In the fall, we won’t be meeting our peers or our lecturers in person, due to the current circumstances regarding COVID-19. But, thanks to the wonders of the Internet and one little thing called online learning we still have access to higher education, advice from tutors and study materials.
In case you haven’t heard, most of the Communication Science students will continue studying from the comfort of their home for the following semester. What started as undesired precognition, matured into a full-fledged regulation: second- and third-year students will not come to campus in the fall semester and only the new first-year students will have two hours of teaching on campus per week.
You may wonder what was the reason for this segregation. For one thing, our university cannot, under the current safety regulation, accommodate classes for all of its students. And the reason first-year students were given the opportunity is to have the most normal university experience possible at the moment.
Not only will this drastically impact the students’ experience, but it might also lead to lower GPAs. Why is that? Because online learning requires more motivation and discipline than regular classes, which can be hard on students these days when bad things keep on happening.
Still, we must understand why these measures were taken and we must come to terms with the fact that we won’t be able to change them. Nothing left for us to do, but to get acquainted with the advantages and downfalls of online education.
Possible Obstacles Next Semester
First, let’s have a look at the not so good aspects of online education.
The social aspect of education has the most to suffer from this switch to online learning. There is less contact between students and lecturers, and between students. That leaves little room for out-of-class discussions and therefore, no organic continuation of the lessons in the external world. Zoom might be able to correct that, but the lack of face-to-face communication could still lead to isolation in students and lecturers as well.
The future window to the academic world – the computer.
As many of us have already noticed, it is much harder to form study groups and do group projects. Computer-mediated communication has the flaw of not transmitting non-verbal communication as easily as face to face communication and this can lead to miscommunications and slower progress in group projects.
Imagine this: you are on Zoom with your teammates working on a project. Everyone is in a different time zone and maybe one teammate is distracted by social media, one just came from work and has a hard time focusing and another doesn’t participate in the conversation. It doesn’t sound peachy right?
Keeping everyone involved and active takes more time and effort in computer-mediated communication in general.
I know that this is the absolute worst-case scenario, but we’ve all been in a group project where barely anything gets done. Think of that, but 10 times worse. That’s the world of online group projects.
These things are not meant to have you scream in anger at your future window to the academic world – the computer. The downfalls listed above should inspire students to seek out ways to defeat them, not to enrage them. And don’t forget about the bright side of this.
Online Learning’s Saving Grace
However, there is a silver lining to all of these. Online education has convenience on its side. No more commuting, a much larger variety of study materials at your disposal and the geographical reach it has are just some of the benefits of online learning.
You would have no classes to rush to, no crowded public transport and you can look over the lectures at any time of the day or night. This is extra special because there is a high chance that the lectures will be available online sooner and for longer than they were before.
For many Communication Science students, online learning also means they don’t need to be in the Netherlands, pay rent and pay for plane tickets for the holidays. All you need is a moderately stable internet connection and perhaps a webcam to follow provided online classes. Less hassle with the financial aspect of academic education.
How to Stay Productive With Online Learning
On an individual level, there are some things that you should avoid to keep on track with your online courses.
Firstly, invest a bit more time into prepping for your classes. Take time to read the materials ahead of time and set a timeslot specifically for doing your assignments.
Secondly, avoid procrastination by shutting off any reasons for distractions. When you get a project or an assignment, you should break it down into easily accomplishable tasks and set realistic deadlines for all of them.
Thirdly, try to find the best way to study and retain information. Maybe you learn easier when you take very detailed notes of the lectures that you are watching or maybe you can understand a topic better if you see a Youtube video about it. You are the only one responsible for finding your own path.
Lastly, there is significant evidence that indicates that students who are not overperforming in face-to-face classes may fall even more behind in online classes. So, it’s high time to put our big boy/girl pants on and crack down the books. Hustler culture is back in trend.
If you read the news from UvA and were disappointed with the plans for the next semester, know that you are not alone. We can get through this. Even though these are times where reality seems so detached from our personal lives and days incessantly pass us by, education should not be something else on our to-do list. Education should be the anchor point to reality, the one absolute that will have notable consequences in the near future.
Cover: Nick Morrison