COVID-19: Will studying online become the new norm?

COVID-19 has introduced us to the life of studying online, so how many of us will stick with it? (Image source: College of Event Management)

By Eva Blandis | @BlandisEva

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, every university student, whether they like it or not, has had to change the way they learn.

On the morning of March 17, the University of South Australia’s Vice Chancellor and President, Professor David G. Lloyd, sent an email to all students and staff informing them of the changes to learning.

“All currently timetabled face-to-face teaching including lectures, workshops, masterclasses or seminars will move to online delivery,” he said.

More recently, on April 22, it was announced that lectures and tutorials will remain online until the end of study period two (July 4).

With a transition from face-to-face classes to Zoom, there is no doubt the way in which students learn is ever changing.

The University has been very understanding of how the changes to learning can impact students’ performance.

UniSA has introduced changes to grading in order to combat the negative impact the COVID-19 outbreak could have on GPAs.

The University announced that “within 10 days of the release of final grades, students who pass their course may request a non-graded pass that does not impact their GPA.” Similar provisions have also been put in place for students who fail a course.

UniSA has also introduced a $10 million Student Hardship Fund (COVID-19), that is hoped to help students who have difficulty supporting themselves financially during the pandemic. The fund is available to eligible students at all levels.

The changes that have been put in place by UniSA ensure that all students get the most out of their courses.

Due to the efficiency of online learning there has been some question as to whether in the future there will be an increase in the number of students enrolled externally.

Bhavani Frost, a second-year undergraduate student, looked into studying externally when first enrolling at UniSA.

“I looked at online studying so I wouldn’t have to move away from Mt Gambier,” she said.

Although having lived in Mt Gambier for the majority of her life, she decided to move to Adelaide so that she could experience university life.

Due to the pandemic, Ms Frost can experience what it would’ve been like if she chose to study online.

“I’m not enjoying it that much … I really did like the physical contact … and having face-to-face classes,” she said.

“It’s not the same; it really doesn’t come across the same online.

“I liked being … surrounded by lots of other people who … had the same motivations.”

Helaena Christou, a first-year undergraduate student, also looked at studying externally, but decided face-to-face study would be the most beneficial to her.

“I went to see a careers councillor … he said that for an undergraduate degree, especially, it’s really good to be there physically,” she said.

Ms Christou is enjoying the comfort of studying at home but misses the structure that face-to-face learning provided.

“I think it’s easier to overwork yourself because you don’t really have … a finishing and starting time,” she said.

Despite Ms Frost and Ms Christou’s consideration of external study before commencing their studies, they both said they will not choose to study externally in the near future.

“I think we see online university as a thing we have to do so we continue with our course, rather than something that we want to do,” Ms Frost said.

“I probably would consider it only because it’s a more comfortable way of learning … [but] being around other people and having face-to-face contact with tutors … is best for me,” Ms Christou said.

Although Ms Frost and Ms Christou are adamant that they will return to on-campus study, there are a lot of people who will be tempted by the flexibility of external study.

“In the digital world that we live in now … it is more achievable to do university online,” Ms Christou said.

The UniSA external students page specifies that you need to be “motivated, organised, and be able to work independently and prioritise tasks” to thrive as an external student.

There is no doubt that online study, due to COVID-19, is allowing all students to learn how to thrive as external students.

However, traditional face-to-face learning provides students with the opportunity to learn alongside others and meet new people.

Despite online study being something all university students are getting used to, it seems that on-campus study is still more popular.

After the pandemic subsides, there will undoubtedly be changes to how students study, whether that be face-to-face or externally.

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