Welcome to the second post in my “Surviving the Pandemic” blog series. This post is all about online learning- what it’s like for students and young people, as well as parents and teachers.
I graduated from University in June, so luckily I didn’t have to endure much online learning- but I know many people are currently doing their school or University course completely from home- and that must bring with it a new set of challenges.
So to understand what online learning is really like, I thought it would be great to hear the experience of some of my lovely followers over on Twitter.
Get ready to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly about online learning during the pandemic!
Here are 6 bloggers’ opinions about online teaching….
I think online learning sucks haha, I had online lectures for months- and I wrote my exams online too. The fact that I am a science student made it even more difficult as I had to do maths and physics online which wasn’t ideal, but it wasn’t too bad. Subjects that didn’t involve calculations were okay, but taking calculation subjects online is much harder.
Most of my courses are mathematical and require intense calculations and so it wasn’t very fun. Online lectures require more hardwork, focus, and dedication than normal lectures.
Online university has taken some getting used to- and it’s not been the easiest adjustment. It can be challenging to stop yourself from getting distracted as it often doesn’t feel like a lecture or working atmosphere as the environment is entirely different from what you’re used to. Even though it’s been a year, it still feels bizarre to be sat at home watching some talking blobs on screen rather than seeing actual people.
However, online learning does have its positives and if you focus and treat it like a normal lecture then you can get just as much out of it. I find putting my phone away and making notes makes it feel like a much more productive and worthwhile session than if I just sit there browsing other tabs or finding other things to do.
I also like using chat functions or polls, as even if you’re not speaking or are on camera you can still engage and contribute without any pressure- which is great for someone introverted like me!
Online classes have given me all the leisure I could’ve ever asked for. If classes started at 9 in the morning, all I had to do was wake up late, take a quick shower, and eat my breakfast as the teacher spoke about bones and muscles. I could fall asleep as and when I pleased.
Amidst all the procrastination I learnt in these last few months, I learnt to respect my teachers. When we first began classes on Zoom, we had “fake” students who troubled the teachers until they were almost in tears by name-calling, playing loud music, and all kinds of mischief.
What once made the students laugh, now made us sympathise with our teachers. Soon, we shifted to Teams and classes have been better ever since. I’ve always respected my teachers for who they were but these online classes showed me what they actually go through. My heart goes out to every teacher trying to keep education going.
As a secondary school teacher, online learning is both torture and a miracle. Our workload is currently doubled, perhaps even tripled. In some schools, teachers are expected to plan and deliver full, live online lessons for every teaching period.
In others, there’s less pressure for live lessons- but online learning includes the expectation of marking every single piece of work set. Colleagues of mine are averaging 10 to 12 hour per day, including weekends, which is affecting their mental health. The most challenging part is feeling as though you can’t truly switch off– I’ve had students email me to ask for help at 3am.
On the other hand, this experience has allowed teachers to find innovative ways to promote independent learning when school returns to ‘normality’. I’m the coordinator for Personal Development (PSHE) and will definitely include online platforms within my curriculum in the future.
Day in the life of a Specialist Teaching Assistant: I rush from one room to another, grabbing my laptop and trying to sign in before the English lesson starts. The small number of students we teach all have complex needs, mostly autism but ADHD or conduct disorders. Some children are in school and some are at home- and we have to cater for them all.
I start the lesson. ‘Can everyone see the PowerPoint?’ I call into the screen. No cameras, no microphones. The chat box lights up. ‘Miss, we can’t see the PowerPoint’. I try again. It works. I ask a question but receive a deafening silence in return. ‘Hello, Miss? X is feeling dysregulated so has left the room’ a parent tells me.
Another student mutes and unmutes themselves every 2 seconds. Then leaves the meeting. I’m frantically messaging my colleagues to see about the 2 students, but they are with the ones in school. I stare into the abyss at my reflection, and realise I’ve got something in my teeth. I make a joke. No-one laughs. Or maybe they do but their mics are off. I continue talking, suddenly very aware of how I sound. Maybe this is all a waste of time. Maybe we should just abandon live lessons. I’m interrupted. ‘Miss? I can’t see the PowerPoint’. I sigh.
I’m a first-year environmental science student and it’s safe to say that online learning has been weird. I didn’t experience online learning in the previous year because my A-levels were cancelled, so to be thrown in at the deep end has been tough! I found the first semester of uni incredibly hard because I only had one or two live seminars a week. All my lectures were just reading a massive chunk of information, writing up the notes, and then doing quizzes at the end of each lecture. It was hard. I was very unsure of what was going on in the module, how we were being assessed.
In one module, I didn’t realise until near the end of the semester that the quizzes were part of our grade! Luckily, I was doing okay in them, so it didn’t matter too much. Thankfully, this semester I’ve got live lectures which is so much easier– don’t get me wrong, it’s still mentally exhausting. But it’s nice to actually see my lecturer. I’m really hoping that I’ll get to go on campus next semester and do lab work etc.
Thank you so much to all the bloggers who featured in this post. If you’re currently struggling with online learning, I hope this post has offered some consolation that you are not alone- and maybe even a few tips to stay motivated.
I actually wrote a post about this for Tash a while ago, so check it out for even more tips and tricks to tackling online lessons from the student perspective.
Stay tuned for the third post in this series, where I’ll be talking about health anxiety– what is this form of anxiety, and how can we find ways to improve mental and physical health during these tough times?
Have you experienced online learning? What’s your favourite thing about learning or teaching from home? Do you think it’s better or worse than in-person teaching?
Let me know all your thoughts in the comments below 🙂
Happy reading x