Library Services


Virtual Learning Spaces

1 December 2021

Valeria Fernandez-Soriano, Laws LLB, shares tips for using the Virtual Learning Spaces in the first of a series of articles exploring library spaces.

Student working on laptop, wearing headphones

Are you lacking the focus to study? Looking for a productivity booster? Join UCL’s Virtual Learning Spaces to find an online study community in the comfort of your own home!

If you’re anything like me, the pandemic has completely dislocated all sense of time and space.

Gone are the days of being able to focus on work in my room in silence; studying in the same space that I try to decompress in only invites a wandering eye over my ‘Most Visited’ pages and queue of ‘Watch Later’ on YouTube. Like many, I need clearly defined spaces for working, and benefit from doing so in focused environments surrounded by others getting on with tasks.

But what if, after the fifth round of trudging the Student Centre searching in vain for an empty seat, or you simply cannot make it onto campus, you find yourself without a space for focused study?

Akin to the gongbang, or ‘study with me’, videos that boomed in popularity among young people over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, UCL’s Virtual Learning Spaces provide digital hubs to be used by our own student community. Following a joint research project between Library Services and ISD on the benefits of virtual study rooms, these Zoom rooms were found to help students resist procrastination and improve their focus as participants’ neurons mirror the behaviour of others, while increasing a sense of accountability to staying on task. Additionally, students surveyed reported that the Virtual Learning Spaces provided a platform for social interaction and collaboration that we lacked during the Covid lockdowns.

Though students’ overall preference is for an on-campus, in-person learning experience. It is likely that the future will consist of a ‘blended’ approach of virtual and physical spaces, particularly where students feel social isolation as a result of the slow transition back to normality.

Accessible to all students from Monday to Friday between 10:00 -19:00, you can log into either the silent space or social space, with no prior booking required, and study in a community with a live video feed overlooking the Student Centre’s Japanese Garden. Download UCL Culture’s free virtual meeting backgrounds to brighten up the room and express your interests.

The silent space is designed for quiet individual study, with the chat function disabled to limit distractions from other students. Here, postgraduate research students can log onto the platform on Thursdays between 10:00 – 12:00 for a Virtual Writing session. Use this opportunity to meet other students on the same path as you!

Alternatively, the social space provides the option to chat without audio, if you want to communicate with other participants. To create the study community atmosphere that so many of us have relied upon during the pandemic, lots of student-to-student interaction is encouraged! Maybe introduce yourself, your degree, and what you’re aiming to complete by the end of the session using the chat function, and, if you’re comfortable, switch on your cameras to enhance the feel of group study and help those who find it difficult to focus without others around.

Both rooms provide multiple breaks throughout the day to avoid burnout:

  • 11:00: Morning coffee.
  • 12:30: Working lunch.
  • 16:30 Afternoon tea.

To ensure that the Virtual Learning Spaces are positive and constructive learning environments, participants are reminded to follow UCL’s ‘Netiquette’ for guidance on practicing good online behaviour in line with what would be expected in a face-to-face classroom. Both virtual rooms are monitored by Library Services staff, and failure to follow Netiquette guidance may result in removal or closure of the room entirely.

Find out more

Please go to the Virtual Learning Spaces page for more information and to access the rooms.