Monday, 17 February 2020

Overcoming Isolation Whilst Distance Learning

Having recently started studying at The Open University, Newby shares three tips for coping with isolation while studying online. 
- Newby 

Distance learning can be amazing if you lead a busy life: it's flexible around work commitments, childcare, and all the other responsibilities that make studying full-time at a 'brick' university impossible. As a young OU student though, sometimes I can't help but feel like I'm missing out on the traditional uni experience. Studying at a distance can be lonely. You get caught in a constant cycle of study, write, submit, repeat. Sometimes, it can feel like the only human contact you ever have is that panicked e-mail you send your tutor begging for an extension an hour before your assignment is due. There aren't many opportunities to make friends or exchange experiences.

These are some of the ways I combat loneliness whilst studying online.

1. Social Media is your Friend
Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter are just a few platforms that allow you to connect with your fellow students and socialise. Just recently, I discovered a Facebook group dedicated to one of my more difficult modules. It is a great place to post funny memes, ask how everyone is getting on with their essay, or just to have a rant. I've gotten to know a lot of my peers very quickly thanks to our dedicated WhatsApp chat: nothing like a deadline to bring everyone together!

2. Find the Right Balance 
A lot of people seem to think that studying from the comfort of your own home is a breeze. Wrong! Staring at the same four walls all day, every day gets old fast-no matter if you do it with your cat on your lap or a cuppa in your hand. When you work from home, it's that much harder to get out of 'study mode'. I like to take a lot of little breaks from studying throughout the day, especially ones that get me up out of my office chair and walking about. Go outside for some much-needed fresh air. Take a walk to the shops to grab lunch. Exercise. Read a book.

3. Join a Student Group
It may come as a surprise to most people, but distance learning presents a lot of the same opportunities to take part in clubs and societies as a traditional university. The OU, for example, has a very active Student Association with heaps of cool societies and activities to attend, either online or in person. There is also a lot of support available for students with mental health issues and those who want to volunteer.

I felt really positive starting my distance learning journey last October but, as usual, life got in the way. Some great things happened (I came off my meds, I started bringing my therapy sessions to an end), and some not so great things happened (I had a health scare, I lost my motivation). It's been lonely and a bit demoralising at times, but these tips have helped me bounce back recently. I'm socialising with course buddies, I'm joining in groups, and I'm finally striking the right balance between work and downtime.

For further information on looking after your mental health as a student, please see here



I am currently in my final year at The Open University, studying BA (Hons) Arts and Humanities. I am open about my struggle with Depression and Anxiety, and have always wanted to help people who are experiencing mental health difficulties. I volunteer for a youth mental health charity, and will hopefully put this experience to use in the non-profit sector. 

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