With the first week of school behind us, students and faculty alike have begun a new semester. However, this Fall semester will be conducted entirely online, as was mandated by the U of T administration over the summer. Zoom University, a phrase coined on Twitter to describe the shift to online education, will be quite a change from the conventional post-secondary school experience.
Even though the internet has improved convenience and accessibility, online schooling may not be the most logical answer for many post-secondary students in Canada. Just this month, about one in every 10 students has reported that some or all of their courses are unsuitable for online delivery, with this number being slightly higher for students enrolled in trades programs.
Moreover, online schooling does not take into account factors such as students with poor internet connectivity, those residing in non-conducive learning environments or living across multiple time zones. Not to mention, the national lockdown and COVID-19 have affected students worldwide, causing many to work extra hours at work, care for family members who have been affected, or care for themselves.
Yet, students like Lisa Mai, a fourth-year student in commerce and finance, argue that there are some benefits to the upcoming semester delivered online.
“One of the good things about online school is that we get to set our own schedule, which I’ve found works well for me,” said Mai. However, she did note that she will miss in-person study groups, which capture a sense of collaboration that video calls do not.
Another concern about online learning, as mentioned by fourth-year digital enterprise management student Laura Kuria, is the projected change in workload. For some students, online schooling has decreased the number of quizzes, tests, and in-person assignments. In contrast, others have observed the opposite, including an increase of due dates and a more technologically immersed learning system.
Regarding incoming UTM students and their readiness for university, Professional Writing and Communications Professor Divya Maharajh expressed her unease about technology accessibility discrepancies.
“I’m concerned about the knowledge gaps from the final months of secondary school,” said Maharajh. “I’m sure that teachers did their best to equip students, [but] still, I’m in the dark about how the new batch of students handled the transition to online learning.”
However, as Mai and Kuria mentioned, online schooling has provided students with some notable advantages, including the luxury of framing their school schedules around their work and personal schedules, forgoing hour-long commutes, and having more flexible class schedules.
Whether or not you are in favor of online learning, it is essential to recognize that this model of education may be in place for a while. And like all methods of teaching and interpersonal communication, there are pros and cons, but one thing is for sure: The show (or in this case, the lecture) must go on.