Exams, internships and other summer plans all face huge uncertainty in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, and students have seen their academic world migrate exclusively online. While initiatives to maintain coursework, lectures and contact from third level institutions have been welcomed, the reality is that students are facing a very stressful and challenging set of circumstances. In a recent report in the Irish Times, students were asked about their experience of online learning so far.
Niamh Elliot-Sheridan, a gender and women’s studies student at Trinity College Dublin, said that she found it very difficult to concentrate in online lectures. ‘Being in a non-designated space such as a classroom means I get easily distracted, go on my phone more or open other tabs on my computer,’ she said, adding that online lectures were a ‘good effort’ on the university’s part but that there is definitely a ‘different energy’ in an online learning environment.
DCU student Brian McCourt said that he was finding the online classes very helpful, particularly welcoming the revision aspect and the effort put in by lecturers and other faculty members. ‘The interactivity varies by class, as some are not live streaming and instead are uploaded with voice-overs for slides, so that is a small issue,’ he said. Brian added that the classes were sufficient for now, but that people’s homes were not always ideal for study, particularly when students were preparing major projects or dissertations.
Some students have far less assistance and certainty about the future of their studies. Ryan Jones, a mechanical engineering student at TU Dublin, said that he was only receiving one lecture per day. ‘We’ve received emails from some of our lecturers telling us some topics to revise when the college is closed and have received some emails basically telling us that they are working on solutions to finish our learning and exams for this semester.’
For other students, the challenges of virtual learning are less about the academic content or how it is delivered and more about technical issues, such as hardware or the perils of sharing an internet connection with others. Sela Garza, a Trinity College Dublin student, told the Irish Times that the most common complications of virtual learning are unfortunately out of the control of third level institutions. These classes are entirely dependent on a strong internet connection, which varies depending on an individual’s broadband package and proximity to a router, as well as how many people are online at one time (both within the app, as well as across the internet). Internet providers all over the world are struggling right now to accommodate this sudden surge online as we all switch to working and learning remotely, not to mention the increased usage of streaming services like Netflix.
‘I find it helps my Zoom connection when I disconnect my phone and other devices from the WiFi network - but this does not always solve the problem of network latency. On the other end of the spectrum entirely, some students may lack adequate internet access altogether, or even a home computer,' said Sela.
Find out what other students said by reading the original article on the Irish Times website.