In the last few months, almost every student across the country has been subjected to some sense of online learning and has had to adapt their learning style for zoom, teams or even simply recorded video lectures. Covid-19 highlights the role of technology in education like nothing we have seen before. Researchers suggest that around 90% of the world’s high-income countries and 60% of upper middle-income countries turned to online learning within the last 6 months. Despite this, it’s apparent that the issues of online technology and this new style of studying will continue to come up.
Often, the worth of online learning is not fully trusted or given the same respect as in-person teaching. This is definitely something that a lot of us are still getting used to. The format and general process is relatively new and so weariness is to be expected.
I can’t count the number of times I have witnessed someone’s mouth moving on a video call, with no sound, guaranteed to be followed by the phrase ‘Sorry, I was on mute.’ Other common and relatable moments seen repeatedly on video calls include ‘Let me try using headphones’ and the discovery of virtual backgrounds, not to mention the awkward moment between saying goodbye or the end of the class and figuring out how to leave the call.
Time management is one of the most common struggles for university students, which clearly gets worse with a lack of physical classes and routines to follow. Without physical location changes and the social aspect of meeting other students at classes, it can be hard to organise thoughts and keep mentally positive as our days tend to blend into one. Similarly, with lack of available workspaces like libraries or even cafes to sit and work in, we are resigned to our bedrooms, which often lead to WIFI or noise problems at home.
Students are also claiming that whilst doing their best to adapt to this new style of teaching, their sense of motivation has considerably dipped. The comical image of those on a video call with a face of make-up and a nice shirt on, before revealing a lower half of pjs, has become a sad reality for many of us as we dismiss our normal routines. If you’re lucky enough to have an audio-only call, many students seem not to care for presentation at all, and in fact see this as an opportunity to get away with looking as bedraggled as possible.
Finally, the nature of online learning puts a unique demand on us, through the feeling that we should always be working. Without scheduled classes and work times and seemingly no routine, every day fuses into one that feels like we should be filling with work. This has a tendency to build anxiety and lead students to burn out. Our brains need to rest and have clear switches between tasks or even topics. My suggestions would be changing rooms (for example moving from the kitchen table to your bedroom desk), or taking a walk in between assignments, as well as a clear break in between to help your brain relax and clearly differentiate between work and study. This simulates the walk between classes or what would normally be your commute to and from home.
For many students, university education can be a struggle in general, with deadlines, multiple classes as well as extra-curricular activities to juggle. When learning moves to a virtual environment, these challenges exacerbate. What is reassuring is knowing that we’re all in the same boat, struggling along, trying our best. Hopefully, by creating our own routines and staying social (even virtually) we can still have a successful year!