What it’s like finishing your degree during lockdown.


The thoughts of a final year student on issues regarding the completion of assessments during Covid-19.


Covid-19, Coronavirus, Corona or Rona. However you chose to label it, this epidemic is one of the worst global crises that we are likely to experience within our lifetime. Since the turn of the new decade, the world has been rocked by the ‘exponential growth’ of Covid-19, which has dominated media headlines with the devastation it has caused to nations around the world. Therefore, I want to start by saying thank you to the NHS staff and volunteers working on the front line and thank you to the essential workers who are out every day keeping the country going. It’s humbling to watch the country unite in fight against coronavirus and soon enough we’ll all be back sipping 2for1 cocktails and pints in sun. But as we all watch the daily number of deaths in the UK rise worryingly close to four figures, there’s understandably an aurora of anxiety and uncertainty among the general public about how and when this is all going to end.

Students, I can guarantee, are included in feeling anxiety and uncertainty not only because of the pandemic, but because of the exams and assignments we’ve yet to submit. Obviously, universities are closed, and they have been for some time. Some may ask the question ‘To what extent does this impact students?’ – Course content can be delivered online, students can still contact lecturers, and essays are mostly submitted online nowadays anyway.

So what’s all the fuss about? 

 

The Library is Shut.

Besides the fact I spend a lot in the library wishing I was in Revs, it is an unbelievably good environment to work in. This is not a thought I had in hindsight – in that I haven’t left all my work to the last minute and am therefore using the loss of the library as an excuse for a lack of motivation to work at home – as prior to the coronavirus, you could catch me in hiding in a corner of the library almost every day downing monster energy and razzing through journal articles with a highlighter. Now, that isn’t an option.

The loss of the working environment is a big thing, to me anyway. I understand the argument for being disciplined enough to work at home and I agree completely that students should have enough discipline to work effectively from home. My argument stems from the fact we do not have the option to go to the library and use that environment. At my university there are two libraries within close distance to each other in the city centre and towards the end of last semester when deadlines began to approach, the library I use became exceptionally buy as all the students flooded to it due to the partial closure of the other library. This meant that sometimes I’d walk to the library just to realise there were no available seats and then I’d have to walk back home again to work in my room. See I have no problem working at home myself and I am employed on a remote basis, so I actually quite enjoy it. Yet, academic work feels different and preparing a final year almost dissertation and assessments without access to the right environment and full range of material feels a lot tougher than it may seem.

 

It’s just not quite all there

Literally, it’s just not quite all there. ‘Temporarily Unavailable’ is a term I never thought I would have a problem with, but when the textbook which may answer all my questions is only available in hard copy and is therefore ‘Temporarily Unavailable’, an issue arises. The problem is worsened when the timescale attached to ‘temporarily’ ceases be defined, but deadlines remain. Suddenly, the word ‘temporarily’ makes me feel a little uncertain. Obviously there are work arounds to this issue and a lot of material can be accessed online, and on that note I do want to share my appreciation for the extra lengths the LJMU Staff are going too to support students at the moment, as the current situation is entirely out of their hands. Still however which way I think about it, not having access to material which other students in previous years did have access to feels disadvantaging. Saying that, I wouldn’t usually be the one to complain about feeling disadvantaged but covid-19 is impacting everything and everyone, whether we like it or not.

 

No more 9AM’s.

To some this may come as a gift from those above, saving them from the mornings of rolling out of bed still drunk, wearing whatever’s on the floor-drobe, and making it to lecture just in time for the first break. But to the third years and those who regularly attend lectures, no more 9AM’s also means no more lectures, or no more physical lectures anyway. Online lectures, if people are even having them, aren’t quite the same. Again, I appreciate the extra lengths lecturers are going too in order to make these online classes happen, but it’s not the same.

There’s likely a research paper somewhere which supports my opinion, but I think physical environments are much better for learning than for virtual environments. I also don’t think virtual is a sufficient substitute either, with that being said what other options do we have?

 

What do I want to happen?

Extensions are great and we have all already received extensions with mine being pushed back to early May. At my university however, there are thousands of students all in entirely different situations regarding their work. There will be some who have may have submitted their deadlines already, likewise there will be some who are yet to have even started. People work at different speeds and have different factors that impact their ability to work. A student, like myself, who has worked all year and has had little time to compete assignments will likely have more outstanding work than a student who hasn’t worked at all and has been able to focus all their time on their research. Fortunately, I am in a good position with my work in spite of working all year, but you get my point.

Therefore, I would like a No Detriment policy to be put in place not just at one university but for all university students.

I support the universities who have already adopted this approach such as The University Of Liverpool who recently sent out this email to students. Bournemouth University also implemented this policy after a student petition. Late last week my university also announced a ‘No Detriment’ policy, although we currently have very little detail; we are advised further detail is due.

 

Why do I want this to happen?

I simply believe that now some universities have implemented a ‘no detriment’ policy, I feel every student should have the re-assurance of the policy. The class of 2020 ‘s degree is being completed under abnormal circumstances to say the least, therefore it seems only logical that exceptions are made to accommodate said circumstances. It also seems logical for the exceptions to apply to everyone rather than only some univeristies, as in my opinion it somewhat invalidates a degree result.

Picture this: Joe and John both study Maths at different universities. As a result of covid-19 related disruption to his research, John receives a lower grade than he was expected. Joe also achieves a lower grade as a result of the same disruption, but his university approved a ‘No Detriment’ policy and Joe receives his average grade from the first semester, gaining him a higher grade than John. Joe and John have both taken on the same amount of debt their tuition and both study for a BSc in Mathematics, therefore it only makes sense they are treated the same.

 

Do I have anything positive to say?

To balance out the negativity from the points made in this post I’ll highlight some positive aspects from my lockdown experience as a student and living in a student house.                                                        

  • Nothing stops the party. After Grand National Ladies Day was cancelled and we no longer had the opportunity to dress/behave/gamble like we had money, we decided to host it at home. Spending all day sat in the living room dressed up in a shirt, tie and trousers, and betting on virtual horses, wouldn’t usually be on my list of ways to spend a Friday. I am really am it was though.
  • I’ve ate really well. ‘Well’ does not necessarily mean healthily, but I’ve ate well. This bullet point is getting left at that.
  • TikTok makes time fly. If you’re finding yourself with time to kill get on TikTok. My initial scepticism regarding censorship by Chinese government officials working at TikTok put me off for a while at first, but after downloading it I begin to understand the hype.
  • I’m getting my money’s worth from Netflix. **** Carole Baskin. Nothing else needs saying.
  • I guess the weathers been alright.

In sum, students are not exempt from feeling any emotions that workers may feel during the current climate with feelings of anxiety and uncertainty remain ever present. Steps are being taken by universities and progress is being made, but who knows what will happen next. The novelty of Covid-19 means no one can accurately predict the outcome of any decision, because we don’t have much, if any, previous relevant data to extrapolate. Universities do seem to be waiting for one another to lead the way during this period of uncertainty, but I have good faith that the right decisions will be made. We’re all going through this change together and when it’s over, just know, we’ll all be having a BIG old British party!

Winning a Trip to Amsterdam! 🇳🇱

I am excited to share some pictures from a recent University trip to Amsterdam, having won my place from a 400 word submission two weeks earlier requiring an explanation of the benefits you would bring to Liverpool Business School’s reputation if they were to select you for the trip, so it was an honour to be selected. And, the trip was a fantastic experience! Our seminar, which was held inside the stunning LAB111 cinema complex with Jan and Massimo from the New Renaissance Film Festival, gave me a great insight into the working world of PR. They shared their extensive knowledge with us, before allowing us the opportunity to ask questions. This prompted a wide ranging discussion, covering all aspects of Events Management, PR, and Marketing, and it was especially interesting to learn all about the marketing strategies they use for the festival. Exploring PR at an international level combined with our extremely stimulating discussion has provided me lots of ideas for campaigns in future…

Words and Messages; The Use (and Misuse) of Emojis

We’ve all heard the stories of our first words being told by relatives, but who’s ever heard the story of their first message? In fact, who remembers their first message? I know that I certainly don’t, and in lecture on messages in PR earlier this week this got me thinking…

Where has this come from?

Humans are social animals, we interact with each other daily conversing on all levels with different people seamlessly. For approximately five-thousand years, language has been a vital part of human civilisation, our ability to send and receive messages interpersonally is a key factor in our rise to top of the food chain. However since late 1996, we have been forced to adapt to a new way of communication; Instant Messaging.  

The instant message changed the world, it gave the ability for people to communicate freely with anyone else in the world so long as they had an internet connection. This was the beginning of the social media revolution. Instant messaging is at the heart of some of the largest companies in the world at the moment. Facebook boasts a staggering 2.41 billion users as at June 2019, which according to my rough calculations is just above 30% of the worlds total population.

Bare with me this is going to loop back to speech…  we send hundreds of messages everyday, often I find myself walking down the street, speaking to numerous people at the same time whilst being completely silent. The vast majority of people use their phones subconsciously, especially when instant messaging. This is because social media has gave birth to The Phone Age.

Humans are growing ever more technology dependant in every day situations. I find; people are often too engrossed in their phone to participate in conversation, and when their attention turns back to the conversation after a brief social media scroll, they often give a poor response or no response at all, as they have been zoned out inside the digital world. 

Do we give more thought to our Instant Messages than our Speech?  

This question is why I wrote this post and it is entirely dependant on who you are as a person, and because of that there is no simple yes or no answer, but I can understand both perspectives. 

Instant Messages are reliant on words and more recently emojis to formulate the interpretation of the sender, and without the use of body language, tone of voice and volume to support them, they can be very easily taken out of context.  Emojis help keep messages short and simple whilst still providing some context to our message. The video below helps to explain this point; the laughing face 😂 in this video would make the response seem impolite (in my opinion!). The sad face 🙁 is much more appropriate for this situation because it makes the receiver feel like the sender is upset about not being able to spend time with them, rather than laughing at their offer. 

The younger generations, who have grown up with instant messaging and have been making this decision throughout their childhood, are often able to pick a more suitable emoji to support the context of their message than those older than them, who were forced to adapt to the new technologies later on in life. This is because they have essentially trained this as a skill from childhood, rather than developing it later on in life; when people naturally find learning harder.

Our speech tends to improve in a linear fashion as we get older, we never usually had to make any adaptations to this. Ours use of words when communicating requires a very well used and well trained brain processing power, emojis forced an entirely new thought process upon us when messaging and some people did get left behind.

Who got left behind?🤔 

Firstly, this section is going to use emojis, this is probably the only time I’ll use them on a post but I hope it adds emphasis to my points. So as mentioned before, it appears some people still haven’t quite taken to the emoji scene. During my research for this post I noticed a lot of emoji misuse came from parents, in the first sentence I contemplated using ‘older generations’ instead of the word ‘some’, but I’m not one to generalise 🤷‍♂️. Pic: The Sun

blog-post-contentThis is mainly aimed at public communications rather than corporate. But the problem I see is that a lot of organisations management teams are composed of these older generations, notably SME’s, who don’t have the financial capability for PR employment.

This can lead to some embarrassing social media moments. On social media, the humour varies rapidly and organisations are frequently late to react to the change in trend. Trends phase in and out, often fuelled by memes originating from sites such as Reddit and Twitter. What’s amusing to say one day can lead to embarrassment, if said a few day later and if the people running the social media accounts are unfamiliar the platforms current sense of humour, it can lead to cringe-worthy outdated posts. One way to think about it would be like your unfunny uncle cracking jokes when he’s round for dinner😐.  

Some digital marketing agencies have aimed to tackle this issue by using strategies such as only employing people aged under 30. However,  this raises questions as this could be viewed as discriminatory and possibly testing the barriers of ageism. 

Another way organisations tackle this issue is through the use of social media strategies tailored to their stakeholders, and yet despite their reach most organisations tend to stay away from memes, due to issues with its ability to impact advertising revenue. It is very tricky to post well on social media and highlights the benefit of having an awareness of the current trends on social media.

Even commenting on current news stories can back fire on an organisation, leaving them at risk to legal action or damage to their reputation. One example of this is Burger King and their comical indirect tweet aimed at Nigel Farage and the Milk-shaking incidents during his last political campaign, one of which happened in my home town funnily enough!

Nigel Farage Tweet

Source: BBC News

They came under fire for the tweet as it was seen to be promoting the anti-social behaviour, although there is no direct reference to the incident in the tweet, the context leaves no room to be misjudged. This incident is likely to have minor impacts on the reputation of Burger King however, with the main group of people likely to see this in a negative way being the Brexit Party Followers. Specifically those followers who actively use social media, so I would say that’s a relatively small amount. In fact could this event have been positive for Burger King? After all, they did get organic coverage of their brand through large media outlets and although in not large amounts, this interest stretched from May to late October and will have boosted the overall reach of their brand. The graph shown below taken from Google trends shows the searches for the term “Burger King Milkshake Tweet” with the curve peaking in May when the tweet was published, then again rising over the next few months when articles following the legal action from the ASA (Advertising Standards Agency) were published.   

Screenshot 2019-11-02 at 00.07.45

Overall the themes discussed in this post aim to highlight some key topics of discussion that many organisations who seek to improve their digital presence will be having, and one which shouldn’t be ignored as an organisations online reputation plays a key role in the formation of their overall reputation; one of its hardest to manage, yet most vital assets.