Open laptop showing a online meeting with many people visible.

May 24, 2024, by UoN School of English

Connecting Online at UoN

As a mature student, the University of Nottingham’s English (Online) MA fitted my requirements for a post-graduate program of study. The reasons for my choice included: the flexibility around time and location; ability to choose my study pathway; academic rigour, and consistent support. 

However, there are challenges, or at least things to be aware of when you’re choosing distance learning. Returning to university, finding organisational and note-taking strategies, and finding a virtual support network have all been their own kinds of learning experience. While there are resources to help with these – for me, these are the Obsidian App, www.thethesiswhisperer, and study-with-me videos – it is building connections that has been the most beneficial. 

One of the most effective ways to connect with both students and staff has been to reach out first. Although this was (and still is!) a fairly terrifying prospect, I have realised that it becomes easier with practice and that the worst that can happen is no response. The opportunities make it worth it! 

Some other things I’ve found useful: 

  • Starting small, reacting positively to people’s comments – 90% of people also feel nervous about positing into the void (tutors included). 
  • Responding to a post means you’ll be in the loop on further replies, and you start to ‘meet’ people on your course. There is no cost to asking a thoughtful question or a positive comment, either on an existing thread or in a chat.  
  • After posting a comment, pose further questions and follow up. Developing, honing and pivoting my ideas could not have happened without these conversations. 
  • Personalising notification settings on Teams. Actually, have a play around in Teams in general. Shortcuts are worth knowing – SHIFT Enter to include line breaks, how to edit, CTRL K to include links – and finding out who’s in your channels. 
  • When sending a message, thinking beyond the hi, or ‘no hello’. Include a comment or question to kick off the conversation. 
  • While bonding over academic interests is great, as is sharing links and papers, personal topics like travel, books, films, hobbies etc are important too.  
  • Remembering that tutors, advisors and course leaders are human too. They also appreciate thoughtful follow-up and a smiling nerd emoji. 

I have been fortunate to meet some wonderful people through my MA and know my time at UoN has been far richer for it. If you do one thing after reading this, contact someone new on your course and enjoy the opportunities it brings. 


— Rhiannon Rumble, MA English (Online)  

Image credits: Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

Posted in Tips/Advice/Guidance