By Oluwanifemi Olamiju
Many universities are going to be using online teaching for the foreseeable future and this can be a daunting prospect for any student. Whether you are entering first year this autumn or are returning, this will definitely be able to help you to be successful in your degree. Also, as everyone is different, please feel free to pick and choose what tips you use and share them with other students.
Reading is a key part of law degrees both in-person and online, it goes without saying that you should be prepared to do a lot of reading and brush up on your research skills. I would recommend familiarising yourself with your university’s online library because you may not have access to the library on campus. The restrictions put in place due to COVID-19 has led to many publishers making their material available for free online. Also, remember that the library team is available for help to find resources and they can help you to navigate databases, such as; WestLaw, LexisNexis, etc. If you don’t know what those are yet, do not worry because you will become very familiar with them and you will access them throughout your degree. It may seem complicated at first, however, I guarantee you will get the hang of it quite fast.
It can be easy to forget that you’re a university student when you aren’t going to campus and it can take some time to adjust to the teaching style of university. It is important to try and talk to as many people as possible because it can help stop you from becoming discouraged and it can also help to have people that you can turn to for assistance and advice. I would recommend creating a group chat for your course, joining your law society and get acquainted with your lecturers and tutors. It is really important to keep an open mind because university is a new environment and is a chance to further your education and grow as an individual. I believe that scheduling Zoom study groups, where you can discuss lectures and notes are a great way of making friends and simulating those all-important library meetups. It also helps with revision; I personally enjoy working with a group and listening to other perspectives on different areas of law.
I would also recommend immersing yourself in the online law student community. There are many bloggers and TikTokers that make great law student content and it can even be an opportunity to make friends with similar interests and laugh over relatable law student content. @ilyleticia is a student at King’s College London that makes great case law TikToks. @ejuarez7 is a paralegal that posts hilarious content about her experiences with criminal law.
I cannot stress this enough, watch out for your deadlines! Put them in your calendar, write them on your wall, tell your mum; whatever it takes. DO NOT MISS THAT DEADLINE! Technology is tricky and can be very unforgiving, so when submission day comes ideally go for a day before or give yourself at least twenty minutes for any “intervening acts” which could result in an unnecessary late submission.
Speaking of technology, always have a backup copy, while submitting my final coursework this year, half of my work was deleted by Turnitin (the plagiarism software) and if it wasn’t for my saved copy and the kindness of my course officer, I would have been in a very difficult position. It is important to know your way around your course website like Moodle, Canvas, etc. Websites like these are where your lecturers will post lectures, notes, reading lists and other resources; the module outline and module guide, to name a few.
The most important tip of all is to stay motivated. Studying online can be a struggle for many reasons, but the biggest struggle can be the mental challenge that it presents. It can be difficult for a new student or a returning student to deal with online classes, we often dread 9am lectures, however, many of us prefer them to online classes. Many of us tend to feel demotivated and procrastinate because we are unable to engage with lecturers and other students as we normally would. Make a list of your goals and aspirations to look back on and remind yourself why you started studying law. Take breaks and go do something you enjoy when you start to feel demotivated, it is important to talk about how you’re feeling as well and make sure that you look after your mental health. A break allows you to return with a fresh perspective, which may be just what you need to decipher that tricky judgement or memorise those cases.
Finally, I hope you remember that many of us are in the same situation and we could be in this situation for quite some time. Please take care of your mental and physical health, it can be quite draining, and I hope you take care of yourself. I wish you the best of luck on your journey and I hope you stay safe!