Disclaimer: This is a post about my opinions, feelings and thoughts that are from my own perspective. It may contain biased statements, intended sarcasm, satire and borderline or over-the-line comments that may get my degree hanged. Hopefully this post is taken with a grain of salt (in a good way) and an open mind, I do not want to get shit-storm for how I want to express my experience and perception on what is happening.
Once we get this clear, a brief background on what I am studying now, I am a first-year undergrad in UTM taking a degree in Mathematics. My opinions on online learning would be biased as I am a Maths student, not an engineering one nor a medic, do not even mention architecture.
It is inevitable for the online class phenomena to promulgate through universities in the whole wide world as the pandemic is still not under control, period. So, this is one of the many precautionary steps taken by the education industry to mitigate the spread of the virus. However this led to many unprecedented shifts in the ways of normal, for instance, bringing education online.
Many of us bitched about how online class is stressful and tiring and ineffective. Let us not jump into conclusion so quickly and give this online learning thing some time to take effect. Plus, being a university student, we need to use our brains in order to look at this matter from different perspectives and adapt ourselves to the situation, instead of bitching about it- that simply does not solve the ‘problem’.
From a cost-value perspective, online class for universities are in no way benefiting the students. As an example, let’s say Malaysian students spent an approximate of RM 10,000 (USD 2,000) per semester. We pay not only for the education that is provided by the university, we also paid for the lifestyle that a university provides: the societies, the people, going to lectures, having face-to-face learning, the burning-midnight-oil-finishing-assignments-due-tomorrow-with-maggi-cup experiences and maybe some enjoyment of being a uni student. We did not pay to be locked at home and learn from a screen. That is simply way off the cost-value margin.
On the flip side of the same coin, let me ask you a few questions before proceeding,
i) How many times do you wish to not go to a lecture because the lecture is either too boring or not worth your time?
ii) How much attention do you actually give during lectures?
iii) How many lectures would you attend if it meant not taking attendance?
iv) How many times did Youtube, Google, your friend’s notes and the library saved you before the finals or during your projects?
Answer these questions honestly and you would get a realistic view of how important lectures to you are.
For question 1, if you have this mindset for more than half of your lectures, I believe you are in uni just to get your degree and enter the society as soon as possible (no extra crap needed and perhaps running a part-time job somewhere or doing some of your other passions is your thing), or the lectures are ‘useless’ from your point of view and you felt that you can take this time to something else more beneficial to you.
For question 2, if you gave more than 60 percent of your time listening and paying attention to what your lecturers are doing in lectures, I believe you are a good student. But come to think about it, I think I am giving a generous figure here, let me take a more realistic approach here. Generally, once you enter a 2-hour lecture, you need around 10 minutes to settle down (by scrolling social media and looking around) before really tuning in to the lecture. Perhaps in the midst of the lecture, you could not understand what the lecturer is talking about or the lecturer is straight up talking about his life in which your attention would start to wander around for another 20 minutes (or even more). Toilet breaks or rest, another 10 minutes. Getting back into focus, 10 more minutes. 5 minutes before the lecture ends, you are thinking about what to get for lunch. So, that’s about half the time gone in lectures.
For question 3, just be honest to yourselves. That is like finding a needle in a haystack. A lot of conditions need to be met for you to be so devoted. For instance, the lecture must be related to your studies and must be something you like and be something you want to do; the lecturer must live up to your expectation and a respectable, credible figure to you; and most importantly you must be willing to give up your time willingly to attend the lecture. If you have one or two lectures like that per year or for your entire study period, you are in luck.
For question 4, who does not know Encik Google and Makcik Youtube are? Some of the students I know normally studies just a week before finals and scores fantastically. But, some of us did that and got nothing. Let your guilty conscience haunt you, and think about it. In your uni life, I bet you would rather refer to online resources rather than your lecturers, for most of the times, especially before your finals or tests.
Let me break it down here. There is a stark difference between a lecturer and a teacher. Why do the people in university who lectures you are called lecturers, not teachers? Teachers are people who helps students acquire knowledge, competence or virtues whereas lecturers are just vessels for lectures (just for delivering knowledge- telling you just what you need to know in order to pass the course). Most of the lecturers have better things to do rather than giving lectures and most of them have their own research that is due by some date. My point is, most teachers care more and actually teach their students whereas most lecturers do not care much about their students as their priorities might not be ‘teaching’ a.k.a. giving lectures. One more thing is that, at this point of your life, being around 20 or so in uni, your study style- the way and attitude that you acquire knowledge- is already built in in you and normally only a handful of people can actually teach you something. For most of the times, what you learn depends solely on you, not lecturers nor your friends. Therefore, relating back to the questions and response above, I want to boldly say that online learning might actually be the way to go in the future.
But wait. What about those practical courses which require on-field experience? Like architecture, engineering, chemist, doctors, dentists. Like it or not, those are courses which can not happen online, period. Give it perhaps one more century when augmented reality technology becomes a viable platform, then yes. But for this lifetime, nope. I think nobody wants to see doctors screwing up in operations and engineers failing to measure something. That would be not good.
For me, I think this online class for uni students as a new norm, not something worth bitching about. We kept talking about Industrial Revolution 4.0 and Internet of Things and yet we failed to execute it on so many levels. This has been revealed to us clearly during this pandemic, no one in the world is fully prepared to go online fully and embrace this internet revolution at this point in time. We have been slacking and now, nature gives us a little push to realise this paradigm shift, we should take this as a challenge and overcome it instead of bitching about it.
If you want to talk about stress and shit like that, just don’t, because for us to be having a place in a university, it is akin to a privilege. (Around 70 percent) Most of us who can afford a university and have 3 meals in place with a roof to stay in are more blessed to those who have to worry about their next meal, so just a little shift and you call it stress? You can say everyone has their own stresses but I think if you are someone who is educated and can enter a university, you should have a better grasp on handling stress than others, you should be an individual who can adapt and overcome the situation given to you instead of bitching about it (because you are taught how to through various experiences). Now I realised why we are called the snowflake generation, it is because we bitch too much instead of finding ways to adapt to the situation at hand.
For those who are having tougher times because of their financial situation and family issues, I am sorry to hear about it and I cannot do anything to help but pray for your wellness. I believe our uni do provide free counselling services and also financial aid to those who needs it. Plus, to those who talked about bad internet, I believe our uni did give out aids in the area too. So, I hope you guys would stay strong and accept the help given. Hopefully other uni does this also.
You can say once you wake up you need to face the computer for the entire day is a psychological attack to you. But, imagine those who are working pre-pandemic time in various industries, they also have to face the computer for almost half a day and still they can pull it off. Another counter to your complaint is that, how much time do you spend on your phone and the time with your laptop studying in the library? All of this is just a change in location, your study load should be more or less the same. If you still want to talk about being more stressed about your courses, then I just have to say that your time management and productivity is just way below standards, perhaps you should not have taken so many classes in the first place. Some more we are in Malaysia, with just one or two unis in the top-100 globally, our workload and the things that we are learning can never be more than them and yet we still complain about being stressful online?
Some of you might even be better off during this situation because you can now choose your mode of study, whether or not to listen to the lecturer. Some of you might be happy because no need to attend some lectures face-to-face. Some of you might say that this is more flexible than ever.
About the grading system that is being imposed for online classes, I feel like it has lost most of its significance and credibility. For us, our tests and finals have been moved online, which meant cheating can be done easily. The cheating rate in universities are already quite significant, what more when given more leeway during these tests and finals, people will definitely cheat. So, these tests and finals have become a time-limit individual assignment (sort-of, if you do not discuss with your friends). On paper, the lecturers and students would be happy because it is a win-win situation where the students score and the lecturer’s KPI sky-rockets. But in reality, it defeats the purpose of rating the individual capability and understanding of the course.
Here is my two cents on how to fix this (For Maths-related subjects and probably Physics subjects, not applied generally).
20% research based projects (can have groups for discussion but must be handed in as individual work)
Online Assessment / Tests:
10% Test 1
10% Test 2
15% Final Assessment
Group Assignments or Quizzes:
Give more INDIVIDUAL assignments to overshadow the fact that the online finals are inadequate by:
i) Quantity, if you give grades based on 5 tutorials with 50 questions each instead of finals, that would actually take effort to complete them, even if you were to copy them.
ii) Quality, it is time to ramp up the syllabus and incorporate real-life situations to the course, plus it would be plausible to add in new things that would make the course more challenging. More like research based questions, and expose the students earlier to this field of doing research individually.
Online tests, assessments can be carried out normally, but with lesser weightage.
But you might argue that why there is not much group assignments? It is because normally in group assignments, you might be the one who carries the entire team or the one who would be carried. Plus, it is difficult to communicate effectively during this pandemic. In addition, the main objective of any course is to build your individual strength and skill in your future career, being a team person is secondary. My logic is this, even if you are team person but your strength and skill is not at standard, then what for are you there in the team? Teamwork (Synergy) works best when everyone in the group has similar level of productivity and skill with a streamlined attitude to strive for achieving more. It does not work when you become a load to the team by not having enough skills to match up with the team.
Where are the carry marks? The internet is there for you. It is up to you to decide whether you want to put in the effort to complete the tasks at hand or not.
In conclusion, the attitude in learning is more important than anything else in university. We have our voices louder than our actions, it is time that we have actions speak rather than mere words. For lecturers, maintain the amount of work given by you just like how you did previously, and modify it to suit the situation now. It is not like the pandemic increased the credit hours given by the course. For students, just keep up the good work and figure out what is best for you.