Photo by: Kara (CC BY 2.0)
During lockdowns in response to the coronavirus pandemic Victorian students were left with no option but to complete their studies online.
Fast forward to today with everything having opened up, and universities are grappling with whether students prefer to undertake their studies remotely instead of on-campus.
With online study dominating the past two years some students have only known online learning and are yet to meet their peers or tutors in person.
RMIT criminology and psychology student Joel Woods expressed his preference of online learning as the routines and habits he built were more efficient than through in person learning.
“Once I got into the habit of doing my study block I was able to focus for hours and then once I’ve done that I can switch off and take my mind off uni which I found was more relaxing,” he says.
“When you’re on campus as well you’re spending all your time travelling and that, you spend more unnecessary time at uni where you could be doing other things”.
Going to and from uni can be quite time consuming as well, whether driving or catching public transport.
When classes are split throughout the day, no one really wants to spend their break between classes studying or catching up on work, so they just relax until their next class – whereas at home students have the perfect chance to switch off.
Online studying was difficult to adjust to at the start for students as most were forced to do the transition 3-4 weeks into the beginning of the year, but after the transition it was smooth sailing to do their studies online.
“To be honest at the start it was a bit stressful but I think I got use to it pretty quickly in the end,” Joel says.
“Obviously I had my program with my classes on at certain times…personal study as well I think I managed my time pretty well and I was able to set aside times to revise and study and complete my assignments.”
Apps such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams were used by universities to construct tutorials and classes which made students use a video chat with their peers and teachers.
They were able to participate like they were in class – sharing screens letting tutors set up class work for the session, breakout rooms for group talks or assignments, and one on one chats with the tutor/lecturer.
Coming back to normality after two years of being stuck at home, universities began offering more online classes for the majority of courses as students had become so familiar with online learning that they didn’t want to break their routines.
This was the case for Joel who doesn’t like breaking the habit of study planning he got into while learning online.
“I’m so used to it (online learning) – I’ve done it for the last 2 years and I think heading into my degree it would be good to keep that stability. I’ve got my routine of it now and I know how to plan my time well when I’m online.”
Online was also a big help to students who lived far from campus such as in country Victoria or in other states, who were able to save time and money coming to their classes when they could gain the same adequate learning at home.
It did take away a key aspect of the university experience in making friendships and connections with peers (which made it hard for students to build relationships two years already into the course).
But with the group assignments and tasks done on software like Zoom it made for ice breakers easier, as making friends happened on video chat.
For many students in Victoria the pros of online learning seemed to outweigh the cons including getting into good routines and study habits and having freedom to learn in their own time.
It is much easier to get up in the morning, get something to eat and then start your study day at home instead of traveling, settling in and staying focused in a classroom environment.
As Joel says, “I prefer the freedom of going online and everything that comes with it and many other people I know who studied online are more comfortable going online full time”.