The University of Southampton

What does September 2020 look like? 

You’ll be glad to hear that we’ve adapted the way we teach, the ways you can learn, and the way you’ll access facilities from September 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Watch the videos on this page to see what’s been arranged to make sure you can thrive during your degree as usual.

Accessing facilities during COVID-19

Dr Edward Shaw, Teaching Lab Technician, explains how you can still use the labs safely and the adaptations we’ve made.

Your online learning during COVID-19

Your Head of Physics and Astronomy, Professor Mark Sullivan explains about online learning and what the next academic year looks like for you.

What our students think about online learning

Ieva Jankute is an MPhys Physics with Astronomy student who experienced the move to online learning from March to May 2020, during semester two of her first year. Ieva tells us about her experience in this video.

Hello, my name is Claire, and I’m a PhD student in the Astronomy Group. You’re invited to join us at the drop-in sessions which run once a week with me and another Mayflower student on Microsoft Teams. We’re here to take your questions on all sorts of topics. Sometimes you’ll have been set a difficult problem sheet for the week, so we’ll spend a lot of time on that. You can ask something in the chat, by private message, or we can video chat to talk things through – however you feel comfortable. We’re here every week for anyone that needs help.
Claire Greenwell, PhD student in the Astronomy Group
Despite these hard times, physics must go on! The problem classes are an important part of your degree. They help you approach your final exams in a gradual and conscious way. That’s why we worked so hard to make sure you could access them online when the lockdown was declared over Easter. You’ll now join the sessions through Microsoft Teams in small groups of 30-40, with two to three demonstrators per group. You can ask questions publicly over video or in the chat, or request a private conversation if preferred. We’ve had lots of positive feedback about this setup, so we’re confident you’ll feel the same.
Michele Santagata, PhD researcher, School of Physics and Astronomy
I found the online teams sessions very useful as they allowed for the opportunity to not only ask questions but hear other students questions and gain insight from them. Sharing documents between the group was also helped with the project, both to gain information and to see what databases and journals to use. I also valued getting guidance weekly which enabled me to get help at every stage of the project. Being able to have personal feedback on our posters and projects helped me to improve my report and helped me to feel more confident about the task.
Lyndsey Hopgood, MPhys Physics, third year


Practical Work

Will I have physics practicals? What will they be like and what precautions will be taken?

You’ll have practicals but with extra measures taken for safety and cleanliness.  You’ll be asked to wear a face mask and respect a 1m+ distance from other lab users.

We’ll be cleaning all areas extensively and regularly to enable the maximum amount of personal experimentation time for you and other students. You’ll also notice we’ve reduced as many touch points as possible. Doors now have magnetic handles to keep them open and there will be a minimum time between use of certain pieces of equipment.

Which physics facilities can I use in September 2020?

Practical lab sessions in physics will be open to all students for as many experiments as possible. You’ll be able to work safely on individual workstations, with the expansion of the labs into a bigger space.

You’ll use specialist equipment we’ve purchased for quick and easy cleaning – like state-of-the-art quick-clean keyboards. You’ll go paperless with electronic logbooks to record your practical sessions, your data, analysis, and conclusions – a crucial lab skill for any scientist. And you’ll be using a graphics tablet (one per workstation) so you can annotate images, diagrams and write notes and formulas by hand You’ll also notice there are webcams installed on your individual workstations too, so you can ask for help without even leaving your seat.

You’ll still be fully supported in person by academics, post-doctoral demonstrators, and technicians in the labs. And you can learn flexibly and independently with online sessions on experimental skills, data analysis, and report writing.

Will there be virtual lab sessions?

There is no plan to replace hands-on lab time with virtual lab sessions.


Will there be any face-to-face teaching apart from practicals?

The core content of your degree hasn’t changed. Instead, the way your lessons are delivered has been adapted to provide a safe learning environment.

All teaching will be online, and plans are being finalised for face-to-face tutorials.

Are lectures live or recorded?

Lectures are pre-recorded and released on a schedule.

Your lecturer will be online for a live Q&A after the lecture’s scheduled release. You could write your questions down during the lecture (noting the slide number) and ask these during the Q&A.

Can I access the recordings of my lecture any time after they're released?

Yes, your lectures will be available to watch any time after the initial release date.

Contact time and support

What will my meetings with personal tutors be like?

You’ll still have regular contact with your personal tutor to ask for their guidance and support. Plans are being finalised so you can meet face-to-face with your personal tutor with up to five other students at once, with social distancing measures in place.

If I'm not seeing academics regularly, how will I get help if I am struggling?

You can join in with regular online drop-in sessions and problem classes for help with your work. These sessions allow you dedicated time to work through any sticking points with academic who will talk you through anything you're struggling with. You'll have online support from the student office, and face-to-face sessions with your personal tutor who will be available for Microsoft Teams video calls and by email between 9am and 5pm.

How will I meet other physics students?

You’ll be able to meet other students in most campus restaurants, pubs, cafes, and other communal areas in a socially distanced way. Keep an eye on our main Coronavirus updates page for campus information.


What will assessments be like?

You'll take module-level assessments in your home environment. These are usually taken over the course of a day.