07 August 2020
How has the transition to online teaching affected students?

Introduction by Dr Elizabeth Adey, Director of Uni Direct

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected people in many different ways. The responses of our governments across the world has differed substantially. Healthcare and managing the pandemic has become a geopolitical issue, where countries have all taken different approaches to try and manage the pandemic. The pandemic has affected the higher education sector. In the UK, most universities swiftly moved to online teaching methods from March 2020 onwards.  Universities across the globe have taken the same approach. The current plan for September/October 2020 starts by many universities is to use a ‘hybrid’ teaching method, where small group sessions are face-to-face, students get to use important facilities at the university, however, lectures remain online to avoid large gatherings of people. 

The hybrid teaching approach that is planned in many universities seems like the obvious solution. Keeping students as safe as possible whilst maximising their educational opportunities. Many students chose to complete their entire degree online now. How hard can the transition be to distance learning? The technology has been there for years now. Back in 2007, when I was teaching at Birmingham City University, lecturers were already using Moodle and delivering valuable course content online. The same applied a few years later when I worked at the University of Exeter. 

Over the course of the current pandemic, in the context of my role as an agency director, I have spoken to many colleagues across the world. Some are recruitment partners and others work at universities we partner. What have I heard? 

Overall, how people perceive Covid, is incredibly varied. Some people are naturally a lot more worried than others. The message from Chinese colleagues I work with is that there will be a significant reduction in students’ travelling abroad to study to countries that they perceive still have significant issues with Covid. I have seen US recruitment agencies hit very badly over the course of the current crisis. 

Indian students are caught up with issues getting their visas with embassies and language centres closed.  Universities in response have diversified the range of English language tests they will accept, however, obtaining visas is a pressing issue over the upcoming months. The Swedish students we support, who are largely considering UK study options, seem to have limited concerns overall about the implications of Covid on their university experience. 

One of our students, Alva, who started at the University of Essex in September 2019, will tell us more about her experiences of Covid, and how it has affected her first year at university.

How has the transition to online teaching affected students?

Alva Höglund, a first year student at the University of Essex in international relations and politics, tells us about her experiences.

I left England at the beginning of March and returned back to my home country; Sweden. The initial challenge was to accept the change and understand that it was beyond my control. I found it difficult to say goodbye to all my friends as none of us knew when we would see each other again. We stayed in touch and continued our conversations through text and video calls daily. I resumed my studies online and finished the last essays of my second term at university. The transition to online teaching went pretty smoothly, with some lecturers scheduling advisor meetings on video before the exams which in the end helped tremendously. 

The exams were then held through an online link, where students could submit their exam answers. The university library had made much of the literature accessible online, making it easy for us students to find legitimate sources for our coursework. However, the biggest challenge was to stay motivated throughout the last deadlines of the year. 

One of my friends, Justas, aged 19 said: 

“When the pandemic initially started to take Europe by storm, our academic year finished early and we had to find motivation to meet all our deadlines during a very uncertain time. Due to everything happening around you, motivation was very difficult to find. Online teaching itself was definitely unnatural at first, but I think I got used to it quick. 

I will no doubt miss in-person lectures and classes, but it is not as much of an issue as I thought it would be at first. Now I feel like I have reasonably acclimatized to the current state of everything and I feel much more comfortable going into the next year knowing that some of the teaching will be online based.”

This new way of learning through online platforms has become the reality for students all over the globe and the idea of online learning has become less daunting than before. When we arrive back to campus in October, many things will be different but hopefully will the joy of reunion facilitate the transition back to university life.

If you would like to find out more about Uni Direct please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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