Digital learning should not be a replacement for the classroom post Covid

Emma Nevin

Last April, when all of us were frantically attempting to survive the semester from home, I know for sure I wasn´t the only one cursing digital learning and praying for a miraculous full return to campus after summer.

Alas, no miracle occurred and I´ll only be stepping foot in Glasnevin once every 2 weeks this year. It feels like “blended learning” is never going to end, and perhaps that is the reality.

There is a strong possibility that at-home lectures are going to stick around even when Coronavirus is no longer controlling our lives. It will allow universities to take in more students, as Zoom classrooms increases their resources exponentially. Why wouldn’t they capitalise on that?

So far my lecturers have risen to the challenge and the teaching I’ve received isn’t noticeably inferior to the classroom. However, most of my lectures consist of small groups, making it much more manageable to navigate an inclusive zoom class, than those who have 300 plus people in theirs.

The shortcomings of digital learning were highlighted on our very first day of the semester. Our beloved Loop crashed, after it could not handle 16,000 students trying to access it following a summer of inactivity.

It was completely down for two days, thus conveying how fragile and undependable online learning platforms can be.

I’m sure trying to adapt to online learning is a massive task for first years, who must have been itching for the buzz of a busy college campus after secondary school. They don’t know anyone from their course and haven’t met their lecturers face to face, completely eliminating the social aspect of college for them.

As much as we should utilise the likes of Zoom for the amazing assets they are, I am really fearful of it becoming a replacement for in person lectures and seminars in the long run.

Online, there’s a reserved feeling which makes it more difficult to have a conversation. Those seminars where everyone is bouncing ideas off each other and you can see the flow of creativity in the room are irreplaceable.

Digital learning places such as Zoom have been the biggest blessing to college students around the globe during the Covid-19 era. Just being able to continue with our education is something we absolutely should not take for granted.

However, post Covid, we need to tread carefully on how much we lean on digital classrooms. Zoom is no replacement to the experience our college campus gives us and I hope universities don’t end up treating it as one.

Emma Nevin

Image Credit: Cytonn Photography