Updated: Jun 18, 2020
“I just want to be on campus and watch squirrels and birds cry in joyful eagerness, as clear skies reflect and glisten over the local hot dog cart that feeds all us broke university kids. I wish for all of this to be over soon so that I could go back to having my campus life back.” An anonymous sophomore at McGill University expresses in grave disappointment at being uprooted from an ever-flourishing on-campus life.
Universities and schools all over the world have switched to a remote system of education for the Winter 2020 term- and for good reason. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic that has taken the global community by storm, universities and schools continually work to salvage the current and upcoming semesters in an attempt for students to be affected minimally. The biggest challenge that blankly stares educational institutions in the face however, is striking the balance between preserving both the health-related interests and academic interests of their student communities. Institutions across the globe agree that remote delivery systems are perhaps the safest, if not the most ideal bet. While this may be the most rational decision on the part of schools and colleges- this form of education delivery finds students largely unhappy, to say the least.
With online education methods, have come a myriad of both expected and unexpected issues.
Students today associate the idea of home with their schools more than they do their homes themselves. Academically speaking, to have your home taken away is perhaps not the best state-of-mind to be in.. Learners all over the world find themselves struggling with their education as they battle reclusiveness, uncertainty and loneliness simultaneously. Conversations with students over the world bring forth the following problems as a consequence of the current state of affairs:
Accessibility to resources/ internet connectivity Several college students have had to fly back to their home states/ countries as anxious parents call for their children to be in close proximity in times of this crisis. This has not necessarily translated to at-home like comfort for most learners- as they struggle to fight off barriers like unreliability in internet connectivity, the lackluster non in-person teaching and most importantly a missing learning environment. Anubhav, a University of Sydney freshman says, “Being back home does not serve the same learning environment as college does, and feels ironically unfamiliar in that it does not allow for a ready availability of library resources or even the constant chirping of my friends as we’d tackle practice questions together.’’
Mental Health, social-and interpersonal relationships, extra-curricular activities For most university students, particularly ones that have left the comfort of the environment that they grew up in, going to university is not just about learning course content and regurgitating socio-economic theories on answer sheets; – it’s about meeting new people, networking and building life-long professional and personal relationships. While at-home education being already academically straining, the inability to engage in university/school clubs and sports and other things that make them happy and rejuvenated is further aggravating the impairment that remote education poses.
Younger children, children with special needs While the older, college-going students are being able to navigate fairly okay- considering a big part of university-level education is self-discipline and self-learning; the same cannot be said of the younger, middle and pre-schoolers. A suburban Mumbai mother expresses, “It hurts me to shrug off my four-year-olds curious and innocent questions about why he can’t meet his friends and play with shape blocks in his classroom.” This brings to light the complete failure of remote education when talking about really young kids who need a vibrant, touch and feel approach to learning. However, the most affected group is indubitably children with special needs. This once again brings to the forefront, the ableist systematization our world finds itself in. It is especially difficult for kids with learning difficulties to study effectively via remote learning methods.
In the uncertain environment that the world finds itself in today, there is at least one thing for certain- and that is – the fact that students, both university and school going, regard remote learning as a less-than-deal form of educational delivery, and that they would trade anything to go back to noisy lunchtime shenanigans and fancy science lab experiments.
By – Shagun Sachar Artwork by – Manu Sahu