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How to deal with university when you’re burnt out

University can get pretty overwhelming sometimes. Here are some practical ways you can curb the often-overwhelming feeling of burnout....

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

 

University can get pretty overwhelming sometimes. You’ll find that your typical university student is trying to balance full or part time university, working, taking care of physical and mental health whilst maintaining a social and family life. Most of all – life happens and gets the best of us sometimes.  So, it is natural to feel a little burnt out sometimes, especially in the midst of being loaded with assignments and exams. Here are some practical ways you can curb the often-overwhelming feeling of burnout.

 

What exactly is burnout you may ask? According to HelpGuide, burnout is a “constant state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you are overwhelmed, emotionally drained and unable to meet constant demands.”.

 

So, what can we do?

Get your health in check

First thing we want to do is assess our physical and mental health. Are we eating regular meals? Are we taking regular breaks and scheduling time for things we enjoy? Have you been exercising? (even if it is one round of Just Dance)? Your health is a priority, and just as important to maintain and check your physical health, apply the same standard to your mental health.

WSU has plenty of support services to help you succeed and they can point you in the right direction when things get tough. These include free and confidential counselling services, disability support, student welfare support

Note: You can get special consideration if you have had a major life event or illness that is affecting your studies, provided you have supporting documents.

Email your tutors

Keep your tutors in the loop and contact them – they are likely to experience burnout too. Send them a quick email (you don’t have to go into detail if you don’t want to) and ask for some help catching up and keeping up. They are usually pretty understanding.

 

Break it down, compartmentalise and take it one step at a time

Sometimes you just have too many tasks to complete in a short period of time, and you have no idea where to start. Add all of your tasks into one big list (intimidating I know) and break those tasks down into smaller pieces.  You can categorise your tasks by priority, and putting the most important tasks at the top, or highlighting them in a different colour.

When beginning any task on the list, it may again, look big and hard to achieve. You probably won’t get started because it will feel like too big of a task. We want to break it down so that it becomes easier to achieve.

Example: Completing a 1500-word essay

 

  1. Intro (150 words)
  2. Paragraph (400 words)
  3. Paragraph (400 words)
  4. Paragraph (400 words)
  5. Conclusion (150 words)

Follow this method for all of your units and then assign them to a day. You can also assign your other task to these days too. For example:

Monday

  • Complete intro for Unit 1 essay
  • Tutorial 1 prep work

Tuesday

  • Complete paragraph for Unit 1 essay
  • Attend tutorial 1
  • Tutorial 2 prep work

Wednesday

  • Complete paragraph for Unit 1 essay
  • Attend tutorial 2
  • Tutorial 3 prep work

Thursday

  • Complete paragraph for Unit 1 essay
  • Tutorial 3
  • Tutorial 4 prep work

Friday

  • Complete conclusion for Unit 1 essay
  • Edit Unit 1 essay and finalise to submit by (X) date
  • Tutorial 4

And continue with each subject to slowly space out your work so that it feels less overwhelming.

 

Do things out of ‘order’

You don’t have to attack the first thing on your list right away. Just start with the task that interest you the most. You’ll find that the hardest part is getting started, and just taking that simple but difficult step to get off TikTok and get onto your tasks. That simple gesture of opining up your laptop puts you in the mindset to work, and oftentimes, you find that you can keep going.

You’ll find that when you write the introduction, the feeling of achievement will make you keep going and it ends up creating a domino effect of productivity.  But if you can’t keep going, you’ll at least know that you checked off your to-do list. Sometimes, I even just makea blank word document with the title of my task just to get myself started!

 

Think of it like having multiple tabs open in your browser. Switch between your units when the whimsey takes you. Doing a little bit of work is better than doing no work at all.

 

Schedule time for a break

 

When experiencing burnout, your body is obviously telling you that you need a break. I know breaks can be hard to fit into a university schedule, but make sure you section out time where you aren’t going to think about uni at all. For example, put your phone on silent and let yourself have an hour of your favourite video game. Or you could meet up with your friend for a coffee or wholesome tea break,  Just make sure you have some time to yourself to do things you want to do.

 

Go easy on yourself

I know this is easier said than done, but uni can be hard! You’ve being working hard this semester with a very uncertain world ahead of you. Keep pushing!

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How to prepare for your online exams

It’s October, which means two things are fast approaching: exams and semester break. I’ll wager you’re only excited about one....
It’s October, which means two things are fast approaching: exams and semester break. I’ll wager you’re only excited about one of them. With Zoom classes creating a new virtual learning space for students amid COVID-19, Sarah Cupitt explains what you need to know to prepare for your online exams.

 

 

Photo by Burst on Unsplash

Planning, revision and preparation

Online exams are likely to be a new model of assessment for you here are some tips to help you to plan successfully, revise and prepare.

  1. Show up for your exam

  • Don’t accidentally be that person who overslept.
  • If you don’t sign-in on time, you could be locked out altogether.
  • Know what time your exams are (or alternately, how long you have to take them) and be at your laptop or computer, ready to pounce.
  1. Prepare your device

  • You can’t afford any interruptions to your power, internet connection, or device functionality.
  • Make sure you’ve tested the link and software you’ll need for the exam – and download all updates before the day of your test.
  • Anticipate technical problems – mainly WiFi – if you get cut off, you might not be able to finish your exam.
  • TIP: leave your device plugged into an outlet while you take the exam, so you don’t have to worry about the battery dying.
  1. Don’t be fooled – It’s not an open book exam

  • A real person supervises your exams during and after the test.
  • “Proctoring” is another word for exam supervision.
  • Western Sydney University is working with ProctorU to provide this service to students for 2020 exams.
  • There are two ways your exam may take place:  Live+ means a real person will supervise your exam in real-time via your webcam and  Review+  means you and your screen will be recorded and reviewed by Proctor U after the exam session.
  1. Don’t try collaborative cheating

  • It’s academic misconduct, ethically wrong – and you’ll get caught.
  • Don’t sit an exam with your classmate next to you.
  • Don’t use post-it notes on your device, and don’t even think about the copy and paste function.
  1. The day of your exam

  • Carve out a quiet test-taking spot with minimal distractions.
  • Let your roommates or family know not to interrupt you during that time.
  • Make sure to turn off all notifications from your phone, email, and elsewhere (or set them to silent).
  • Be aware of any potential time limits – keep your eye on the clock.
  • Once logged in, take a moment to relax and get focused.
  1. Don’t forget to submit

  • Don’t forget to click the “Submit” button at the end.
  • Go back through your exam and review your work.
  • If something goes wrong, take screenshots and notify your instructor right away.
  1. Request feedback

  • Ask your academic or unit coordinator for feedback.
  • The process isn’t over just because you’ve received a letter grade.
  • Your goal should be to understand why you received the result that you did and to find out what you could have done better.

Visit the Library Study Smart Website for more exam study tips and guidance.

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ProctorU hacked – Western Sydney University responds

Western Sydney University's response to the widely publicised data breach of ProctorU - the online proctoring service used in its exams. ...

On 28th July 2020, cyber-security publication BleepingComputer reported that a hacker group, known as ShinyHunters, was leaking stolen user databases from a variety of websites. Among them was ProctorU – the online proctoring service used to monitor 45% of Western Sydney University (WSU) exams last semester.

Critical user information leaked

Hackers published 444,000 user records from ProctorU databases. The leaked information included usernames, passwords and addresses. University of Sydney, University of New South Wales and University of Melbourne have been reported as victims of the breach. W’SUP reached out to authorities at WSU to investigate their response to the crisis.

Read more: All ProctorU questions answered – WSU responds to FAQs Continue reading “ProctorU hacked – Western Sydney University responds”

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Is WSU forcing students to install software that invades their privacy?

Surveillance in the wake of coronavirus is forcing students to decide between privacy and their grades....
Surveillance camera peering into laptop computer. Source: Thomas Jackson

A wave of surveillance in the wake of coronavirus is forcing students to decide between privacy or their grades with online exams to be monitored with a software called ProctorU. In a time where people want to protect their online privacy and security more than ever – it’s no wonder that students are concerned.

One can argue that the testing service protects exams and ensures academic integrity – but at what cost? It’s a system where students are cheaters until proven innocent – selling a narrative that students can’t be trusted. The outcry of the student’s voice has been seen in both email correspondences to staff and student leaders. Western SRC Representatives have already sent emails to the VC and Vice President Academic on behalf of students to voice these concerns.

There are two ways your exam may take place: Live+ means a real person will supervise your exam in real time via your webcam and Review+ means you and your screen will be recorded and reviewed by Proctor U after the exam session.

Read more: Online Exam Proctoring – FAQ

Third-year ICT student Daniel Grech said that he and other students would prefer if WSU were conducting the remote exam rather than a third party. The main issues with ProctorU being data gathering, such as geo-location data, biometrical data, IP address’ and the troubling possibility of data retention.

“I think the university should ditch the use of ProctorU and use their own software such as vUWS (which they are using for my other units). And possibly the use of zoom if deemed necessary,” says Grech.

Nearly 3,500 WSU students have signed the petition created by third-year honours civil engineering student Mark Ibrahim opposing the use of ProctorU. Other petitions, include the University of Queensland with nearly 7,000 signatures, UNSW with almost 2,500, and uSYD with nearly 4,500.

 

Samantha Pamplin is a second-year student at WSU studying her first year of Bachelor of Social Science and recently sat an exam using the proctoring software – and assures it isn’t as bad as everyone makes it out to be.

“Sure, there are privacy concerns, but I looked away plenty of times and spoke to myself to collect my thoughts, and I was fine. And all the permissions it requires, such as having control of your screen are reversed at the end of the exam,” Pamplin said.

Students with a disability using their AT will render them liable for misconduct with this software. For a student to receive accommodations for a proctored exam, they will need to register with an exam facilitator so that they can provide a form to disclose a request before the exam. ProctorU does not require any information about your disability. If you have questions about accommodations, please email support@proctoru.com.

 

Actions and behaviours that will be flagged during an exam. Source: ProctorU Website.

 

However, some students have reported that the software is buggy and crashes their computers. There are also concerns about not having access to webcams and stable internet now some students have moved back home due to COVID-19.

Macquarie University who have chosen not to use ProctorU has handled their exams by offering alternate assessments such as essays, carving the path for other universities to follow their lead. However, students of WSU may be forced to approach the media or seek legal representation, as those affected at USyd have done.

“The proposed alternatives to using ProctorU include alternate assessments; options for browser locks, using Zoom (if all you’re doing is recording people to be sure they’re not looking at other devices to search answers). Some options are less invasive but still maintain a reasonable level of academic integrity without students having their privacy invaded,” says Hollie Hammond, Academic Senate Representative.

Pamplin wasn’t sure what students expect to do instead of sitting a monitored exam. However, she would’ve preferred the test to be changed to an assessment she could complete and then submit.

“I truly believe the student experience with ProctorU will vary depending on the person watching you, and I did get lucky, but if students have any issues, they can contact the exam board. I did, as I was using my mum’s workspace, which has extra monitors. And stuff like bathroom breaks, I was told by my disability advisor at the university that I would be allowed those and on the day the guy watching told me the same thing before I even asked,” she said.

 

Read more: UQ students raise privacy concerns over third-party exam platform

 

NSW Education Vice-President James Newbold from the National Union of Students shared a template for students to use for those who’d like to express their concerns to university executives, deans of schools and unit coordinators.

Currently, the university will be going ahead with ProctorU to provide this service to students for exams scheduled to be held in this year.

Read more: How to Prepare for your Online Exams

If you feel you need further support, please contact the services below:

Technical problems (vUWS) itservicedesk@westernsydney.edu.au

Examinations team examinations@westernsydney.edu.au