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Studying Online

This guide aims to provide you with information about how to study safely online, and details of where to get help when you need it.

Accessing and using student IT Services
The University offers its students access to -

  • email
  • various online course and learning tools
  • software, library and wellbeing resources
  • printing and scanning
  • computers in studio and library spaces
  • wifi access for your own mobile devices

to help ensure your online studies are effective.  For more information about these services and lots more see - Introduction to Student IT Services.

Technology Bursary
The University recognises that some students have limited access to IT resources and may have had difficulties in engaging with online learning. In response to this need, UCA will be making a Technology Bursary of up to £500 available for eligible students to help meet the cost of hardware such as a laptop. The bursaries will be means-tested and available to eligible students studying at undergraduate level in years 0 and 1. For more information see - Financial Support.

This is where you will find all your course documents and teaching materials.  This is also the main online communication channel between you and your course team.  For information see - the Introduction to myUCA video tutorial - 

myUCA also provides -

  • a place to upload your written assignments (some of these will go through Turnitin, which assists the University in detection of plagiarism) and get feedback from your tutors
  • webinar spaces for online workshops and tutorials
  • access to myReadingList - where you will find your essential and recommended readings
  • access to Panopto - where you will find recordings of your lectures

Active engagement is a key to success and satisfaction in learning. Here are some tips for you to engage in online learning. Key things to remember -

Fear Not!
Online studyingAll online learning activities provided or arranged by your tutors will be in a safe and secure environment, with the use of secure platforms and tools including Blackboard Collaborate, Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Panopto, which UCA has subscriptions or licenses to. All the recordings during a session will only be used internally and for educational purposes.

Chat & talk
Studying OnlineRegardless of what tools your tutors use in online teaching, you can always express your ideas, make comments, or ask questions through ‘speaking’ and the ‘chat’ function. During a live session, you could unmute yourself to speak. Similarly, the chat box is an ideal space for you to actively engage in discussions, especially if you are relatively shy, less confident in speaking English or uneasy with live communication online.

Make good use of email
Whether you see email as old-fashioned or not, it remains an important and official channel of communication at UCA. It is especially useful for you to communicate with subject tutors and academic services staff, who might not link to you in social media but would definitely read and respond to your emails.

Respect others
In a live lesson, you would be asked to switch off your microphone if you are not talking in order to minimise interference to the teaching; you may be asked by your tutors to turn on your camera (when possible) in some classes; occasionally you have to wait until the end of a session for your questions posed in chat to be answered. Please observe the netiquette your tutors set up so as to ensure the smooth delivery of a live lesson.

Online group work made easy
It is very likely you will do some group work during your course. In an online environment, do plan how your group members are going to work together, for example, when to meet, what channels to be used and what responsibility each is going to assume.

Prepare for lessons
To make the best out of an online session, you may need to do some preparation. The preparation will cover the content side of your study; for example, reading some relevant resource, coming up with a design concept, or doing a pre-lesson task. The preparation could also include your technological readiness; for example, you may need to download a software and have a correct session link for a lesson.

Fake news
The internet is a fantastic resource for information however you need to be aware of misinformation and fake news.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines fake news as “false stories that appear to be news, spread on the internet or using other media, usually created to influence political view or as a joke”.  When researching online it is easy to come across fake news.

It is important to understand the impact of misinformation, have a look at this video from BBC ideas to find out why, “Is everything you share online 100% accurate?”

Searching and selecting resources
Google and other search engines offer a great place to start your research.  However - LibrarySearch will provides you with access to thousands of academic resources - databases, books, journal articles - which can’t always be found using internet search engines, on top of which you can be sure they are credible sources.

Appropriate key words and search criteria will help you find the best sources - for information about key words and searching see Searching Techniques.

Whichever search tool you use - you will need to select what you find for relevance and quality.  Selection will help you decide what results to investigate further and what sources to use in your work.  For information selecting appropriate resources see Searching Techniques.  

Keep reading to find our top tips for looking after your wellbeing while studying online.

Create a schedule
Having a schedule and routine can help us to keep on top of workload and reduce stress. Try: 

  • Having set meal times.
  • Having a nighttime routine.
  • Having a consistent waking up time.
  • Creating a routine for daily physical activities.
  • Creating a study schedule. 

Practice staying grounded
Practising staying grounded is useful in times of uncertainty and change. This is because it can leave us feeling emotionally and physically “up in the air”. Because of this, tools and techniques that help bring us back into our body (back down to the ground) can help us cope. Examples of these might include:

  • Holding onto a calming physical object.
  • Practising breathing.
  • Spending a few moments paying attention to the feeling of your feet firmly pressed into the floor.
  • Cocooning yourself in a blanket.

Create a study space
Space can be difficult to find, depending on where you live. However, it can be helpful to try and find a space, even a little one, that is specifically for studying.

  • Decorating a part of your room in a different theme/colour to indicate your study space.
  • Moving your desk to the end of your bed to create a partition.
  • Create a space away from distractions like the TV.

If you already have a working space, you might want to try freshening up your current working space by:

  • Changing the placement of your working space each month to give the illusion of newness. 
  • Reorganising your working space every so often to give it a refresh. 

Get out in nature
Nature is one of the few consistent in this time of change, and it is also one that has positive effects on our mental wellbeing. Take time to observe the changes in the nature around you as the seasons change.  You might want to try activities like: 

You might even want to do a spring clean!

Practice mindfulness
You have probably heard this one a lot, but it really can help (although it can sometimes take a bit of practice).

You can be mindful physically, by practising things such as [Yoga] or [mentally]. You also might want to think about being mindful of your [social media usage] too. 

Stay connected
There are lots of ways to stay connected, both physically and virtually. Staying connected is imperative to our survival as human beings, and fuels the production of our happiness hormone (serotonin).  You can stay connected through: 

  • Attending virtual classes. 
  • Attending in-person classes and seminars. 
  • Joining a club or society.
  • Connecting with peers through social media.

Technology is rapidly changing, and with that, our access to it and the different ways we use it are increasing at lightning speed. In today's world, our online activity is often fairly unconscious. We do it without thinking. This can leave us open to stress, danger, and another negative effects on our mental wellbeing. What’s more, the internet, as we know, is a very unforgiving place, and we would like to give you our top tips in keeping yourself safe online.

Screen time 
Did you know that on average we spend around 11 hours a day staring at one screen or another? Excessive screen time can lead to problems with your health later down the line. For example: headaches, issues with sleep, eye strain, and neck, back and shoulder pain. To mitigate against the negative of being sat in front of a screen for prolonged periods, try to: 

  • Pay attention to your posture, practising [desk yoga] as much as possible.
  • Avoid eating meals in front of a screen.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Avoid screen time half an hour to an hour before bed.

Cyber bullying and harassment 
Cyber bullying and harassment have become increasingly common over the last few years, with the increase in anonymity and accessibility to others through social media channels. Some of it has become normalised within our society, and so we often aren’t aware that it is even happening. 
Cyber bullying or harassment is any behaviour that is repeated and intended to harm - So you know the trolls who constantly write negative comments under your posts? Yeah, they are engaging in bullying and harassment.  To protect yourself from cyber bullying and harassment, try the following:

  • Use secure privacy settings.
  • Use close friends lists on social media channels where this is an option. 
  • Report accounts to the owners of the social media channels and the police. 
  • Be mindful of who you follow and who you choose to accept as a follower. 
  • You can find further support and information about cyber bullying [here].   

Inappropriate content
As you know, the growth of the Internet and technology has meant that we can share content at the click of a button. Some of the content we are exposed to, for example, content containing violence, extremist behaviour, or criminal activity, is illegal. However, because the Internet is difficult to police, we can still be exposed to these things.

One thing that we don't always know is that we can fall into traps of sharing inappropriate and illegal content.

At the university, we have a policy about students sharing inappropriate content, such as self-harming activities online. Students who are found to be showing such content will be called to discuss this with senior management.

Another way in which students can get unintentionally caught up in sharing inappropriate and or illegal content is through the sharing of nudes. Talk about the legality and illegality of this.

Did you know there was such a thing as digital self-harm? Well now you do. Someone might be engaging in digital self-harm if they 

  • Create an online account with the purpose of sending harmful messages to another person or other people.
  • Post images of their self-harming behaviours for others to see (as mentioned above). 

People who create accounts specifically for digital self-harm tend to do so to get attention to receive positive remarks and to gain some sort of connection with others. Usually there is a lot of pain at the core of this behaviour. However, this does not excuse someone if they are engaging in this behaviour.

Privacy and Identify Theft
Your personal information is valuable. Key points to remember -

  • Make sure you use secure passwords and don’t ever share passwords with anyone.
  • Do not share your security information, such as date of birth, postcode, mothers maiden name with anyone without knowing why.
  • Watch out for phishing scams - which ask you to provide information about yourself.
  • Beware of links that install software on your computer or device - malware, this may seek to gather your information and pass to on to others.
  • Don’t share personal information with to anyone in chatrooms or on websites.
  • Keep you data secure on computers and devices in case they are stolen.
  • Shred all personal documents when no longer needed.

The National Fraud & Cyber Reporting Centre ActionFraud provides lots of information and advice about both protecting yourself and what to do if your identity is stolen.

Other things to be aware of when studying online...
Radicalisation, sexting, online pornography and grooming are online concerns which are covered in the University's Safeguarding and Prevent induction modules.

When we think about our online identity and reputation, we often think about the way people behave and are perceived. Since the growth of social media channels, we now need to consider our reputation online as well as in-person. This is sometimes referred to as our digital footprint.

What is my digital footprint?
Your digital footprint is information that exists about you online. This can include photographs you have posted or have been tagged in, comments you have made, personal information and much more. Your digital footprint may even consist of content that you thought you'd deleted.

Why does your digital footprint matter?
Your digital footprint may reveal aspects about your behaviour, opinions, interests, and social groups which could then be accessible to future employees. You may want to consider whether this information reflects the reputation you want to have. You can do this by asking yourself questions, such as -

  • Would this impact me getting a job in the future?
  • Is this discriminatory against others?
  • Do I mean this?
  • If I were someone’s boss, what would I think if I saw this?

How do I find my digital footprint?
A first step in understanding your digital footprint is to perform a google search of your name, you can do this by searching ‘forename + surname’ in inverted commas to specifically trawl the two names together.

Be sure to check images and videos. You may also wish to consider other nicknames.

In the creative arts, an online presence can be crucial for recruitment; however, you may wish to ask yourself ‘Would an employer be worried about what they are reading/seeing?

How can I limit what others see of my digital footprint?

  • Consider taking down images, videos, and posts you feel are unprofessional, you may even wish to ask others to un-tag you in media.
  • Regularly check your privacy settings, social media sites update these regularly.
  • Avoid/remove bad language or harmful jokes on posts.
  • Check to see if you are connected to, or associated, with something that is sending out unprofessional views such as organisations, people and groups. 
  • You may wish to consider removing followers you feel are harmful to your digital footprint.
  • Consider setting approval for tags on sites such as Facebook.
  • GDPR gives you the right to ask organisations to delete your personal data, although they don't always have to.  For more about your rights - GDPR.

Having second thoughts about something you posted in the past is a normal part of growing up and becoming self-aware. Saying sorry and genuinely understanding the implications of what you have posted is your best friend in these situations. No one is perfect, and we all make mistakes.

How can I create a positive digital impression?

  • Consider starting a blog or creating your own website. 
  • You can try using LinkedIn for your professional online presence or engage with professionals in your creative field through twitter.
  • On professional social media accounts, be selective about who you are following. 
  • Think before you post online – could this have a negative impact on your future?
  • Avoid liking and sharing offensive views and content online. 
  • Read the Terms & Conditions of apps and websites to check you are happy with how they are handling your data.

Is the first place to go if you have any questions or problems.  They can help you with library, wellbeing, IT, finance and any other issues you have. If they'll don't know, they'll know who to contact.

Your tutor will be able to help you with learning tools and online requirements of your course.

Liaison Librarians
Will help you with finding, accessing and using online information effectively to support your study and practice.

Learning Development Tutors
Will support you with online time management, study space, working effectively in groups, engaging with and preparing for online workshops, seminars, lectures and using digital learning technologies.

For contact details see - Contact the Library.