Life as a Mature Student

Are you currently considering studying at Edge Hill University as a mature student? Deciding to go to university as a mature student was a decision willed with excitement and nerves for me. Part of me was worried what it would be like studying after years of being out of formal education, but I was also incredibly excited to start a new chapter of my life. I firmly believe that studying as a mature student is different than studying straight out of school/sixth form/college but it is possible and such an amazing experience!

Juggling your time:

As a mature student it is likely that you will have many responsibilities outside of university. From caring from a family, running your home, taking part in clubs or activities that you currently enjoy to having to work. Your time will inevitably be filled to the max! But this doesn’t have to mean it isn’t possible. I have fund using a diary, both on my phone and a paper version, as well as creating lists of what needs doing and when to be very helpful. It enables you to fit more into your days than you ever thought possible.

You will make new friends:

People of all ages study a multitude of courses at Edge Hill. You will make friends of all ages and find people who share your interests as well as others who will inspire you to try something new. There is so much to do and so many places to go both around campus and in Ormskirk too.

The environment is inspiring:

Edge Hill campus is a wonderful place. From my very first visit during an Open Day it felt welcoming, inviting and safe. There are many places to study around campus from the library to the Hub as well as specialist rooms such as those in Creative Edge. Then when it is time to relax there are loads of places to eat and spend time with friends, including a Subway! Being in an environment which is supportive and encouranging can be incredibly motivating too.

You’ll have a different perspective in lectures:

Having real life, often hands on, experience will mean you will be able to apply what you have learnt in the lectures to your real life experiences. This can give you a different perspective especially when completing assignments. As an Early Childhood Studies student, one of my first year module assignments was a reflective booklet. I found it very interesting being able to reflect on what I had learnt in my workplace and relate this to the skills I would need for future practice.

Public Lectures, Research Seminars and More!

Throughout the year, Edge Hill University hosts a number of public lectures. These are can be in subjects such as my own, Biological Sciences, or others, such as Education or History.

Banded archerfish (Toxotes jaculatrix). Lithograph, published in 1884.

Recently, my personal tutor and department head of biology, Dr Paul Ashton, gave his inaugural lecture titled “Contemplate an Entangled Bank” after the opening to the final paragraph of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Paul’s lecture was on the culmination of his work to date, from lime trees to sedges.

The Biosciences Department also hosts research seminars typically at lunchtime, as well as public lectures in the evening. Previous research seminars from this term were on biogeography (the origin of the Lusitanian flora), a rare genetic disease (Fanconi Anaemia), and how plant-atmosphere interactions shine a light on the origin of flowering plants. Although the schedule for 2018’s public lectures is not yet released, check back HERE for details! I attended Dr André Antunes’ talk, “Living on the Edge: Life in high salinity environments” last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. Also of note for the department is “ENTO’18: The Good The Bad and the Ugly” – an annual entomological conference which this year is being hosted at Edge Hill University during the 29th to the 31st of August.

The Geography department also holds public lectures in the Geosciences building, the most recent two being a lecture on coastal vulnerability to climate change and rising sea-levels, and perceptions of “Globalisation, Sustainability and Culture” in regard to “the Identities of old/new Empires and their colonies.”

Conferences and talks are held by the Faculty of Health and Social Care in their own building, as well as the Tech Hub and the Manchester campus – particularly for open days, where the Operating Department Practice programme is held. Conferences are also held by the faculty, such as the Digital Ecosystem event.

Education students have an interesting research seminar scheduled for early 2018 on January 11th – The Teaching and Learning of Britishness and Fundamental British Values, by Dr Sadia Habib, who has also published a book on the topic. Past seminars and lectures have included teaching in South Africa, lesson study, and educational responses for the future.

The Department of Performing Arts also has had many events throughout the year, two workshops of which were on Mindfulness and Butoh in Dance Movement Therapy. Another inaugural lecture was held by Professor Stephen Davismoon earlier this month.

Finally, students of English, History and Creative Writing have enjoyed lectures on The Politics of the Neo-Victorian Freak Show, how the illustrations of Sherlock Holmes affected the success of Doyle’s success, and “what it meant to be a girl in the late Victorian period and how women editors played a role in shaping the modern girl,” in a paper reading by Dr Beth Rodgers.

As you can see, Edge Hill University offers numerous lectures across the board of courses! I’ve found that attending these talks for my subject has allowed me to get an idea of which topics I find enjoyable both inside and outside the curriculum.

First Year Biology Modules

Although it seems like an eon ago, it was only last year that I was a first year. Back then, I was undertaking BSc Biology rather than BSc Genetics. I thought I wanted to keep my options open and get a degree in straight biology, but after getting a feel for the course and seeing what modules were available to me for second and third year, I opted to specialise.

Currently, the Biology department run a common first year – meaning that no matter what branch of biology your degree is in, you will be doing the same stuff in first year as everyone else. This was very helpful for me, as it gave me the time I needed to test the waters and decide upon my specialisation.

Ecology in my first year involved a lot of plant-based fieldwork, we visited Limestone pavements and Ruff wood to take quadrat readings and other observations such as with invertebrates. The assessments for this module for me were a data retrieval exam, and an assignment to produce a dichotomous key for the woody species of Ruff wood – which has been one of my favourite assignments so far.

Biodiversity was probably my favourite year one module, getting to learn about the wide range of organisms on the planet, and how they’re classified in taxonomy. From animals we’re widely aware of, like chordates such as birds, fish and mammals, to ones you may know less about, like cnidarians like jellyfish and corals. Also covered was the complex evolutionary history of plants, the origin of life itself, and the diversity of fungus. This modules was assessed by form of examination and presentation.

Biology in Practice was the module that hosted the trip to Cyprus which featured many fieldwork activities. All this fieldwork ended with two presentations that gave a good insight to the kind of presentations I’ve been doing in second year and will do in third year. The whole trip was incredible, and deserves a blog post of its own. Another aspect of this module was the idea of self-evaluation, as we had to write a reflective report on our time studying in first year. As well as this, we completed our first scientific report.

Cellular Form and Function was tested by means of a laboratory practical (in my case, a fluorescent gene transfer) and examination. This module focuses on the processes that occur within cells that make life possible, as well as the factors that can effect the biology of cells, and laboratory techniques used surrounding them.

Human Body Systems focuses on developing your knowledge of the structure and function of the human body and builds your understanding of the inter-relationship between the systems of the body in the context of human health and disease.” – EHU

This module’s examinations were of the open book/data retrieval kind, and also a regular closed book kind. This was the second ever data retrieval exam I had attempted and I was glad for it – it helped me improve how I handled these exams. Although not a human biologist myself, this module was certainly interesting in that it covered such a broad range of aspects of the human body and really gave a good insight into how our bodies systems come together to work and protect us from disease.

Variation, Evolution and Heredity‘s title is pretty self explanatory – we studied how variation in organisms comes to be, and how this is passed to further generations. For the assessment of this module – we wrote an essay on Darwin’s The Origin of Species, but were also tested in a regular examination also.

Overall, first year was a beneficial experience, helping me learn about the type of study I would undertake in my following year, as well as giving an insight into the topics I would study too. Of course first year (especially the cyprus trip) certainly also helped the whole year group to bond and become more familiar with one another.

Biology Lecture Structure

When I was deciding on my degree, I pretty much knew I wanted to do one in biological sciences (where I wanted to study on the other hand was something that took me a while to figure out). One thing I didn’t know until I actually started classes, was how they would be run, and what structure they would have.

So during my first and second year studying Biology at Edge Hill, all my classes have had the same overlying structure – a roughly four hour long session with a half hour break in the middle. Most of theses sessions have been lectures, so that’s what we call them. But they aren’t just one lecturer standing and speaking at you for three and a half hours straight, there is interaction, there are questions and answers and activities.

Probably around two thirds of the lectures were a typical “lecture,” with it mainly being note-taking, PowerPoints and small discussion. The remaining lectures were comprised of other activities and lab & fieldwork – which were scheduled in the same time slot for my sessions. The practicals didn’t have a separate name and time slot on my timetable, neither did field trips, also I’ve never had a seminar during my time here.

Lab work may be scheduled around the typical four hour (including a break – usually coinciding with the Hub breakfast), but fieldwork cannot be chained down to such timeframes. Transporting all the students to and from a particular area, whilst having enough time to actually carry out some work takes time – these trips were usually scheduled over the course of the whole day, from around 9am to sometime around afternoon/evening. Unless we were going across the road to Ruff Wood, that is the length of time we would spend on fieldwork. A good thing about spending the whole day on fieldwork and traveling, is that sometimes we managed to stop somewhere along the journey for food, or to enjoy the view, as some of the places we managed to go last year were quite remote.

For more information on the Department of Biology, from students’ perspective, look through the Biology category on the Inside Edge blog, or the uni’s biology page on their website.

Semester One Biology Highlights

Since semester one has essentially finished (bar a few exams and reports being due), I thought I’d take this time to look back on my favourite parts of the modules I’ve experiences on the second year of my undergrad Biology degree.

Life On The Edge

Tech Hub

Life On The Edge (LOTE) is the new and improved version of the Environmental Physiology module from previous years, it deals primarily in microbe, plant, and animal extremophiles. The largest addition to the module was Life On The Edge Evening, a series of short presentations, by the students, on a chosen extremophile. This was hosted in the lecture theatre of the new Tech Hub. One of the purposes of the event is to test the students’ research and presentation skills – which counted towards our grade. Although public speaking isn’t my strong suit, it did give me the chance to bust out my PowerPoint skills – as lame as it sounds, I’m quite fond of designing the slides. However anxious it made me, I’m sure the experience improved my public speaking abilities and got me used to presenting in a professional environment.

Another point of interest for this module was the field-trip to Anderton Nature Park, where we sampled the salt springs for microbes and isolated them from the water back at the lab.

Molecular Biology

This module featured quite an insight into the techniques and points of interest in the field of molecular biology. My personal highlight was learning about epigenetics, as I already knew a little about it and was interested in it before knowing it was featured in the module. Google defines epigenetics as, “The study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself.” This module was quite technical but very rewarding, in that the subject matter is complex but also very cutting edge.

Laboratory Masterclass

The highlight of Lab Masterclass has got to be using the scanning electron microscope (SEM). It’s an expensive piece of kit, so it’s incredible that the department to trust all the second year undergraduates to use it for our practical coursework. The assignment in question had to contain two images from the SEM which both had to be scientifically relevant, as well as a short report on the subject matter of the images. This practical was weighted quite heavily for the module, so it was imperative we used our time wisely on the microscope to get some impressive images. We could’ve chosen any sample with biological relevance to look at under the SEM, and being a fan of plants, I chose leaves. I won’t go into the details, but here are some of the images I didn’t use, that I think are still pretty impressive:

The course page for biology has a tab that gives an overview of the modules.

Here’s to your next chapter!

So today will be your first ‘proper’ day of university lectures, seminars and tutorials! I hope it’s everything you want it to be and you’ve embraced your new found independence.

The thing about today is that you’ll probably realise that (if you aren’t already) you’re going to have to be organised, because as much as the staff at Edge Hill want you to do your best…. it’s now up to you.

So if you haven’t already these are the main things that you’ll probably need are:

  • Stationery (pens, pencils, highlighters, rulers, sharpeners etc.)
  • Files
  • Notebooks.

Talking of organisational skills… you might also want to make yourself a lunch to have inbetween lectures instead of buying one. This will save you quite a lot of money over the year that you can use for other things that you need.

So it’s now up to all you year 13s to work hard so you can be here this time next year… making your own packed lunches. It’ll fly be so enjoy your time at college and enjoy the challenges it brings.

See you soon!

What I Take to My Lectures…

Starting seminars and lectures can feel super daunting, especially when you have no idea what to expect! I remember when I was first starting out, and I was frantically scouring through YouTube in hope of finding helpful videos, advising me on what to take with me! It’s safe to say, this is no ‘first day of high school’ scenario – no need for multiple useless folders and wallets to be stuffed into your oversized backpack. So I truly hope this post puts your mind at rest a little bit, and reassures you!

Backpack/handbag – There’s really no right or wrong answer with this one. You’ll definitely need one either way, but this is completely dependent on your personal preference. Firstly, consider the amount of unnecessary luggage you carry around with you on top of those supplies deemed slightly more vital. Just as long as your bag is durable and comfortable, choose what takes your fancy!

Notebook/laptop – For me, this was biggest concern. I feel it’s a common myth to assume all students attending university use laptops in seminars, but this is super untrue! This is totally down to you and your personal preference of how note taking, takes your fancy. For me, I just prefer collating written notes, whilst others prefer access to power points in which they can quickly ‘copy & paste’ information straight over onto their notes. Research how your course assess you, that’s my best advice!

Diary – I super recommend picking one of these up before starting university. It’s been my number one life saver. I write down everything in there. So much information is thrown at me each day, so if you get into the habit of writing them down now, you should never get caught behind schedule.

Pencil Case – Do I really need to state the obvious here?

Hair Brush – Hey, I’m a girl! What do you expect?

Mobile Phone – This is super handy for pulling up power-points already posted onto ‘Blackboard’ – helpful if you’re a little behind on note taking.

Purse – There are plenty of cafes around campus, so if you’re fortunate to receive a break between seminars and don’t fancy walking two minutes back to your accommodation, grab a bite to eat with your friends!

Keys – Kinda important don’t you think…

AND THAT’S IT? Nothing too unusual to what you would usually take out with you really, is it? I told you there was nothing to worry about!

 

Lectures? Seminars?

Hi everyone!

Hope you’ve all had an amazing January. This week I’m going to be giving you a little bit of an insight into what the lectures and seminars are like at university.

Some of you might not know what lectures and seminars entail, and sometimes they can be completely different depending on what course you decide to do.

In this post I hope to give you a little bit of an overview and help you understand what class sessions might look like for you.

In English Literature we currently study three modules a semester, and we have a certain amount of contact time each week- that’s basically the amount of time we spend in class with tutors.

For me it’s 4 hours per module, and 12 hours a week in total. It may not sound like a lot compared to your current timetable, but one of the major differences about university is the amount of independent work that you have to put in. This free time helps you do that without over-stretching yourself.

Each module I study has a one hour lecture followed by a one hour lecture workshop, and then a 2 hour seminar later in the week.

So the lecture will be delivered by one of your tutors and it will provide an overview of the main discussions point each week. It will introduce new ideas for you to keep in mind, and is a chance to make some helpful notes for yourself.

A little tip: most tutors make their lecture slides available online so you don’t have to copy everything down, just key points.

For my course each lecture is followed by the workshop. We move into smaller groups, and use this time to start discussions about the lecture, or to clarify things we don’t understand.

Workshops are also usually when your tutor will set you reading for the week. Often you have a few days between a lecture and a seminar, so you can go away and do some research before the seminar.

Seminars are used to take the new ideas and theories for the week even further. It’s basically a chance to discuss ideas with your peers and enhance your understanding.

Seminars are much less informal than the classes you may be used too. Tutors will usually prompt you to take over the discussions, and this is a really rewarding experience.

I hope this has helped with your understanding of how typical university teaching and learning works, and if you have any questions about lectures, seminars or anything else don’t hesitate to ask!

Quote for the day: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” -Benjamin Franklin

Until next time! 🙂

Lectures…

So, lectures. What are they? What are they like? Well, when it comes to lectures your parents might come to mind, but at EHU we have lectures of a different kind. Lectures usually last between 1hr40 to 2 hours, with a ten minutes interval in the middle. A lecturer is condensing hundreds of years of knowledge into 2 hours which often makes every single sentence vital. I find that printing the lecture slides before the lecture is helpful, as you can annotate notes around them. Highlighters will be your new best friend and organising your printed off slides into separate module folders will save time and panic when it comes to exams.

During your first year you will often be in lecture theatres, like the ones you see in films, with around 200 students. By the time you get to your second and third year you will be in small lecture room with about 30 per module. Although in all of the module handbooks it states that no food of drink is allowed, most lecturers will allow you to bring you some small snacks.

Although some lectures may be harder to get through than others, just remember this is the topic that you chose and when you receive your degree you will be thankful for every minute of it. Happy lecturing!

Until next time…

Lecture, seminar, assignment… Repeat!

So what’s going on in my course recently?

(For those who have just started reading these blogs, I’m a second year Sociology (BA Hons) student.)

Well, for starters, I’m half way through a 3000 word essay- I’m so beyond stressed it’s unreal. I seem to enjoy leaving everything until the last minute to finish. I have moments of panic, waves of stress and on some rare occasions I have shed a few tears over essays (a bit dramatic or?). I do this every time to be honest. About a month before an essay is due, I have a really positive attitude. I’ve got my books all set to read, I’ve booked into my academic diary the days I’m going to dedicate to it and I’ve done my research. I’m ready…

Fast forward three weeks and I’m not even close to being ready. The positive attitude has faded and my lazy side has arrived. The books I got out three weeks ago have hardly been touched- and I forgot to renew them so I have a lovely big fine, yay. I look through my academic diary and count all the days I didn’t bother to do any work that I scheduled in and regret it instantly. But, and there’s always a but that saves me, I still have a week to fix things. So I have been reading non-stop for 7 days now. When I do stop for an hour here and there, I’m researching case studies to back up my evidence. I’ve started typing up my findings and I’m almost halfway through. Things are looking bright.

Aside from my essay stress, my course has been interesting. I’m currently doing modules covering Conflict, focusing on the troubles in Ireland. In another module I’m studying Diversity and Equality. This is my favourite topic as we cover gender, race, disability, class and education (all very interesting issues). I’m also doing a module on Sexuality and Research Methods.

So, yeah, things are busy with loads of assignments and exams coming up. LUCKY ME!

Until next time…:)