- Fiona is a final year Education student who lives in a shared house.
Her house can either be a very effective and convenient working environment (“I mostly work at home because it’s comfortable and there’s no other people here to irritate me! & I can work in my PJs!”; “got an empty house so am able 2do some quiet reading in my room…books, journal articles, papers everywhere!”) or a very distracting place to study (“I’m working on a presentation for wednesday at home on my laptop…but it’s far too easy to get distracted on the internet!”; “I’m much more likely to waste time on the internet (like Facebook, you tube and other stupid things) if I’m at home”).
Distractions come in a lot of guises for Fiona. If she’s working on campus she prefers to go there at night – partly because computer availability is better, but partly because there are fewer people around. This – combined with the security staff presence – means that it’s “more relaxed” and she feels more secure leaving her belongings for short periods of time. But she also finds lack of noise distracting (“I don’t particularly like using the quiet study areas in Adsetts…sounding silly but it’s TOO quiet!…I just don’t feel like the totally silent areas are conducive to lowering stress levels, which is what I need to be able to work effectively”) and notes that in a silent area “you can pick out the murmurs of the computers/clocks/footsteps, etc” more than you can with a certain level of noise. She generally finds that she works better at nights and will take food to the Learning Centre at night so that she doesn’t have to leave before she’s finished her work. Having other people around in the Learning Centre also stops her spending too much time on social use of the internet “as if you’re in the learning centre people can see what you’re doing and you’d feel guilty taking up a computer an using Facebook!!!”. Fiona also finds that the lack of comfort in the Learning Centre, and her desire not to stay too long – “all night for example!!” – means that she’s more likely to remain focussed, motivated, and get through her work quickly. Positive distractions can help her to re-motivate herself though – “being in my dull room trying to concentrate got unproductive so went to gym for motivation! Now back in same room feeling more like working!”.
If she does work on-campus during the day, she uses the Learning Centre for different activities and “for a much shorter time – like going in to get a book, print something, or do a bit of work between seminars etc”. She also feels that during the day “it’ll be more likely be at a computer whereas at night I use a table too and spread my books, notes etc all over to refer to more”. During the day she’ll also use the Learning Centre for groupwork, something that’s “unlikely to take place at night”.
Fiona does own a laptop but “99% of the time I use my laptop at home…it rarely comes off my desk really”. It does allow her to work in different rooms at home – “like in the living room to be sociable or watch TV” – but she hardly ever brings it to campus unless she’s doing groupwork in an area where there aren’t any PCs. Having a laptop also means that the group can find a big enough space, whereas PC spaces in the Learning Centre “can be a bit crowded with other people, bags, etc. and the tables are really close together”. Not being able to access the wifi or use printers is a current limitation of on-campus laptop use, but she also finds that “it’s a lot to carry along with everything else” that she needs to bring.
Fiona also often studies in a quiet pub – “pub doesn’t sound like a great learnin space but am able2focus on reading more when away from computers” – in the middle of the day. She finds that only taking one thing to do – “the one book/journal article/essay you need to read” – then it helps to focus as it’s your only option. Comfortable surroundings with access to refreshments and toilets is another benefit of studying in the pub or a café.