When the Covid pandemic hit universities in early 2020, it disrupted learning for thousands of students. Now, two years later, what do students think of online learning?
For many students, the switch to distance learning was frustrating. Some universities were under-prepared for the change, and many students struggled to adjust to learning from home rather than on campus. Studies from December 2020 found that approximately 50% of university students in Australia were unhappy with online learning.
However, today, many students’ opinions have changed. So, let’s examine the pros and cons of online learning and how students have been affected by online learning.
What are the benefits of online learning?
Initially, online learning was a way to adapt to the Covid-19 lockdowns. With universities closed for in-person teaching, students were forced to take their learning online, with teachers delivering classes on video conferencing software.
However, with universities back open and the world slowly returning to normal, many universities have recognised the long-term benefits of online learning. These include:
- Improving access to education
- Greater flexibility
- Improved student attendance
- Improved virtual communication
In particular, online learning allowed students who may have struggled to attend in-person classes, such as disabled students, carers, or those with young children, to join lessons more easily.
The problems with online learning
However, online learning also has its problems. Online classes are limited in their scope – while lectures are easy to replicate on video conferencing software, courses in which students learn in workshops or labs were disadvantaged. This affected many degrees with a prominent hands-on element, such as engineering, medicine, and law.
There are also other issues that can affect students while online learning, such as:
- Difficulty accessing technology
- Losing focus quickly in online classes
- Unable to communicate with peers or teachers
- Increased screen time
Students may also experience higher levels of isolation while online learning as opposed to on-campus teaching. This can have severe consequences for students’ mental health.
How has online learning affected students?
To see how students have been affected by the switch to online learning, we’ve examined some reviews from the EDUopinions site. These are verified reviews from students studying courses across Europe.
Preparing for Remote Work
Firstly, many students have found that distance learning has prepared them for an increasingly technological world. In particular, there has been an increased interest in hybrid working and living as a digital nomad. For example, this student at Universitat Oberta de Catalunya found the online learning experience to be good preparation for future remote work.
The university program is adaptable for international students and very competitive market. High recommending for the skills we get coursing the degree and notorious in TIC. It´s a big door for work remotely and learning how to be a digital nomad. The UOC is very focus in the survey method also to learn and change all the tips from the students. This process is not mandatory but very important to finish every process.
Similarly, this student suggests that a digital business model is a way forward for today’s universities.
I really think you can finish grad school entirely online, so why do we have to go offline? To bring more financial gain to the school? It’s 2022, so why be so rigid? The online economy is so advanced that it could be replaced by a digital business model for the traditional international university operations! Other than having been forced to go offline before, it was fine because the classes were really hardcore and stressful.
Additionally, many students report that despite completing courses online, they have had valuable interactions with both other students and staff at their universities. Both of these students praise the online experience they’ve received, particularly the ability to speak to a mentor throughout their degree.
I study At University of Essex with their amazing Online degree programme. At first I was worried that I wouldn’t like the online experience, however University of Essex has made me love it. It really feels like I go to an on campus university as there is so much interaction with many different people all over the world. It is the best decision I have ever made!
I was initially sceptical about the whole online learning thing and eventually decided to take the plunge. Rushford looked like a great choice based on the flexibility and the choice of faculty teaching the courses. I am midway and feel that my choice was great, especially since I have been matched with a mentor who is quite helpful. I do recommend Rushford to other students who are thinking of studying Business and Management.
Limited student experience
However, not all students have had a positive experience with distance learning. Here, one student at the University of Sheffield explains how they have found the online environment difficult, especially with regard to the actual teaching.
Due to the covid-19 pandemic I have not had the chance to live on campus or attend extra-curricular activities, therefore I cannot comment on the social life or student experience at the University. I have also only attended a small amount of in-person classes, which I found to be engaging and well organised. The teachers are knowledgeable and professional overall. However, I have found the online learning to be extremely impersonal and difficult to engage with. Slides and resources are reused from previous years and I do not believe that all professors have made an adequate effort to adapt to online teaching.
Professors respond quickly to emails and have generally been friendly and helpful. I have had a particularly good experience with the study abroad team, who are prompt and constructive in responding to messages.
As we’ve seen from the verified reviews on EDUopinions, many students have positive opinions of their online learning experience. However, the quality of the online learning that students receive differs across universities.
On the whole, while problems persist – especially with access to technology and individual differences in learning environments at home – online learning is now easier than it was two years ago. Students are finding that the experiences they have online are preparing them for a future where more jobs can be accomplished from home or in a hybrid work environment.