Campus - 22.05.2020 - 00:00 

Learning in the corona crisis – Switzerland’s first virtual reading room inaugurated

The University of St.Gallen is really a campus university. Those who study here do not only acquire a wide range of knowledge for their careers and their lives but also meet many exciting people, make friends and establish valuable relations. Social contacts, encounters, learning groups and groups of friends are part of studying, and they make learning a great deal easier. However, such contacts are severely limited in the corona crisis. How can we maintain our motivation in this situation – particularly now that the learning stage is starting in the run-up to the examinations? By Dana Sindermann.

22. Mai 2020. In normal times, the library is a very popular place. The usually fully booked places clearly show that students like to learn in a social environment rather than in isolation at home. Starting to learn alone takes more of an effort than starting to learn in a group. Also, it is easier to be distracted at home – after all, nobody can see what we’re doing.

A collective, digital learning space

In this situation produced by the corona crisis, where students are forced to work at home, the HSG Library now provides a shared learning room: it has created Switzerland’s first virtual reading room. Students can enter the reading room via MS Teams and join their fellow students to learn and work together. Each visitor’s camera is on for the duration; students simply behave as if they were in the real library. The mood of concentration is infectious; it motivates students to remain focused, to write, read and learn.

Starting to learn is particularly less difficult if you start together. For one thing, you have a binding appointment; for another, you motivate each other to get cracking and keep going. This is why it may be useful to make an appointment for learning in the virtual reading room. In this way, you won’t only keep the appointment but will also find learning easier. And if you run into difficulties, you feel less isolated if you can contact a friend across the table by chat.

Weekly schedule and daily goal

A further tactical move to attain the learning objective is drawing up a learning schedule and keeping an eye on it together. To start with, each student sketches an overview type of weekly schedule and then formulates the individual daily stages. You discuss this schedule together at the beginning of the week, and you also show your daily objective to your friend every morning. In the evening and at the end of the week, you connect up again to see to what extent the objective has been attained. In this context, you can of course also place bets or make arrangements for rewards.

Virtual coffee breaks

The virtual reading room is also intended to enable students to meet again on a more casual basis. You can see who is there. And you can communicate by chat and make an appointment for a mid-morning snack or a cup of coffee. The virtual reading room in times of corona also doubles as a small test stage for the time from early July to early September, when the HSG Library will be closed again for renovation and restoration work. In how far the virtual library actually works will meanwhile be decided by the students.

The author, Dana Sindermann, is a research assistant at the Institute for Business Ethics.

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