March 12th 2020 marked the date that in-person lectures ended for most of us. Since then, we have been subjected to Blackboard lectures, breakout rooms and trying to read the blurry words of an E-Book on laptop screens. However, the question must be asked. Did we love it or hate it?
This answer seems to be mixed across the board. SIN conduced a Twitter poll back in February of 2021 that showed, out of 153 respondents, 80% found exams more stressful this year than previous years.
That same poll showed that out of 148 respondents, 77% believed that their final grade would be worse than previous years due to online learning.
Final year arts student, Tom Molloy, reflected these sentiments, “I was just getting assignments done rather than learning anything. I found it hard during the year to have a routine.”
However, some students who spoke to SIN felt there has been some positives to virtual learning.
“I find that with all teaching methods there are always advantages and disadvantages. My personal experience with online learning was positive. I found it to be efficient and mostly flexible in terms of time. I was able to replay some of the material and work more hours at my job as a result. My college attendance has dramatically improved,” explained third-year arts student, Michelle Gallagher.
Third year science student, Sarah Molloy, similarly found positives in online learning, “one thing I do like about online teaching is that our lectures are recorded.”
In saying this, Michelle also pointed out the issues she encountered, “I did experience a few drawbacks. For example, when my WiFi connection wasn’t stable, the sense of isolation from being distanced from peers and campus, and the lack of tutorial classes.”
Lecturers have also had to adapt to this new online experience and law lecturer, Eoin Daly, shared his thoughts, “Overall, I liked online teaching and found it to be a good learning experience for me as a teacher.”
Eoin explained that being forced to teach online changed his teaching style, “It prompted me to adopt a ‘flipped’ format, i.e., where the students get asynchronous materials in advance and the ‘live’ sessions are spent on consolidation, application, and discussion.”
Sarah Molloy expressed that she has liked the approach that many lecturers have taken to online learning, “I have been really impressed with how my lecturers have gone above and beyond to make this year engaging and interactive. They have been just as disappointed with how this year turned out as we have, and I feel very lucky that they’ve dedicated so much extra time to us.”
Sarah and Eoin both shared the opinion that the issue with this year online has less to do with online learning and more to do with other factors.
“It has been a difficult year for students,” Eoin explained, “but in my view that is probably more due to the social isolation than to the teaching format.”
Sarah felt the issue lay more within the University, “I feel totally let down by the University management. We’ve been given so many false promises and have been totally abandoned.”
Overall, the students and lecturer Eoin Daly would both like to see some online learning formats like recorded lectures adapted into future teaching.
“I did enjoy my experience of online learning,” Michelle concluded, “and I hope that colleges will use both methods of teaching synchronously in the future.”