Online supervisions: a blessing in disguise?

To commemorate the eight month (ish) anniversary of online supervisions, Scarlet Rowe takes a look back at some of the highs and lows of virtual learning

Scarlet Rowe

"I will never understand people who are bright and cheerful in the morning"Ellie Wilson for Varsity

We have had eight months (ish) of online supervisions now, and I’m really none the wiser about them. So, what better to do with my time than to write an explanation of sorts about exactly why I am none the wiser? I mean, if nothing else, I can at least release my pent up anger at the fact that I have to wake up in the morning and be an amiable person for at least an hour on a weekly basis. And before you ask, yes, this is far too much to ask for.

Bad WiFi

Bad WiFi is both a blessing and a curse; a blessing because I can exploit my WiFi crashing to go and grab some apple juice, and a curse because I genuinely miss out on learning things that are probably important. I also appear to have terrible WiFi wherever I go, which is a bit awkward because whenever I try to speak, there is always a lag of at least a few seconds. This makes me very tempted to resign from university and society as a whole. It’s made all the worse when I see the sympathetic faces of the people who appear to eternally inhabit Teams squares and one of them breaks the news to me that they have heard a grand total of zero of the things I have just said. To this I laugh awkwardly, make a poorly-timed joke about my WiFi, which everybody else hears a few seconds later, and then I hope that Teams will swallow me up so that I never have to face my peers again.

Good WiFi

On the rare occasions that my WiFi actually works, I actually feel at a bit of a loss. I can no longer rely on having a two minute break at some point in the supervision because my WiFi is (selfishly) intent on soldiering on. On the one hand, this is good because I can, in theory, listen to what is being said, which is the whole point of supervisions. On the other hand, this is bad because I don’t have an excuse to wander off or attempt to do a thirty second plank or something absurd just to pass the WiFi-less time.


I’ve had enough of Teams. It haunts me day and night with numerous notifications, including people messaging supervision chats and asking about revision and things they have read. Often these questions are genuinely informed and insightful, which is the worst. As someone who prefers to exist by pretending that exams don’t exist to the best of my ability, such messages are rarely, if ever, welcome. The emphasis is on “if ever”.


(i) Living in a house with five siblings for the majority of Lent term did not create the ideal situation for supervisions. On numerous occasions, I had to smile stoically while my little brother played a carol on the oboe because hey, why restrict Christmas songs to December? This is actually a genuine question though, I was whistling O Come, All Ye Faithful yesterday (a personal favourite) and got a few funny looks. Must I be condemned for trying to spread some joy? Tangent aside, while I’m all for freeing Christmas songs of their arbitrary temporal box, I am not all for a beginner oboist playing Silent Night while I’m trying to grapple with what capitalism actually is and simultaneously having an existential crisis.

(ii) Now that I’m back in Cambridge, the distractions have not ceased. I have found Depop to be a perfect and addictive source of distraction. I’ve liked about fifty pairs of earrings from the past few supervisions: Lego ones, polymer clay heart ones, book-shaped ones, animal ones — you name it. This is very good for developing an aesthetic and making sure the Depop algorithm really gets me, but arguably much less good for developing knowledge for my degree. The result is that I have a dangerous tendency to view supervisions as window-shopping sessions, as opposed to serious academic discussions. Anyone else for the post-supervision school of thought?

Supervisions over-running

Now I don’t know about you, but as far as I’m concerned, a supervision should be one hour long. This means that as soon as the one hour mark is hit, the supervision should end. So why is it that a one hour supervision is practically unheard of? I fully appreciate the fact that people have questions and are passionate about their degree, but I really do wish that they’d wrap up this passion in time for my dinner.

Morning supervisions


Mountain View

Violet Editors on Life, The Universe, and Everything Else

I hate the mornings. I’m not designed to be conscious in the morning, and I have no desire to be. I will never understand people who are bright and cheerful in the morning. Morning supervisions are the absolute worst because (a) I have to wake up for them and (b) other people are chirpy and happy on the calls which drives me crazy. And the fact that I am expected to talk in them too and make insightful comments is a step too far.

That’s it from me for now. If you are going through a similar plight, then my heart goes out to you. Supervisions are not for the faint-hearted, or the night owls.