Is online learning a remedy to the coronavirus?

With the spreading coronavirus, is it wise – or even possible – to attend Uni? I’m a current Uni student, and I had to ask myself this question. Naturally, I don’t want to catch the virus, but is online learning the solution?

Is it safe to go to Uni with the coronavirus spreading?

My Uni has assured me that all is safe, and they’re taking all the precautions they can. And, they’re taking the advice of the Health Department. But Prime Minister Scott Morrison is banning public gatherings of 500 people or more, so why are Uni’s exempt from this ban? I don’t get it. Isn’t sitting in a lecture room with hundreds of other students for a couple of hours throwing up a good chance of someone bringing the virus into the room? Especially considering that earlier in the day a different lot of hundreds were in the same room. Was the room cleaned? Was the table and chair that I sit on cleaned? Who sat on it before me?

Is it better to study at home or go to Uni?

A good question to ask right now. I mean, if the health authorities are recommending ‘social distancing’, then studying alone in your own home is got be the better option. I thought about driving to Uni, but then parking is always such a hassle. I could catch a train, but then I’m stuck in a carriage with a hundred other people…both ways. So, I’m thinking that studying in a place that is away from other people has big advantages, especially in times like this.

How good is online delivery?

I’ve done quite a few ZOOM meetings, so I know I have enough internet bandwidth to handle the load. But, ideally, I’d rather not have to restrict myself to a specific time when the Lecturer is delivering the content. What if I have to leave the live lecture, for whatever reason. I’ve found that there are some courses that are now delivered online which are pre-recorded, so I can start / stop at will.

How engaging is online learning?

My Uni offers me lots of PDFs and Powerpoint slides to download and read, but it’s kind of boring. What I would like is a course that is really engaging. I can see online is getting much better at this. Courses are being designed to really engage the student. They know that drop-out rates are big, so they’ve created material that is pretty intense. I mean, when was the last time you walked out of a movie because it was boring?

I read a report recently that says as a result of the coronavirus ‘forcing’ us to try online learning, “Students and teachers will have collectively experienced a new benchmark of contemporary education: a more interactive, real-time and innovation-oriented learning experience.”

Does online learning provide real feedback?

Another good question. When I did my Uni exams last year, I studied really hard for them, which took a lot of time and effort. I was shocked to find out that the Uni returned no feedback to me, other than my score. I was pretty pissed at this. Why no feedback? Not only am I keen to find out what the maker thought of my work, but feedback is also a really great learning tool, right? I even complained to the Head of the School but didn’t get far.

A good online learning course should provide feedback on everything you submit for assessment. Even better, if you’re work is not good enough, a course done through what’s called Nationally Recognised Training will give you a chance to review your work and resubmit … until you get it right! That’s got to be a better way to learn.

So, in time like these, with the coronavirus forcing me to think about whether I should actually attend Uni or not, it’s interesting to see that online courses have come a long way and offer a lot of advantages that Uni can’t. Oh, and did I mention the cost of an online course is much less than Uni…?

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Simon Lidster

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