Online study and the Master of Urban Planning

Studying the Master of Urban Planning during 2020 has positioned Paul to interact with engaged academics and develop a routine that's kept him organised and regularly communicating with his classmates.

PV #1

It's a very difficult year with Covid-19 changing our lives profoundly. What impact has this had on your studies?

COVID-19 hasn’t impacted my studies as much as I thought it would. The teaching staff were quick to transition to an online model. I found that I could watch pre-recorded lectures ahead of time which really helped me with my time management. We also had regular live sessions allowing relatively normal tutorial discussions. I met new people and collaborated in projects just like I would on campus.

Which subjects did you study in Semester 1, 2020?

I only studied Urban Environmental Policy and Planning and started my thesis. However, I took a winter intensive, Place Making for the Built Environment.

How has the online learning experience been with your subjects?

I think I was lucky in that my subjects lent themselves to an online format. In one subject we had a significant group work component, but we scheduled regular ZOOM meetings, so the online format didn’t create an obstacle. We even ran a mock community consultation exercise in class using online platforms such as Poll Everywhere and Mural.

PV #2

Do you have any tips for students which have helped you during lockdown and transitioning to online learning?

The best way for me to avoid stress and anxiety is to get things done sooner rather than later, so that I’m not panicking close to deadlines. I make an effort to watch lectures, complete readings and other tutorial activities as soon as they are available online. I use a semester-long calendar, a weekly scheduler, and to-do lists to prioritise what needs to be done and block out times to do it.

My second tip is to start a study group with people you meet in your subjects. We are social beings and we need our social needs met, especially in an environment where you may be struggling with difficult course content, you may not know other students, and everyone is distancing away from each other. The group could be something informal like a Facebook group chat but we also used our social network to run activities like watch parties on ZOOM and games like Jackbox. Our groups schedule “Shut up and Write” sessions, where we declare to everyone what our goal for the session is, and then keep each other on track as we work towards it.

Finally, use the time that you would otherwise spend commuting for some self-care. Take a walk, play some music and do something each day that is calming.

Do you think the pandemic might change the way that Urban Planning embraces new and digital technology going forward?

Yes, the pandemic is already having an effect on how planning embraces new digital ways of working. At the beginning, I thought that a short lockdown could quickly be forgotten and things would return back to normal. However, as lockdown continues it’s become apparent that long-term digital solutions may be necessary for planners as concepts like the “smooth city” are being discussed in which activity is no longer concentrated in inner-city clusters but is spread out around the entire region. Working from home also means that people can work for distant councils.

PV #3

What has been your favourite aspect or experience in the course?

My favourite aspect of the course has been interacting with teaching staff who are experts in their field. It feels like meeting a celebrity when you read highly cited and influential papers by your lecturers and tutors. The teaching staff are a great asset to the course and help bring topics like transport planning, participation, land use, planning law and environmental planning to life.

What does being a recipient of a Dean’s Honours Award signify to you?

I definitely never expected to be awarded a Dean’s Honours Award and am very humbled by it. As someone who entered this course from an Arts background, I always felt like I was playing “catch up” and that maybe I wasn’t as good as my Bachelor of Design peers. The Dean’s Honours Award meant I could stop feeling so insecure and validated that my efforts in the course have been of value.

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