Is online teaching here to stay?
The prospect of being able to get up at 8:45am, grab a cuppa and turn on our laptops for a 9am lecture in bed would have boggled our minds just over a year ago. For most students up and down the country, this has been the reality for what seems like forever. On the days where we lack motivation, this new virtual adaptation has been a godsend- voiding any need for a commute, getting dressed from the waist down or sitting in a dingy lecture theatre for hours. But as crazy and as helpful as it has been for some, the uncertainty of student life at the moment has had everyone asking: Will we ever set foot in a lecture theatre again?
With the implementation of mitigating circumstances, extensions and no-detriment policies across most universities, it is obvious that remote learning has had a negative impact on student’s grades. Therefore, for many, the need to get back onto campus is pivotal to salvage their degrees. However, there are some elements of online learning which have been incredibly beneficial and could be here to stay long-term.
One-to-one sessions with lecturers
It can often be difficult to try and catch your lecturers and supervisors for a quick chat in their office when you are both at different ends of the campus and have opposite timetables, so the introduction of online office hours has made our lecturers much more accessible. For people who struggle to talk to staff one-on-one in person, or have problems getting onto campus, booking an online Teams slot to ask any questions has eliminated so much unnecessary stress, and is something that will hopefully stick around.
Another huge help for people who deal with anxiety especially has been the versatility surrounding presentations. What was once a daunting task set out in a lecture-style manner is now as simple as pre-recording audio on PowerPoint, sharing your screen and pressing play. While this may not be an option available to students on all courses, it has definitely been an improvement on both sides of the coin. Students have been able to prepare in advance and have been less stressed about presentations and therefore staff have received better quality content. It is a win-win and is surely here to stay.
Lectures in general
Okay, here me out on this one. Have you ever had a timetable that has a one-hour lecture slap bang in the middle of your day which you could do without? Well, if lectures stay online, either pre-recorded or live, it can save so much time and money! For the commuters out there, University parking is extortionate, train and bus tickets cost a fortune nowadays and it is really not worth it when your journey is longer than the lecture. So, for people like me who have a lecture only 11-12 on a Friday, I’m hoping we will have the option to do them online in the future.
While there are many other positives that we can draw from our time working remotely, such as library booking systems and having most sessions recorded for easy access, there are of course so many things we cannot wait to get rid of.
Online Seminars with ‘Rooms’
I feel like I don’t need to say much on this one as there is a unanimous hatred towards these by all students, everywhere. They’re awkward, anxiety-inducing and it is really difficult to get a good discussion going through a computer. Hopefully, as restrictions start to lift through the summer, we will finally see the end of ‘channels’ and ‘rooms’.
While it’s easy to sit here and debate how remote learning has impacted our education, one of the main appeals of University is the experience. All year groups have suffered from having this taken away, with first years yet to experience it, second years knowing what it’s like and being unable to enjoy it, and third years finishing their degrees without celebrations. It just hasn’t been the same since remote learning ensued, but with gatherings of six now allowed outside and places starting to open in the summer, it seems like that student life is not too far away and we should all be able to make the most of it in September at least.
At the end of the day, we’re paying a lot of money for our education. Adding onto this the rent of accommodation that has mostly gone unused, many students have gotten into debt for very little payoff, and it’s about time we got our money’s worth. With the likes of Open University offering online courses for around half the price, many argue that online learning should be abolished as soon as possible, and I cannot blame them.
This past year has certainly been an experience for students across the UK, and it's absolutely not the one we expected. With rules changing all the time and students hardly being a part of the conversation in Parliament, it’s no surprise that we’re getting restless. If the road map goes to plan, we should start to return to campus soon, but it is more than likely that some elements of online learning will follow us.