We’re halfway through online classes. They suck.

clackity clackity clack Thomas Lefebre via Unsplash

Disconnect between students, professors, and the university

We are halfway through the first semester of online classes due to social distancing, but it has been nothing short of disappointing. This year, “these unprecedented times” – to quote the University’s favourite catchphrase – have been an absolute gong show.

 Even before the semester began, I was incredibly disappointed to see that the university chose to keep tuition rates flatlined rather than lowering them to help students. After many students lost summer jobs and internships, it became the rational choice for them to choose to stay working rather than return to school. It’s terribly frustrating to see so many students drop out when they would not otherwise, only because they cannot afford tuition. I understand that it is an expensive building to upkeep, but I have basically been taught by a textbook this year. Being taught through a computer is not translating to quality learning.

I am a complete auditory learner. I really miss sitting in a classroom and engaging with my classmates and professors. I have had some fantastic professors that have encouraged classroom conversation and debate online, but I am also struggling with the classroom disconnect. One of the most important parts of going to school is learning how to socialize with others. I really do not know what it will be like when we return, whenever that is allowed. While I am taught lots of information in a class by the professor, when the classes are in person I also learn incredible amounts from the student viewpoints and thoughts around me. But now everyone trying to voice their opinions in class results in microphone static and everyone talking over each other, making that kind of collaborative learning impossible.

I am currently taking both synchronous and asynchronous classes, which has only resulted in a clustery mess. My synchronous, live lectures are the ones I am most invested in, because I can attend the Zoom lectures to get a better grip on the material. However, I have come to dislike them because of the feedback I’m always hearing from people leaving their microphones on. Other students and I find ourselves having to interrupt the lecture to get mics to turn off. On the other hand, I enjoy my asynchronous lessons because I have the availability to do them at any time, but I have pulled some crazy late nighters to catch up for an exam the next day. I have also been frustrated with the layout of asynchronous classes, because I always miss crucial information. I am constantly checking the syllabus to make sure I have all my ducks in a row for assignments and tests. I currently have a planner and alarms to remind me of everything I need to get done by the end of the day, week, and month, but it shouldn’t be that difficult to stay on track.

My workload this semester has also been backbreaking. It has been a lot to get through the amount of lecture material and then do the week’s readings. I have probably refilled my printer ink three times this semester, just so I do not have to stare at my computer any longer. That being said, I am grateful to professors who do put the textbook online, and especially to professors who refer to it often – there is nothing more frustrating than buying a one hundred dollar textbook and not using it.

When it comes to midterm season, this has had to be the longest one yet. From the last week in September until the first week of November, I have been bombarded with tests and significant assignments. And something I am noticing that has been missing this semester are outlines for what we will be tested on. Just because everything is online does not mean I know exactly what you would like from me on the exam. Getting periodic reminders about what areas to prioritize to achieve a credible mark is what students need to survive and thrive through our courses. When you are throwing a ton of information at students without a break, there needs to be some structure that brings it all together again.

 One of the things I hate most about online school is that time just does not feel like it exists anymore. The only thing that matters is absorbing every piece of material and then spitting it back out again. I literally no longer have a schedule I go by. I just go until I get done, whether that be 10 p.m., 2 a.m., or 6 a.m. – I go until I get everything done and then start again. It feels like every week is finals week, but you never finish your finals; you just get more and more work piled on.

As if students do not have to worry enough about, balancing crippling workloads and part-time jobs, students’ private information is also at risk because of the university nanny-cam. The infamous e-proctoring network still does not allow for student success. Incredibly invasive to begin within, it also had its first system breach a week ago, causing anxieties to reach an all-time high for students. Although no information was leaked, who knows what when the next breach may be?

Trying to set healthy boundaries this semester is near impossible. Although I want healthy habits to develop so I can decompress from this work, I do not have time to sacrifice, lest I risk harming my average and falling behind. “These unprecedented times” are complicated, but I am struggling to see when the point is in the future that the university will give some relief to students. Now, with paid parking being implemented once again next week and the work not letting up, I doubt that we will see any university leniency.

Gillian Massie

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