Online learning provides huge opportunities for scholars studying with a UK university.
My interactive virtual learning experience
When COVID-19 sent the UK into lockdown, Chevening Scholar Dito Adisuryo had assumed that the university field trip to the Orkney Islands would be cancelled. Luckily for him and his classmates however, university professor Dr Watts, had other ideas!
The 6 April marked the first day of our ‘Orkney Experience’, a weeklong virtual field trip to the northern tip of Scotland, the place that some people refer to as the end of the world!
The virtual learning week included a special opportunity to speak with residents of Orkney, the UK and Europe’s clean and renewable energy hub. From wind farms and electric vehicles, to marine and hydrogen renewable energies, people have travelled from around the world to visit this incredible renewable energy research area. For Cheveners who are interested, Energy at the end of the world: An Orkney Islands Saga, by my professor Dr Watts, is an interesting and enjoyable read!
The renewable energy hub is just one of the many reasons to visit the Orkney Islands. From Nordic stone age sites (such as Skara Brae and Ring of Bodgar) to Scandinavian heritage sites which date back to the Vikings, there is so much to see.
The Shetland and Faeroe Islands are another main attraction, with the former being part of the UK and the latter being part of Denmark. This combination of cultures has created a vibrant, diverse place to live for the Orcadians.
During our ‘Orkney Experience’ the days were themed by different categories, which were summarised in a ‘treasure-island map.’ Themes included island infrastructure, community energy, energy history, transport connections, and the future of marine energy. With the help of Ms Ford, an Orcadian researcher, we had the pleasure of virtually meeting lots of different people who shared their knowledge and experience with us.
Between the seminar sessions and the energy stories, we went on a virtual journey to some of the sites of Orkney including Skara Brae and Ring of Bodgar, St Magnus Cathedral, Orkney’s Distilleries and the outer islands. We also heard about the legends of Orkney, locally organised events and comic storytelling from the Orcadians.
The global pandemic has left Orkney more remote than ever, as visitors to the islands during peak spring and summer periods have not been allowed in. However, communities in Orkney are helping to protect and support each other, as well as participating in our virtual field trip to bring the Orkney experience to us.
The virtual trip was a week to remember. The Orkney experience is all about the story of community and renewable energy. As our planet is in the midst of a climate crisis, hearing about how Orcadians are helping from their remote home in the corner of the UK was very refreshing.
Orkney is notorious for its harsh winds and huge waves, with gloomy skies and stormy weathers. However, these ‘monsters of Orkney’ are being used to help mankind safeguard our Earth through renewable energy.
We were lucky that the sunshine welcomed and closed the virtual seminars. It really was a week to remember.
UK universities are responding to the challenges brought about by COVID-19 to ensure campuses are safe, education remains world-class, and student experience is unforgettable.
Cassandra Barragan, scholar at University of Sussex, shares her experiences.