Education under Covid-19: swapping libraries for bedrooms


The year 2020/21, an academic year like no other… except if you are talking about the year before. University from home is not what students sign up to when applying to Durham, and the length of time that this atrocity has gone on for is disgraceful. The Government simply does not seem to care about the amount of money we are wasting, both on online tuition and unused accommodation.

Durham should also be doing more if they want to justify us continuing to pay £9,250 for this year’s tuition. The Open University professors are online teaching specialists, trained to teach students through the screen. Their courses cost a third of the price of Durham’s online tuition (£3,096). Durham professors seem to be trying, but it is challenging to get students to engage through a screen.

In tutorials, barely anyone has their cameras or microphones on, and I do not blame them. Being in first year, we have not met anyone who studies with us, making the thought of contributing an idea a terrifying feat. Surely there should be more on offer to justify the price of tuition staying in place – for example, more tutorials per week, or smaller tutorial groups. A transcript of each lecture and a PowerPoint presentation to engage students should be a must.

The fact that students’ mental health has suffered is completely understandable

Zoning out when looking at a screen for so long each day is inevitable, and there should be action in place to rectify this. Students are expected to be as motivated as usual, despite the challenges of doing University from home. When the days feel repetitive, and peers are quiet in tutorials, there is less desire to throw oneself into academics.

The fact that students’ mental health has suffered is completely understandable, due to increased screen time, more time to think than ever before and fewer opportunities to let off steam. It would be great if the impact of completing University from home was spoken of more frequently and to a broader Education under Covid-19 audience, in order to help students feel less alone.

I am supposed to be living in college this year, so, fortunately, there has been a scheme in place to refund me for the cost of my unused catered room. I am lucky to have my own space and working WIFI, enabling me to complete my degree at home, but for some students returning to college is a must.

For the majority of students, the first year of University is their first time living away from home, and at such a young age, this can be a daunting experience.

University is supposed to be a time to grow

University is supposed to be a time to grow, try new things, and make mistakes. However, with punishments and threats frequently issued by colleges, making mistakes now puts students’ university careers at risk. This can be really damaging to students’ wellbeing. The lengthy emails from the University outlining the rules in such great detail is quite intimidating. Palatinate’s short articles are much more simply understood and hopefully lead to fewer people getting in trouble.

For students in private accommodation, their future at the University is not put at risk quite so often. Still, the number of students having to pay for unused rooms is ridiculous: they should be refunded in the same way that those living in college are.

University from home has been challenging. Usually, the motto ’work hard play hard’ aligns with a university student’s lifestyle, but this year that has not been the case. For the sake of academic work and wellbeing, students need to be back in University as soon as possible, to live life and move on.

Image: David Mulder via Creative Commons

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