Gillian is a Sociology student who lives in halls on the University’s Collegiate campus. Her room is well set up for studying and printing (“I have nothing which is available at the LC that I can not access n my bedroom”) – but she finds that the Learning Centre provides a more conducive environment for studying, especially with deadlines approaching, and says that the “vast majority” of time she studies there. Part of the reason for this is that in her room she “can sometimes feel tempted to log on and start chatting” on MSN but this temptation is not present in the Learning Centre. She also feels that having other people around is beneficial – sometimes seeing coursemates to ask for help, but “I also find it nice to work with other students, even though I do not know them, but it feels safe”. The fact that it’s warm also helps, and she only tends to work in her room “for e-mails and looking on Blackboard”. However, depending on the assignment she’s working on she like to “listen to music on YouTube or have the TV running in the background”, something she can only do in her room, so “I tend to [choose] a place of work which is more suited to the assignment I am working on”.
Being able to borrow a laptop from the Learning Centre – and therefore access the wireless network – means that she can find “peace and solitude” in the silent area (“silent study area at collegiate reading books alone”). This is distinct from the “large circle tables [which] just encourage people to chat”, although she appreciates the screens which “define the area…it stops people from approaching friends to have idle chats (ie not work related)”. If she’s studying alone she needs “complete silence, which is why I normally only work in the silent study areas late in the night/early morning”. Group areas also offer a space for her to chat with friends or do groupwork (“at the learning centre, group study, with three course mates doing a presentation”) and if she’s working on something which doesn’t need “allot of difficult concepts/studies/books/journals…I am full of ideas [and] I find getting up and walking around helpful”. Gillian doesn’t see the need for a laptop of her own: “If I had my own laptop, I would not bring it outside, unless I was going back to my parents home…I find the uni computerse are reliable, have up to date programmes (eg MS word) and it is easy to transfer work via a USB pen or saving it as an e-mail attachment” – and would only buy one if she needed it “for paid work” or if she was studying “regularly past staffed hours at the LC” when the laptop loans aren’t available.
Gillian reflects on the difficulties she faced the year before when “I was the only person to own a computer…and we did not have the internet” so all studying had to be done on campus or at a friend’s house which meant walking home “early mornings by myself in the freezing cold”. She feels that not having internet access off campus meant that she didn’t “do allot of Uni work for example in between watching the soaps on the TV…there was not the time to walk to Uni and back again”.
A local pub offers an alternative study space for Gillian (“going to the Nursery Tavern pub to discuss uni work with other students”) particularly for groupwork, “because people are always late for group study meetings, so at least you can have a drink before they arrive late”. Its relaxed atmosphere also helps put people at ease “so they are more likely to open up and be relaxed…better to get ideas and suggestions, but not useful if you need to discuss hard concepts or concentrate”. Studying in a non-University building helps with the atmosphere, it’s convenient (for location as it “gets used by all the people on my course” and also because “the smokers do not have to walk far so do not wasting time”) and in the evenings “people forget their SHU card so can’t get into the learning centre” so it’s easier to meet off-campus.