How students are adapting to online learning during the pandemic

Michelle Cullen

Students across the country have had to adapt to learning online this year due to COVID 19.

Many students find concentrating during online lectures difficult as they find it hard to resist the distractions around them.

Eva Brady, a second-year student of psychology in the National College of Ireland (NCI) said, “I think it’s been very difficult it’s been easy to attend the lectures but to actually listen and take in information that’s the hard part.”

The environment students are learning in has changed drastically from working in large lecture halls surrounded by peers to staring at a computer screen in a bedroom or office for hours on end.

“I find it especially hard to focus when attending lectures in my bedroom because it’s a place to relax and now it’s a place to work as well.”, said Brady.

Many colleges have hosted online zoom events to help students connect socially from their homes.

“Our student union is incredible. They have set up zoom events like cocktail-making classes, I attended a consent workshop which was very informative and inclusive.”, said Brady.

Members of the Student union have remained available to be contacted by students and offer their support and services to any student who may need it.

NCI’s Student union Vice President Conor O’Reilly said: “NCISU has always maintained an open-door policy to all it’s students and this has not changed since the move to online learning in March.”

“All our officers remain fully prepared to assist students with any issues they experience.”, said O’Reilly.

A poor internet connection is an added frustration experienced by many students living in rural areas.

 “I actually don’t have internet in my house so I’m working off a personal hotspot so that’s very inconvenient and obviously unstable so that’s just a worry for when exams are coming up.”, said Brady.

In many college courses, a practical placement is a vital part of advancing a student’s skill set in their chosen profession.

Daniel Troy, a third-year student of aeronautical engineering in University Limerick, had his placement cancelled due to Covid 19.

“I interviewed and got my placement in October. I was kind of worried so in April during the lockdown, I started emailing people around and I got at least three conformations that it was going ahead. It was due to start on the 25th of May and the 21st I was told that the company wasn’t going to take me”, said Troy.

With little time to find an alternative placement, Troy was told he would have to do a project for a university in the Netherlands instead.

Troy said that not completing a college placement will affect his future career opportunities.

“There are only three other students from my course who had theirs cancelled so I’m at a huge disadvantage to them. I will have no industry experience going into it when I finish the course.”

Troy is currently trying to make his own industry connections so he can carry out a placement over the summer months.

Like many other students, Troy had planned on staying in on-campus accommodation while he carried out his placement.

When new restrictions were introduced in September colleges around the country offered their students flexible accommodation. This meant students could stay on campus for the weeks they were scheduled.

Following the introduction of level 5 restrictions, most college courses became exclusively taught online.

“I switched to flexible accommodation because I was only in three weeks but I still owed the college a grand which I paid to them so when they told me I wasn’t going to stay there I didn’t want to waste a grand on accommodation I wasn’t using.”, said Troy.

“I had to get a refund then, which they were sound enough about, but I got onto them about the refund at the very start of September and they just paid it back two weeks ago.”

Some first-year students have not yet stepped foot on their college campus.

Eoin Harkin a first-year engineering student in Dublin City university said, “I was only in for one day and I got to see some of the lecture halls and other facilities.”

Most of DCU’s first-year students experienced an online orientation week that consisted of various zoom seminars where students were encouraged to get to know each other.

“I went to most of the online orientation zooms and I did find that helpful. DCU really did make the effort. They are doing the best they can, but I’d say I was talking to more people on the one day I was on campus than the two weeks of online orientation”, said Harkin.

DCU announced on November 29th that online learning will continue for the rest of the academic year.

DCU’s Vice President for academic affairs Lucien Waugh-Daly said although the SU shares in student’s disappointment they are “grateful to the university for providing clarity to students so early when it’s inevitable that other third-level institutions will most likely follow suit.”

Michelle Cullen

Image credit: Andrew Conway

Note: This article was reuploaded on 25/03/2021 due to a fault with The College View website.