Starting university is both exciting and stressful—and that's even more true when your first year happens in the middle of a pandemic. This is what Macy French, 1st year student of Fashion Buying & Brand Management at Ravensbourne University London experienced from September 2020 onwards: the first eight months of her degree were spent learning from home without meeting any of her peers or educators.
Luckily, Aula was there to help.
After enrolling, Macy didn’t know what to expect. Her friends at different institutions had simply been given pre-recorded lectures to watch in their own time, and she was concerned it would be difficult to find the motivation and discipline to study independently.
I’ve never been taught online. Not only was I going to learn content I’d never learned before and knew nothing about—I was going to be taught over Zoom calls, which is hard for a visual learner who likes to get involved and be hands-on.
Instead of leaving first-year students on their own, educators at Ravensbourne offered them a structured learning schedule: 3 days a week from 9am until 3pm. Every day at 9am, a lecturer uploads a daily schedule and some pre-lecture content (readings and/or videos) in Aula; students have one hour to review the materials before joining a group call at 10am.
Students are actively encouraged to post questions or requests directly on Aula’s feed, where everybody can see and reply to them—which Macy loves, “because it’s very interactive and if there is something you’re struggling with, others will be there to help.”
Being part of an engaged community is crucial to positive student outcomes, and Macy’s lecturers took full advantage of Aula to create a sense of community for students who wouldn’t be able to meet one another in person for months.
Before the start of each module, educators greeted and invited students to introduce themselves in Aula's community feed, creating a sense of connection even without a shared physical space:
Throughout each module, students were also invited to use direct messages and small-group conversations to work together on assignments and projects, which made things easier for Macy and her peers:
Whenever we have a group project with someone we've never worked with before, our lecturers will put us into small group chats on Aula where we can talk to one another; we can even create separate group chats on our own. It's really easy and quick to upload things into chat. I'm lucky that I’m learning with really nice people and everyone helps each other—but if we hadn't had this chat option, I don't know how we would have done any of this.
In the spring of 2021, when it was announced that Ravensbourne students would be returning to campus, Macy looked forward to meeting people in person—but acknowledged that Aula had already helped her establish a connection with her educators and peers, before even meeting them:
Using Aula, I do feel a sense of community. I did feel a lot more connected, even though I wasn’t ever in a uni building.
The sense of belonging established in Aula won’t end once lecture halls reopen: all students at Ravensbourne will continue to use the platform as an integral part of their studies, benefiting from Aula's community-first approach that puts equal emphasis on academic challenge and meaningful connection.