Online for Fall 2020: what students expect

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as the Fall 2020 semester commences, students experience an array of emotions.

The transition to online classes has been very overwhelming for students across Canada, as most prefer the familiar experience of in-person learning. The Carillon interviewed some of these students about their expectations, what they need from profs, and what they think will change.

One student, third-year Averie Sawchuk, expresses concern over the quality of learning she will receive this term. She is a person who loves connecting with her professors and classmates.

“My only concern is that I perhaps won’t receive the same quality of instruction and communication between my peer and profs as I would in a regular class. Building strong and positive communication with my peers and profs is really important to me, so I think online learning will impact this negatively,” said Sawchuk.

When asked what she would identify as the most helpful thing her profs could do to support her, Sawchuk said “for [profs] to always be available through email, phone calls, etc. when I need extra help.”

The experience of the upcoming term(s) will be specific to each and every student, and depend upon year, program, access to internet and more. It must then be very hard for professors to navigate the situation and make it manageable for each student’s needs – but so far, from what I have witnessed, profs are working very hard to ensure their classes are accessible for all students. 

Carter Nameth, a fifth year Kinesiology student, is excited to finish up the last few classes he needs to graduate. Like every other University of Regina student, however, he has a number of questions and concerns about what the next few months will truly look like.

“I think [Fall 2020 will] be either brutally stressful or tolerable, but nowhere in-between,” said Nameth. When asked what his professors could do to best support him through his final few credits he said, “lots and lots of examples.”

For many students, there is an additional very complicated barrier – living in a different country, in a very different time zone.

I am currently residing in Manitoba with a one-hour time difference from Saskatchewan, and have found that difficult to navigate at times. Still, I cannot imagine what international student Meet Sevak’s schedule is like. Sevak is a second-year Computer Science student at the U of R who is currently at home with his family in India.

“Honestly, I feel good after the classes went online, because I came back home and I’m able to spend time with my people,” said Sevak.

Sevak expressed concerns only about his labs, but aside from that says he is glad that classes are online.

“I actually like [online classes] because some of the instructors upload [class materials], and I can attend according to my convenience. Also, the quality was way better than in-person classes because I feel like I can understand more,” said Sevak.

In my personal experience with online learning, I can identify both positives and negatives. I very much appreciate the freedom to create my own schedule, take a mental health day when needed, and eat lunch at a regular time of the day. Yet, I am very concerned about my ability to maintain focus when I am surrounded with the distractions of my home and family, and the temptation of my bed or a good Netflix special on a Friday afternoon.

Besides these issues, there are many students who have had to rearrange their living situation because of the internet and WiFi connection needed for online learning. For myself, my parents’ house has a terrible internet connection; if one person is watching a show, another cannot be on a Zoom call, because both will cut out and not load properly. This has influence my parents to significantly upgrade our internet, which is more expensive and still doesn’t improve the connection a lot. This inconvenience and expense is my biggest source of stress regarding online/Zoom classes.

The Carillon spoke to a student who has asked to remain anonymous about their feelings about the upcoming term. Last year, this student lived in residence at the U of R, but this year they are staying in Saskatoon to be closer to home.

Based on the experience they had at the end of the Winter 2020 term, the anonymous student is concerned about the workload professors will assign for the Fall 2020 term. “I think some of the profs overloaded us with work,” they said.

This student also experienced a final exam crash last term, and fears that it could likely happen again: “It was a disaster. She was good enough to let us redo it.”

When asked about specific concerns for the upcoming term the student said, “I’m pretty freaked out about doing online presentations – I don’t know how that’s going to work. I’m concerned about internet access, and I’m concerned about mandatory attendance for classes in circumstances where my internet won’t work.”

The cost of tuition at the U of R has also been the topic of conversation for a number of years, and is contested now more than ever because students feel as though they are paying for resources that they do not have access to.

“It should [cost] less because we are actually not using 40 per cent of the resources – which includes labs, classrooms, electricity, also computers and other services,” said Sevak in his interview.

For some students, “independent learning” and in-person classes should not carry an equal price: “the cost of tuition is ridiculous. We are essentially teaching ourselves to some extent, yet [we’re] paying the same, as if we were to have in-class instruction,” said Sawchuk.

Other students, like Carter Nameth, just have accepted it: “It’s high but it’s also university. So, I don’t expect it to be cheap.”

Each student is experiencing a mix of thoughts and feelings this upcoming term. Hopefully we can all support each other through them in this challenging time.

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