Let’s face it. Online learning can be difficult, and our experience of it right now is shaped by COVID-19 forcing institutions and students to adapt.
Truth be told, most instructors and students would not make this choice. The situation has forced us to make changes.
There are real disadvantages to online learning, and no one disputes that. The concerns of instructors and students are legitimate, and the learning journey will doubtless be bumpy at times. Just relying on technology can be fraught.
The reality is that attending university is about the experience, and while time in classrooms is part of that experience, it is so much more.
My father attended the Vocational Agriculture program at the University of Saskatchewan in his youth. He developed friendships in that program that lasted his lifetime, and he deeply cherished his association with the university. That was possible because Dad attended and availed himself of all the campus offered. He even lived in residence and grumbled about the food, a perennial complaint of students across generations. Dad’s experience of university became some of his fondest memories.
While students are quick to identify the stresses of university life while they attend, they often remember their experiences more positively when they reflect upon them.
It’s the morning line-up for coffee where they commiserate about assignments. It’s finding like-minded people in classes and clubs. It’s feeling you are part of something so much bigger in terms of learning and identity. Why else would students proudly wear U. of S. sweats and/or clothing that identifies them as members of certain colleges? It’s finding your favorite spot on campus to study. It’s finding something that really grabs your attention and focus, maybe a book, maybe a lecture, maybe a whole field of inquiry that takes on you a different journey. Maybe you find your dream career; maybe you find your dream partner. It’s the people you meet—other students, instructors, maybe even your regular bus driver—who change your life.
Due to COVID-19, that experience for many this autumn is greatly diminished.
Most students are not able to fully participate in the experience of university. Many are opening their laptops at home logging in. That’s deeply unfortunate. I lament that as do instructors across the country. We can only hope this is a short-term reality
However, let’s think of the potential advantages for students, and there are advantages:
You are saving money. Many students have not had to move from their parental homes. That might be a mixed blessing for all concerned, but it certainly saves money. Running up student debt is easy; paying it down is much harder. Many of my former students have told me about the perils of rising student debt and how it constrains their choices once they are finished their degrees and working.
You can learn about and maximize your natural rhythms and work accordingly. Ideally, we would be doing that anyway, but the world works better in most cases for early morning people than night owls. This is the time that night owls can really rock their rhythm. Again, working with your circadian rhythms is not insignificant and can help you accomplish your best work.
You can also learn some valuable skills that will equip you for employment in the future. By learning to work effectively at home, you have demonstrated a key proficiency in a potential future work environment.
This is the argument or an article in the newsmagazine Macleans entitled “Why learning from home is an unlikely training ground for a post-pandemic world.”
COVID-19 has effectively caused a paradigm shift in terms of people working from home, and while many want to return to their places of employment, in part, due to the sociability factor, the reality is that the future of certain kinds of work will likely be a balance of home/work place.
Noting the advantages of online learning doesn’t negate the fact you might need some support and help. Athletes and people in business have long recognized that coaching in their fields allows them to be successful.
Academic coaching can help you be successful, as well. Let me be your trusted guide as you negotiate online learning this autumn.