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Online Learning Is Kind Of A Shit Show, And Here’s What Uni Students Have To Say About It

It really ain’t it.

The end of semester one is right around the corner, so of course universities are badgering students to complete surveys about how they’ve felt about the transition to online learning. There have been mixed reviews about how well universities have handled this transition, with positive and negative experiences varying from student to student; university to university.

I’m in my last semester of my degree at Macquarie University at the moment. I can see the finish line in the distance (33 days exactly until my final assignment is due). But I’m also someone who learns better in a classroom. I need to be in an environment where people around me are also learning. There’s also a certain level of accountability that showing up in person offers. So I haven’t enjoyed this period of online learning.

Zoom classes aren’t as bad as they seem, but the majority of my classes don’t have tutorials at all. What am I paying for? SUPER basic powerpoint lectures uploaded from last year and sporadic announcements from tutors about the word count in our forum activities? Safe to say, I didn’t give the most glowing review of online learning when I filled out the survey last night.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather the online learning over the alternatives of a. being on campus and potentially getting sick, or b. having to put my degree on hold until the pandemic is over. But I guess I was hoping for more engagement from my tutors, instead of the radio silence that I’m getting at the moment.

Online Learning Is DIFFICULT

I know that my personal opinions aren’t going to match how other people are feeling. Some may even prefer online learning. So, I asked a bunch of young Aussie students how they’ve been feeling about online learning, and here’s what they had to say:

“Shifting from a facte-to-face style to online learning this semester has come with some unique challenges. Overall I’d say it has been quite a seamless transition helped by a lot of teaching support.” – James, 24.

“I haven’t had the most amazing experiences with online learning, because there had been a breakdown in communication between lecturers and students. This had lead to much confusion in group assignments, class work, and even what is our zoom meeting ID … I found myself becoming quite slack with my uni life” – Rachel, 20.

“My course has been really heavily affected – it’s mostly model-making, so I’d usually use the uni’s workshop … most of my classes just got rid of the model-making and instead had us make digital models, so I’d say they’ve been pretty accommodating … It’s so easy to get distracted or interrupted during the day, so the only time I actually do consistent study is in the middle of the night, which has been horrible for my sleep schedule.” – Zack, 20.

“Absolutely nothing about learning online has been beneficial, interesting or engaging. I’m very disappointed in the hypocrisy that 3 months before the start of semester 2 they have already made the decision to run classes online whilst making me start my professional experience in less than two weeks when a physical classroom at uni 3 months from now is the exact same environment as what I’ll be experiencing in my practice that’s about to start.” – Brad, 20.

“Online learning has been great, to the point where I feel my course (except placements) could be run online – my tutors and lecturers have all been doing really well to keep us engaged and talking …  they actually work us harder when we are working online, they are keeping us accountable to doing the work … In saying that, I much prefer going to uni to do class … it’s better for my lifestyle being able to travel into the city and walk around and feel a bit more active in society” – Stella, 21.

“It’s been terrible and I really have not enjoyed it. I definitely work better at uni. 2/4 subjects have done well with the transition but it’s a shit show. I’m pretty sure I’m going to fail a subject this sem.” – Cindy, 21.

“I hate online. I can’t stay concentrated or motivated. Physically going to uni kept me on top of my work. Nothing compares to face-to-face lectures and tutorials. I’m so far behind on my course content & assignments because they’ve fucked the usual schedule of having a break at week 6 to absorb the first half of the semester and get ready for the second half.” – Georgia, 22.

Where Do We Go From Here?

It’s pretty clear that practical units and degrees where physically being in class making/doing things is necessary would have been hit the hardest by the transition to online. Their entire degrees have been turned upside down. But all students would be in the same boat of feeling stressed and uncertain about the future of their degrees too.

We don’t know when we’ll be allowed back onto campus, which makes completing degrees and graduating that much more difficult. And the fact that not all universities have been handling this transition in the best way will definitely be affecting overall student satisfaction.

For those of you who are struggling, don’t lose hope. It’s only for now that we’ll have to work online. If you’re dissatisfied with online learning, give feedback to your university so that they don’t make it a permanent thing. We’ll get through this together.

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