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The 5 most common questions of a first-year law student during COVID-19

Updated: Jul 20, 2021

1. How do I get in contact with group members or class members when I have never met them?

Be forward and reach out! Everyone is in the same situation, taking that first step by initiating a conversation with someone will be both appreciated and reciprocated. It may seem daunting at first but the potential to make a new friend who will make your law school experience that much better is too good to pass up.

There are multiple way you could reach out to your group members; posting on forums, sending out emails or even a casual message through Facebook, it all comes down to whichever method you feel most comfortable with. When it comes to organising your group and allocating the workload, there are a wide range online platforms at your disposal. For example, Zoom is a great tool for meetings, its simplicity, user friendly interface and ability to allow for open communication is perfect for ensuring COVID does not get in the way of you and your group. On the other hand, Google Drive is also another fantastic option as it enables you to create, edit and share documents with each other simultaneously.

Overall, if you are finding it difficult to take that first step do not hesitate to contact your lecturer. They always want to ensure that every student has an equal opportunity at doing the best they can which is why they will be eager to assist with connecting you to your group members.

2. Are online copies of textbooks provided?

So far it seems that we are not constantly going to receive the holy grail that is online copies of textbooks. Instead, some publications and e-journals have dropped their paywalls but there is no consensus amongst the law faculty or the textbook publishers on whether online textbooks will be offered. In all honesty, it is most likely very subject specific. So, with that in mind, make sure you check Moodle or the Monash library catalogue for e-book options or email your subject coordinator. You never know! Perhaps an influx of emails will make your subject coordinator realise that free online copies is something they should be offering.

3. What is the difference between the safe exam browser and e-invigilation?

Monash has provided a comprehensive page on the different types of exams and it is quite useful. You can click here to have a look!

The Safe Exam Browser (SEB), which was used for the LLB’s semester one exams, is a program which shuts down your computer to securely run the exam. This seems to be the same program used for the invigilated online exams run prior to this year. Unlike the e-vilgiation option, the invigilation of an exam while using the safe exam browser has to be external. In the case of semester one exams, this was done externally via Zoom on a second device.

Alternatively, e-vigilation seems to simply record you and your screen while you are undertaking the exam. This means it doesn’t shut down all your computer's functions, but it can see what you’re doing on the screen. This system also means that your supervision is built into the system so a second device isn’t required.

4. What do I do if I fail or I am unhappy with my WAM?

Failing, surprisingly, is an important step in learning. This unfortunately doesn’t make it any less crushing, but it does mean you can always learn something from the experience. That being said, there are options available in these situations.

Firstly, depending on the relevant criteria and your circumstance, your faculty may reach out to you and provide you with the option to sit a supplementary exam. Due to the current circumstances, this requirement has been dropped to include marks within 40-49. Secondly, for both semester one and two in 2020, Monash will withdraw students from failed units, meaning that it will not appear on your academic transcript. However, you will still be required to pay for the subject and to retake the unit if it was a core unit/pre-requisite.

If you are unhappy with your subject marks, within a two week time period after receiving results you can elect for your marks to appear as SFR. This means that your WAM will not be affected and your unit marks will not be recorded on your academic transcript. When choosing this pathway, make sure you think about your own particular situation and how your personal circumstances were affected during this pandemic.

5. How to stay focused while studying at home

Studying at home can be the epitome of a poor workplace, but only if you let it. Try and set yourself a designated work area, whether it be a room or simply a specific seat at the dining table. This should be where you take all your classes, do all your readings and complete any other task you would normally associate with university. You should also avoid doing anything aside from studying in this place as the physical location will allow you to distinguish work from play.

Be kind with your time allocation, it is important to consider what time of day best suits you, early birds may find they are more productive during the morning hours of the day while night owls might focus better once the sun has set. Regardless, you should experiment and determine which hours you are most switched on at to truly capitalise on your productivity. Once you have decided when you should be studying, the next step is to solve how you should be studying. Although powering through your endless pile of work may seem like a smart option, you are likely to become restless, bored and tired. This can then lead to a significant decrease in your work ethic and at that point, you may be better off not studying at all.

This is why it is crucial to develop and practice different study techniques to ensure you are consolidating the content and not letting procrastination take over. For instance, you could adopt the pomodoro technique which involves breaking down your work into short blocks of time. A typical example is 25 minutes work, followed by a 5 minute break. Separating your workload into small intervals will enable you to prioritise one task at a time. Adding in mini breaks means you are less likely to procrastinate which will then cause that work quality to go up!

If you are struggling with distractions from your phone, you can try leaving it in a different room or turning it off. If you are finding yourself stuck on Facebook or YouTube, you could consider downloading programs that temporarily block your access to certain websites. such as the SelfControl app for Mac.

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