“Knowledge exchange during a year of lockdown”

Evanthia Koukouli, Social Statistics, Lancaster University (2018 Cohort)

It’s been more than a year since the first lockdown in the United Kingdom. Wearing a mask, arranging online meetings, social and academic events have now become the new standard. Although life within the university, receiving and sharing knowledge changed vastly, I am impressed by the quality of the organised online events and the unceasing effort to develop methods and techniques that make the online experience even better. A good majority of courses, seminars and conferences that I attended this year were truly amazing experiences…and of course from the comfort of my home. Fortunately, in the United Kingdom, technology was a huge part of society and education before the pandemic which makes me feel that the transition was less challenging compared to countries where the use of technology was not so popular in schools, universities and local businesses. Besides, I am still amazed to see the variety of software used for knowledge delivery and event organisation. Socio, MS Teams, Zoom, Padlet and many other software and apps could truly make knowledge exchange effortless.

Although to me presenting at a conference was always stressful, this year I was so relaxed! Presenting online allowed me to have my notes in front of me to help me with my talk without worrying of losing my state of flow. For the first time, I, also, prepared a video recording for my talk which I found truly challenging but very educative. I never expected that recording a 15 minutes presentation would take 4 hours! Furthermore, I very much enjoyed the fact that due to the online nature of the events, anyone could create a personal agenda and collect the presentations that he/she would like to attend. All the talks were then linked to his/her personal calendar to get reminders before the beginning of each session. The only thing that made this experience less
enjoyable was socialisation which remains hard to achieve through a screen.

Imparting knowledge to students was another true challenge this year, sometimes with students staying silent for a whole hour or being extremely active, making it difficult to follow discussions and address all of their questions. Academics often had to think outside of the box in order to engage students with the taught modules and teach new concepts and ideas effectively. However, I feel that this initiated a new era for teaching in the universities and broadened our perspective about how knowledge can be shared. We all learned how to adapt in new situations and be flexible in adopting non-standard solutions, if needed. At the same time, to me this year was a perfect opportunity to reflect on my teaching abilities and transferable skills, and grow as a tutor. Though, I missed a lot the face to face interaction with the students.

During a year of lockdown, having the chance to keep learning and participate in events aiming to exchange academic knowledge was a delight, even though, socialisation was always a challenge. I am very happy to see the opportunities that we, as PhD students, had to develop a large variety of skills that we couldn’t develop under different circumstances. Learning was very enjoyable and I am happy that I had this experience regardless of the difficulties that accompanied this process. I do hope, however, that the coming academic year will offer more opportunities for face to face interaction with our peers and students. In the meantime, let’s enjoy the summer!

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