Online courses are a headache for some, but virtual learning imposed by COVID has benefited many students

Current Capital Journalist Amy Thompson

As the Omicron variant spreads across Canada, it’s not yet clear when post-secondary classes will resume in-person gatherings.

On December 16, Carleton University announced that the first three weeks of classes will be virtual, with the option of in-person classes starting January 31 – at the earliest, and subject to public health guidelines.

Other universities have also changed their plans for January, with the University of Toronto delaying in-person classes for most students and McMaster University making all classes virtual for at least the first week.

It’s frustrating for many students who have been eagerly awaiting to return to classes in person for the winter semester. But the move online has been a long time coming, with Carleton University announcing in November – before the Omicron variant even reached Canada – that it was moving many classes online for first and second year students. , although she assured them in the fall that they would be attending in-person lectures by the winter term of 2022.

Online courses have been difficult for many students. They isolate, and despite the power of technology, virtual labs and non-interactive lessons are not the same as the real deal. There is no interaction with classmates and being placed in breakout rooms where everyone remains silent and instead sends chat messages does not facilitate good discussions. .

The Discord group platform can be handy, but it’s not the same as staying late in the library for a study group.

Students reported increased anxiety and depression; it is very stressful to be alone and at school during a global pandemic.

On top of all this, living in Ottawa is expensive, on campus or off campus. Most student leases start in May, so students must decide whether to rent somewhere before getting a definitive response from the university.

Online courses have their advantages. Aside from the obvious ones – joining class in your pajamas and not having to take the bus at 8 a.m. – they solve a lot of accessibility issues for many students.

Now that classes have been brought back online, many students who have traveled significant distances to attend college feel they should have planned to stay home with their families from January to April. For many, spending between $ 400 and $ 1,200 a month on rent isn’t worth the price when classes are online.

I understand their frustration. In early 2020, I signed a lease in my third year of study at Carleton and never even moved in the place. I ended up staying in my hometown of Halifax for the year.

I was also at home for the entire summer of 2021. So by the time I moved into the apartment in Ottawa, I had already paid to occupy the space for 16 months. Unfortunately, not many people were looking to sublet if their courses were also online.

These reviews are correct. Students are often at a disadvantage when they take online courses exclusively.

Having said that, online courses do have their advantages. Besides the obvious ones – joining class in your pajamas and not having to take the bus at 8 a.m. – they solve a lot of problems for many students.

Online courses are much more accessible to students with reduced mobility. Students can be part of the classroom environment from a distance instead of missing out on class, say students with disabilities Radio-Canada News in March 2021.

They offered hybrid courses as a solution, as students who want or need to take online classes can do so, and those who want to take classes in person can come to campus.

I only had one hybrid course this semester – the others were online – but this course offered the best of both worlds. I’m a student who lives out of province and I often miss Thanksgiving and birthdays because it’s not worth flying for such a short time.

It is very expensive, especially with the prices of recent flights. It’s also not very safe for COVID, and I don’t want to subject my family or roommates to potential exposures.

For some students, the benefits of in-person classes outweigh not being able to come home throughout the semester, which is a valid point.

But for me, as I’m sure for many other students, it’s very isolating not being able to celebrate these occasions with my family.

Personally, Zoom University had a surprising advantage this semester – it allowed me to go home for Thanksgiving and stay until the October spring break as I had the option to take my course online. . It meant I could be home for my mom’s birthday, which was the weekend between Thanksgiving and Spring Break.

I had an online conference in the morning and then we had brunch and went downtown shopping.

The pandemic and the technical adaptations it triggered have also shifted our priorities and made us understand who and what we value most. For some, Zoom University has improved convenience and brought new opportunities.

While it might not have been the busiest day, it’s important to spend time with the people we love on the days that are special to them. Being there to hug someone on their birthday makes all the difference compared to giving a kiss on FaceTime.

The pandemic has permanently changed the way we think about work and school. It imposed alternatives to offshoring and commuting, opened the door to remote participation in online meetings and conferences.

For many jobs and classes, living where you work is no longer a necessity.

But the pandemic and the technical adaptations it triggered have also shifted our priorities and made us understand who and what we value most. For some, Zoom University has improved convenience and brought new opportunities.

Some had health restrictions or other restrictions and could not move to Ottawa. Or maybe they just didn’t want to. But others needed the interactions and resources provided by in-person lessons.

Whether it’s to improve accessibility, protect mental health, or prevent the spread of disease, students should be allowed to take classes in person or online as they see fit.

There are many technological challenges that arise with hybrid courses, and it’s not the same experience as going online. But that seems to be the way forward for universities.