Skype’s the Limit: Advice for Short-Term Absences

For students, being stuck at home due to an illness or injury can be really frustrating. We all know University is hard work anyway, so the added pressure of trying to keep up long-distance can feel overwhelming. But try not to let it get you down – there are plenty of things you can do to make it easier on yourself.

Written by Raef Boylan

Firstly, it’s important that you contact your Faculty Administrative Officer, to alert them about your health problem and request an Authorised Absence. Without this you’ll be marked down as not attending classes; missing five lectures/seminars can result in expulsion if you haven’t let the right people know, so make this a priority.

Next on the list, you need to email your tutor and all the relevant lecturers. Briefly explain what’s happened to you, how long you expect to be absent and ask for their help in accessing work. It’s likely that they’ll already be posting lecture slides on Moodle for everybody, but you might need them to email additional material like handouts or required reading to you separately. If you have reliable friends who live nearby, it’s worth asking them if they can help out by bringing you spare copies of handouts etc. Of course, it depends on which classes you have together and how often they’re prepared to make the trip to visit you.

Plus, there are other favours you might want to ask of your friends instead – such as lending you their notes or returning your library books before you get fined. Alternatively, if you have a digital recorder and a mate who likes fiddling with technological gadgets, maybe he/she can tape the lectures and seminars and email you the sound files. Remember to ask your lecturers beforehand for permission to record their sessions; some lecturers may object, but don’t despair. There is a way you can attend classes without leaving the house…

The method is Skype. As it turns out, Skype’s not just for futuristic conference calls and people whose grandchildren live in Australia; it comes in really handy for isolated students too. The main issue with using Skype is that it requires a friend who doesn’t mind taking their laptop to university and setting it up in class. Gaetan van Leeuwen, a first-year English and Creative Writing student, has been helping myself and another friend simultaneously access lectures and seminars via Skype. He sees Skype as a good way to get around anti-recording policies, as it’s live and nothing gets recorded. “It’s simple really. My laptop is always there, so I don’t mind. If I can help people out with it, why wouldn’t I do it?” The only negative side he mentions is that if lecturers don’t use a microphone “it’s not always the greatest sound quality”.

Despite her initial apprehension, Senior Creative Writing lecturer Alyson Morris has found Skype (alongside Moodle) to be a positive thing for students facing short-term absences. “Firstly, the absent students can engage with the module and not lose momentum. Secondly, other students are in control of setting up the Skype session and this ‘presents’ to all students the importance of the lecture, engagement and attendance. Thirdly, Thirdly, I feel it’s an additional way for the lecturer to engage positively with absent students.” She says setting up Skype can be slightly distracting for other students, but overall everybody on both sides of the conversation enthusiastically discusses the topics relevant to her workshops.

The final tip for absent students revolves around being organised. Make good use of Moodle and stay in touch with your lecturers. Keep an eye on exam dates and deadlines for coursework, as you might need to arrange an extension or sheltered exam conditions ahead of time. Try to maintain a routine – it’s easy to fall into bad habits like late starts and erratic bursts of studying, but this will make your transition back into student life more difficult. However, be careful not to get stressed and overwork yourself; remember to rest and get well – the quicker you can do that, the sooner you’ll be back on campus.

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