Online Learning Works but Will NEVER Match the Quality of In-Person Teaching

Jasmine Moody

Nothing can really beat what in-person sessions give students: motivation and value for money.

COVID has once again tightened its fists, pushing UoY students back into online learning for the Spring Term. Will students cope? Yes. Would students fair better attending in-person teaching? Also yes.

It’s fair enough to call out the hypocrisy of universities stating that watching lecture captures should never be a replacement from attending in-person classes. Yet, it’s exactly what we’re doing now and unfortunately the only viable option for the foreseeable future. I understand that that online sessions are the sensible choice but even so, the question of the quality is an important issue to bring up.

Since the university can’t change the issue of COVID-19, we have seen the uni adapt to the current climate; and having to do university online has not been the worst experience. I do feel a tad robbed for money though.

This time last year, COVID-19 started to become an issue, but it did not affect the usual routine for students. We could still attend lectures and seminars with multiple people in the room. While first year didn’t count, I felt that I had to hold myself accountable as I attended in-person sessions. I did all the reading and tasks that had to be done as I knew I would be held accountable by lecturer’s/GTA’s and other students around me.

Fast forward a year, I’m a few days into the spring term’s online university classes and I hate to admit I’m struggling with concentration and motivation. I am trying to make it work with a pseudo-routine but I know I could fair better if university is how it was at the start of last year.

Some may bring up the argument of the Open University (OU). They are entirely online and the students receive the same qualifications as any other university. I do agree that online university is for sure not the worst option but there are some key points to remember. From a financial view, OU students pay much less than students who attend in-person universities:

Students paying £9,250 (or even nearly double for international students) are receiving a nearly identical service for 1/3 more of the price. And of course, students at York did not sign up for an online course, whereas OU students knew they would be online. Of course, no one could foresee that COVID-19 would happen. Petitions have been flying round to reduce costs to around £3000 a year – so fingers crossed something gets done!

As stated previously, online teaching is as good as it can get (although this may vary department to department). Even with my declining motivation, I did fair pretty decently in the autumn term. However, I am not the voice of every single student. Some may like the flexibility of online university, whereas many others miss the structure, and the vibe attending classes gives to them.

Attending in-person classes gave me motivation that, currently, I am lacking. This lack of motivation for online learning is an issue for students and this may lead to being unsure how to approach assessments, which count towards their degrees. This may differ from person-to-person, but motivation is key for productive, high quality assessments, and exam results.

However, the thing with online university is that the students may be held even more accountable: online lectures can technically be watched whenever, compared to actually having to attend a 9am. Yes, we can watch them when we want, but we need to make sure we actually do it. Many need the typical university climate to thrive. For instance, students study in the library due to the academic atmosphere and lack of distractions, compared to their student study-bedroom. Students can still attend the library but I know quite a few, like myself, are at home.

Then there are the small things about online learning which affect its quality. Technical issues such as glitches, crashes, and frozen screens may be small issues but are jarring nonetheless. Attending in-person lectures also gives students a social aspect to learning. Yes, this is viable with breakout rooms but when no one is talking or when everybody is talking over each other, the flow of learning is affected. This is no ones fault. This is still quite new to many students, GTA’s, lecturer’s and teaching staff and we are all trying our best to adapt ourselves to the current climate.

Online learning is a sensible alternative to how classes would usually run if COVID wasn’t a thing. Yes, the learning is satisfactory, but nothing will ever beat the quality of attending an actual lecture theatre.

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