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Illustration by Mariah Wilson

Online university is not one size fits all

By Serena Sajan, July 5 2020 —

This year certainly had a rough start, however no one anticipated the current global pandemic. The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) that began as an unknown flu virus wreaked havoc as it has no cure. Once the situation grew serious in Canada, major public places were shut down, events were cancelled, and eventually, borders were closed. Daily life came to a complete stop and social distancing became the new normal. It was strange and felt as if we were part of a bad apocalyptic movie.

Amongst this chaos, the university took quick actions to prevent compromising our education. Classes continued online and students were still expected to submit assignments and complete exams. Initially, it seemed that the semester would be a breeze because of online learning, but as the weeks went by, motivation and productivity declined.

University transitioning online was a bittersweet experience. Online classes and exams helped to reduce the uncertainty and anxiety regarding completing the semester. A previously unknown app, Zoom, soon became the top social media app for both students and professors. Many exams also became easier as they were open book, while some were difficult precisely because of that reason. Assignments were either cancelled or deferred, and group projects became more stressful due to limited in-person interaction. While most students were excited about the transition, they soon became overwhelmed with everything being online.

The online experience is not easy for everyone. Some students do not have the resources to complete course deliverables in the safety of their homes, and many are facing increasing anxiety as they lost jobs and are worried about making ends meet. Some students struggling with mental health are finding it even more difficult to keep up with courses online. A helpful solution was to allow students to choose between receiving a final grade or course credit, but this option is no longer available for upcoming terms. Furthermore, since professors will be more prepared for online course delivery, they may decide to make courses harder. These factors can negatively impact students already struggling with the online experience, and it is important to address them appropriately.

The federal government did grant emergency funds to students. This can temporarily alleviate financial burdens but may not help much if social distancing persists for the rest of the year. As online university continues, the university administration and the Students’ Union should continue to provide support to students and accommodate those that are struggling a bit more than others. While it is important to uphold the integrity of a post-secondary institution, it is also important to be fair to students and provide resources that will help them be successful during a tough time.

This article is part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet’s editorial board.


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