Online Class Disaster
By Andrew Smith
University is back, but with more than the usual share of technical difficulties as online classes seem to be plagued by technical issues and avoidable confusion. Students are paying thousands of dollars to continue their degrees amongst a pandemic – but what are they getting out of it?
MacEwan University has officially concluded its very first weeks back post-COVID-19, with the University of Alberta starting just a little earlier. Classes are now held almost entirely online, but many students feel the delivery is lacking.
According to a survey on the MacEwan Book Exchange Facebook page, many students are being asked to use up to four different apps or programs to access their lectures – if they get a conference delivery at all. Some classes have moved to entirely pre-recorded video- lectures with no face-to-face interaction with a professor, virtual or otherwise. The already difficult task of organizing a student’s life just became a little more complicated, to say the least.
If the variety of lecture formats wasn’t daunting enough, the continued use of Zoom by such large institutions is sure to raise concerns. The popular video-conferencing app surged in popularity at the start of the pandemic, but as early as April companies began switching away from it for its host of security issues.
In addition to the overabundance of delivery methods, students at both universities report that their task load has increased dramatically.
“I’m finding way more work than in in-person [classes]. I should have only four hours of the recorded lecture material for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday classes but I’m getting five or more, plus a once a week discussion session,” says Nicole Cars, a fourth-year psychology student at MacEwan University.
Other students are quick to agree. “I’m drowning in assignments that are literally worth one per cent a pop and are due several times a week,” says Rielle Zahacij, another MacEwan student. “I don’t understand why the expectations have been drastically altered. Just because we’re not learning in-person doesn’t mean that we are not busy!”
“There are quite a few small assignments that I find I have to keep up with on a regular basis, more so than I did in in-person classes,” says Zander, a fifth-year film studies major at the University of Alberta.
Professors are trying their best though as they learn how to shift their job from physical to digital. Some students claim that, on a class-to-class basis, the organization seems to have improved across the board compared to even their in-person classes from the semester before – with a few noteworthy exceptions.
The heart of the issue seems to be inconsistent. Students are expected to complete a much higher rate of small assignments per week, but also self-teach large portions of their courses depending on the professor. With large institutions backing them, and time since March to figure it out, many students ask why a delivery standard wasn’t set in place.
Living in a pandemic hasn’t been easy for anyone. The stresses of daily life are exaggerated, and being a student was already a fairly stressful lifestyle. While no student reasonably expects perfection, the large inconsistencies and oversights in online class design are understandably causing some unrest among students, many of whom are going into considerable debt to attend these very classes.