Back to normal: How do students feel about the return of in-person teaching

After a year and a half of mostly online teaching because of the pandemic, students finally get to enjoy being on campus, going into lecture theatres for 9am’s, and wander around the university without worrying about wearing a face mask. Or not.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced universities around the world to turn to online or blended learning for 16 months, which at first seemed like a nightmare to all students.

But how do students feel about online learning now?

Following the majority of students complaining about online learning being not-so-top quality and about not getting the “proper” uni experience, it seems like, after many twists and turns, universities are finally starting to give their students what they have been yearning for for so long.

However, online teaching seems to have reshaped the education system quite deeply, as many students now wish they could have the option to study remotely.

Waking up five minutes before your lecture, staying in bed being nice and cosy, and not having to worry about looking presentable or interacting too much with people is what many students have gotten used to throughout the past year and a half.

Hence, many people attending universities are now either finding it hard to return to campus or, on the contrary, cannot wait to be sat in an in-person lecture.

Patricia Lemos, a second-year NTU Psychology with Criminology student thinks that the university should provide students with the “option to stay online”.

She said: “I think it’s a big change from being a first-year doing everything online to now having to be in our second year and only just learning our way around campus.

“Obviously, it’s not ideal [learning online] as you don’t meet people and you don’t get exactly what you’re expecting or paid for, but for those who got used to it and for those with social anxiety who liked it, it would be a good idea to have that option to stay online.”

“Does everyone feel anxious?” sign displayed in front of the Nottingham Trent Students’ Union building on City Campus (Credit: Rucsandra Moldoveanu)

Louise Jones, second-year NTU Communications, Society and History student, also thinks that lessons should have stayed online.

She said: “I have severe anxiety which has gotten worse since the pandemic, so when I got my timetable and it was all in person it’s been a real struggle not letting my anxiety get the best of me and dropping out.

“I feel as though I’ve been thrown in the deep end with no online lectures at all and I just wish they had maybe had it a bit more blended, at least for the first term.”

However, the idea of blended learning is what seems to be the ideal scenario for most people who studied throughout the pandemic and who are now having to go back on campus.

Catarina Galhardo, second-year NTU International Law student, is afraid that international students who cannot return to the UK because of the pandemic will have their teaching experience deeply altered by the lack of online lessons.

She said: “In law school, I think most students prefer the lectures to be online like I did, but seminars definitely face to face.

“[NTU should be] giving people the option to attend online classes because I know that if you decide to do a distance learning course, first, not all courses have that option and second, it kind of separates people.

“One of my coursemates is from Austria and she literally cannot afford to come back to the UK this year and she’s trying to negotiate with the uni because on our course we have moots which are like mock trials that she needs to attend.”

Some international students are finding it hard to return to the UK because of the pandemic (Credit: Rucsandra Moldoveanu)

Like Catarina, second-year NTU Exercise, Nutrition and Health student Sam Powell wished lectures had stayed online.

He said: “I wish all lectures were recorded and published online to give us students more independence and allow us to watch the lectures in our own time and be able to pause and rewind as we please to gather as best notes as possible.

“Everything else [should be] in person.”

Other students wish that everything would go back to normal as soon as possible, as they were unhappy with the teaching they have received throughout the pandemic.

Lucy Young, second-year NTU Graphic Design student, wants all learning to go back to face to face, in the hopes that lecturers would start regaining interest in teaching.

She said: “Looking back on last year, I felt like I didn’t have the chance to receive the correct learning I was supposed to.

“Lecturers got lazy and didn’t want to communicate with you unless it was within session time.

“With having face to face learning it’ll allow students to be able to force the teachers to communicate and do the jobs they’re supposed to.

“Even this year for me, all but one lesson is online, except fortnightly, then it’s three, but even that’s ridiculous when I have 6-8 lessons a week.”

Some students are glad teaching is going back to face to face this term (Credit: Rucsandra Moldoveanu)

Another second-year NTU student, William Hallowell, is concerned about students continuing to not get their money’s worth if teaching is kept online.

The Journalism student said: “It makes absolutely no sense for universities to continue online teaching as we exit the pandemic and the Government’s relaxing of Covid restrictions allow for it.

“The only logical reason for universities to continue to do this whilst primary and secondary schools completely open up again is for monetary gain through student exploitation, and the fact that unis are not under the direct control of the Government, unlike schools.

“Students are not getting what they paid for, and at the end of the day, we’re the customers of the university business.

“Under any other circumstance, such as a high street shop, this would be seen as unacceptable, because students are not getting the product they have paid so much money for.”

It seems that, after a year and a half, universities’ biggest struggle has remained the same, and that is adapting to change.

With students having such divided and different opinions regarding the delivery of their studies, it is hard to say whether UK universities will allow people the option to study remotely, even now when, in line with government restrictions, all teaching could well take place in-person.

Lead image: Rucsandra Moldoveanu

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