This assignment required me to work in a small group to interview graduate and postgraduate students and to prepare a report of our findings. The learning outcomes for this assignment were to demonstrate collaborative skills and an ability to write professional written texts for a specific audience. I worked in a small group with three other graduate students from different study areas. Our group first met to discuss ideas for our report and to select the group of students that we were going to interview. In our first meeting, we decided to interview international graduate and postgraduate students from the Faculty of Arts because we had more access to this student group. We decided to explore the views of Arts students on the current online learning situation at the University of Melbourne and how COVID-19 has impacted their studies and their daily lives. In our first meeting, we decided that each member in our group could design 10 interview questions on the theme of COVID-19, as well as 5 interview questions on the theme of employment. In our second meeting, we selected the questions that we thought could better elicit responses on these topics and included them in our final interview script. Then, each member conducted semi-structured interviews with a graduate or postgraduate student and presented their findings to the entire group. We use Google docs and Zoom to collaborative on this report, and WeChat to communicate with other group members. The workload was divided equally among members with each student writing around 700 words for the report.
We decided to report on the impact COVID-19 in the lives of graduate students due to the current relevance of this topic. Our idea was to explore international students’ perspectives regarding the university’s response to COVID-19. As a group, we worked together well to produce a consistent report. Some disagreements at the beginning were solved quickly by considering all viewpoints and deciding on the best course of action. We decided to interview students from the Faculty of Arts because we knew some students from this faculty who were willing to participate. I initially was concerned about the amount of data that we could collect from interviewing a small number of students. I thought our participants could have opposing opinions and we could not be able to draw any conclusions from the small data collected. However, most of the students had similar experiences and we were able to make some recommendations based on our findings. Overall, students believed that the quality of their classes had declined after transitioning to online classes. Students also reported suffering from a range of mental and emotional issues including anxiety, panic attacks, stress and lack of motivation. We concluded that this may be due to a prolonged lack of social interaction with peers and professors and the uncertainty around lockdown and travel restrictions. The COVID-19 crisis has caused much uncertainty among students regarding their studies and future careers. Employment was another theme explored in this report. Based on the interviews, we reported that graduate students tend to receive less employment information than PhD students. The reason is that we found through our PhD student that postgraduates frequently receive email from the Faculty of Arts notifying them of seminar and job opportunities, while graduate students need to find this information in the university website or other websites. We finally made some recommendations to the University and to prospective students. Working with my peers has allowed me to develop my communicative skills and abilities to collaborate in professional contexts. The biggest challenge was to reach an agreement between us. For this, we had to communicate our ideas effectively so that the other group members could understand. If I wasn’t able to express myself that would arise some misunderstanding but that was quickly solved by better explaining my views. The other members did the same and we respected each other’s ideas remembering our goal of producing a high-quality professional text together.