I needed a quick and easy strategy to achieve a clear working space. I found that by allocating 10 minutes in the morning to tidy and organise the papers and books on my desk ensured that I had space to organise my work and create a professional environment much like the office workspace I had experience in my year in industry.

Next I put myself on hold.

As expected, remote learning brought with it the distraction which comes with living in a student house and the constant impulse to check your notifications. Maintaining focus and attention on the task at hand is a challenge for many students including myself. To combat this, I split my day into hour long blocks with 10 minute breaks in between and sufficient time for lunch which allowed for both work and socialisation to be achieved. To reduce the distractions of my phone, I downloaded Forest, an app which encourages time away from your phone by disabling notifications for a set period of time helping me to maintain focus and grow a cute virtual tree in the process.

Lastly, I remembered to take my eyes off the screen.

A few weeks into the first semester I realised that remote working meant I was spending an unhealthy amount of time sitting at my desk and in front of a screen. As lectures and seminar readings were all online resources, there was little opportunity for me to take my eyes off my laptop as part of my working day. Consequently, my housemates and I established a routine daily walk as a way of lifting our spirits, getting some much-needed fresh air and importantly stretching our legs giving our eyes a much-needed break. This was easy to organise and often gave as a new lease of motivation to get the rest of our day’s work done.

 The challenges and triumphs of remote learning has greatly improved my online organisation and capabilities to work effectively in a non-working environment. Although frustrating at times, remote learning has allowed me to expand my knowledge and capabilities around working and learning online. My newly found online organisation has provided me with the skills and confidence to apply for career opportunities which offer remote working.

Different ways of working 

Undoubtedly, the past year has been tough on us all. I am not the only one who was prevented from doing their favourite sport or practising their favourite pastime. I missed the school environment, but I also found the online videos convenient to be watched in my own time and pace, which is usually a LOT slower in mathematics. Sometimes the confines of the four walls of my accommodation felt daunting, but other times I experienced things I would not do otherwise. I found the ‘Shut-up and Write’ sessions by Skills@Library particularly useful in starting the so much feared task of writing the assignment. I learned the macrame craft and I listened to live concerts of the philharmonic orchestra back home, which I could never attend in person. I found it helpful to focus on the positive changes rather that thinking about the activities that could not be done due to the restrictions. I also found it helpful to walk to the university and doing my studies where I would normally do. Desk-space was always there, although I preferred to avoid libraries as they remained busier than computer clusters and teaching spaces converted to study spaces. I hope the situation will only get better from this point on and soon the usual study interaction will be possible again.


If you’d like to help improve the Library’s services and provide support for fellow students, take a look at joining our Student Advisory Panel.


University of Leeds. 2011. ‘Reading in window’. [Online]. Leeds: University of Leeds.