Is online learning working for DCU students?

Róisín Maguire

Since we have all now had the chance to experience online learning, we may have discovered that it either works well or not at all.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, online programmes were on the rise in Ireland within
university programmes. It is important to note than online courses are cheaper and much more flexible especially if someone is working a full-time job or is a parent.

However, for online learning to work, the student often has to be more proactive than the
lecturer which can sometimes be difficult because of distractions at home.

A book called “Minds Online: Teaching Effectively with Technology” mentions just how over
the past number of decades, student effort has decreased gradually and that within
universities, most of the effort is put into paying attention in class.

This is one problem that Maria Voznuka, a second-year student in DCU said she has faced.
“It’s hard to get into a routine,” she said, saying she has to remind herself that she’s “not on
a break”. Voznuka also mentioned that since her grades for the second year don’t count because of
the coronavirus, she finds it difficult to motivate herself.

Lora Doyle, another DCU student, also reiterates this point. She said that so far “The online lectures are
obviously having teething problems but it’s going as well as it can.” She mentioned that she
can pay attention better in a classroom situation.

There are advantages and disadvantages of online learning. When it comes to using Zoom
for online lectures, it is up to a student to pay attention as they don’t have the eyes of the
lecturer on them. Another issue with online learning is the lack of interaction with other
students through group work or just general conversation about a topic after class.

With in-class lectures, the student can easily ask the lecturer a question after class if they don’t like
the idea of asking in front of the other students, which means that this can only be done
through email when the class is online. This then means a student might not receive the
answer to their question for hours or maybe even a day later.

For those living in towns and cities, their connection would typically not be a problem
however those living in rural areas are at a disadvantage. The ability of one student’s WIFI is
not the same as others therefore some can only view and interact with PowerPoint but
cannot stream zoom for live lectures. However, most lecturers will make an exception for
those students and record each session so they’re not at a disadvantage.

For those going from always having classroom lectures to online-only, the transition is
expected to be difficult as home presents students with many distractions. However, for
those who have always been in an online course, there are ways in which it can be more
beneficial. For example, a student has more time to do course work if they don’t have to
travel to university and energy levels can then be increased. The success of DCU connected
is an example of how online learning can work. Some students studying postgraduate
degrees in DCU are working in Africa so it can be done well.

The same goes for working from home and the end of the pandemic may see office workers
asking to work from home more often once they see that it can be done. Voznuka said that
“The situation now shows us that a lot of classes could be done online,” such as theory-based
classes. For online learning to work, the student needs to be in the right environment with a desk, a
working laptop and access to high-speed WIFI, however, this can’t be done in
every household.

For those with disabilities and chronic illnesses that often leaves them unable to leave the
house some days, online lectures should always be an option for those students. This
prevents students from losing marks for not attending as it is not always possible to get a
doctors note.

Online learning can be successful however it mainly depends on the students time
management and effort.

Róisín Maguire

Image Credit: Sonja Tutty