A large number of second-year students who started at the University of Auckland in the first semester of 2020 have just started their third semester in online learning mode, having completed the majority of their study so far online.
Speaking to Craccum, a number of students highlighted the challenges they have faced so far as a result of studying in online learning mode.
Anna*, a second year student studying towards a BMus/BA conjoint, said that lack of communication has been the largest drawback of her online learning experience. “In a classroom environment, it is easy to find out what’s going on, what you’re supposed to be doing, and you have that point of automatic contact to ask questions. Above that, you can easily chat with classmates about the course and where they’re at, ask them questions and make friends. Coming into second year with only six weeks of in-person learning, it’s been really difficult to make any friends at all, and quite isolating in that regard,” Anna says.
Ria, a Commerce student also in her second year, similarly highlighted that it has been difficult to build connections with others while learning online. “It was hard to navigate the different changes between high school and tertiary education without knowing anyone to connect with, whether that be generally or for specific questions and support,” says Ria.
Ranvir, a Commerce student who started study in Semester Two 2020, told Craccum it “would’ve been ten times easier if the classes would’ve been in person because that gives a better opportunity to the students to ask course related questions in class…when we note them down to ask in a online workshop, it’s really tough to explain.”
Outside of building connections and communicating with students and staff, motivation has proven difficult to maintain with shifts between in-person and online learning taking place. Lily, who studies a BA/LLB, participated in the University of Auckland Young Scholars Programme in Year 13, so has some experience of what she calls “normal university life”.
“After a few weeks of online learning, my motivation to keep up with my workload drained because I simply wasn’t interested in mindlessly staring into my screen for 4-5 hours per day. When my quarantine routine fell apart, so did my study schedule. Dealing with a depressive spiral in the second semester of 2020 ultimately destroyed my capacity to concentrate on coursework, yet the constant upload of recordings was never-ending, so eventually I ended up accumulating 27 missed lectures at the nadir of my mental state.”
Both Anna* and Ria said that the quality of online teaching they’ve experienced so far has been dependent on the course they are taking. “Some of my lecturers have been so understanding, but others don’t post Canvas announcements, leave us hanging when it should be lecture time, send out pointless and confusing emails, and don’t appear to know how to work Canvas,” said Anna*.
“You can’t hold these things against your lecturers — these are challenging times for them too. However, the lack of organisation makes learning a really challenging and stressful experience, and I believe that they need better support from the University.”
All four students said that opportunities to engage with clubs, extra-curricular activities and the wider University community in their first year were limited by the COVID-19 Alert Level and restrictions on in-person events on campus.
In a statement published on the University website, Vice-Chancellor Dawn Freshwater stated that the university activities in Auckland have been moved online due to the change to Alert Level Three, and students should regularly check Canvas for more information as to what this means for their courses. All exams this semester will be held online, following a decision by the University in mid-February.
For official updates and information about COVID-19, visit the government’s Unite Against COVID-19 website. For University-specific guidelines and resources, visit the University of Auckland website.
*Name has been changed.