What do you think?
The University of Ottawa has announced that the 2021 winter semester will be held online aside from a few exceptions. Because of COVID-19, staff and students have been forced to adjust to online learning methods for the 2020 spring, summer and fall term. Is continuing on a remote learning format the way to go or should the University consider returning to in-person courses?
POINT: Online learning has plenty of benefits for student learning, costs, and of course, safety
Go at your own pace
Feel like professors are always talking too quickly, making it impossible to take notes and keep up?
Asynchronous online learning allows students to access lectures and absorb information at their own pace. Going through a lecture and stopping or listening to difficult or complex parts multiple times can help students truly understand the material at their own speed. This also promotes self-management and time management skills, since you are often responsible to make and follow your own schedule/routine.
Having online classes can also mean lower costs for students. Although most universities continue to have the same tuition fees (looking at you, U of O), housing and transportation costs can be reduced significantly for students. If you would have lived in 90 University’s two-bedroom suite and had an all-access meal plan, living at home for a semester would mean saving about $7,800 based on the current fees.
If rolling out of bed ten minutes before a lecture, or trudging through snow and rain on your commute to school isn’t your forte, online school is for you! Having access to lectures at home means higher attendance rates and less distractions since all you have to do to get to class is click a button. Online classes can also help students keep up attendance while working or doing extracurriculars that wouldn’t be possible if classes were in-person.
This one may seem obvious, but online classes are essential to slow the spread of COVID-19, especially with the second wave coinciding with flu season during the upcoming winter semester. Universities such as Carleton, Queen’s, Western, McMaster, and even U of O have already had cases of Coronavirus on campus or in residences. Social distancing measures become more difficult to supervise (especially on residence) and although lectures would represent social distancing guidelines, that many students in an enclosed space for 80, or even 170 minutes, is ultimately harmful to students.
COUNTER: In-person classes provide a vital learning experience for students
While safety should always be the main concern, online university courses simply do not provide the necessary learning environment for students. For specific programs, an online learning format does not allow students to get the training they need and properly study their program of interest.
The 2021 winter term should at least have in-person course options, especially for specific programs and courses that do not convert well to remote learning. For example, without the opportunity to learn in person, students in programs in the sciences, theatre, and many others will not get the hands-on practical experience needed.
In addition, it can be difficult to manage assignments, tests, lectures, and tasks when students are strictly on programs like Brightspace, Adobe Connect, Zoom, and Microsoft teams. While these programs are able to enhance learning, without actually entering a classroom, it can be incredibly difficult to get organized and most importantly, get motivated.
That said, Zoom and recorded lectures just don’t have the same professor and student relationship that in-person classes do. It can be difficult for students to stay on task and interested when the professor may not be able to gauge the feelings of students the way they normally would through body language.
Not to mention the fact that learning from home has proven to be hard for many students who don’t have access to great Wi-Fi or for those who are distracted easily and don’t live in the ideal environment for learning. In-person courses allow for students in these situations to be in an environment where they are able to focus.
There are plenty of social distancing adjustments made to the university already, surely there is a way that they can figure out how to safely conduct in-person courses for the classes that need it.
Of course, it’s understood that returning to in-person classes for the winter 2021 semester puts students and staff at risk, but unfortunately online courses are simply not an ideal way for students to be working towards their degrees.