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Online courses are not enough for uni students in lockdown

“The only improvement I could suggest (about this subject) is something that is out of everyone’s control. But to have this class physically rather than online. Since it is a communications class, it involves interaction and being physically around people, which I believe would enhance my learning.”

I wonder how many first-year students are dropping out of their degrees because they cannot cope with online learning and all the technical problems associated with it. It is also a huge mental burden on these students to do so much of their study online. They are missing out from making new friends, joining clubs and societies, and travelling to new parts of Melbourne and Victoria.

University students are missing out on making new friends, having new experiences and other aspects of campus life.

University students are missing out on making new friends, having new experiences and other aspects of campus life.Credit:iStock

These are the activities I was privileged to undertake as an undergraduate and postgraduate. When I reflect on these “simple” activities they have been so instrumental in shaping my life.

I have life-long friends and I met my (now late) husband at university.

I had the unique experience of breathing in university life. I marvelled at the old buildings at Melbourne University and was awed by seeing so many students from diverse backgrounds mixing happily at Victoria University.

Universities have done a lot of research on the first-year student experience because they have wanted to stem dropout rates and therefore improve the student campus experience. Universities found they needed to help students connect more with their campus environment.

A lot of this research was based on student surveys. So, universities need to survey students now to find out how they want the universities to connect with them in this world of increasing online learning.

Universities can also set up suburban hubs for predominantly online students where they can meet to discuss their academic work. Some students already do this in an informal way, but universities could take the initiative and have a formal program of students meeting up once or twice a semester in their individual subjects.

If universities can do this for many MBA students and other postgraduate students, then they also should try doing it for undergraduates.

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Perhaps what is most important now is for prospective university students to ask at Open Days, which are happening this time of year, if the subjects they intend to study will be offered online or face-to-face next year. The answer may determine the degree students take and the university they choose.

It seems that many universities are moving more face-to-face classes online. But if lectures and tutorials are increasingly going into cyberspace, then universities need to show students the educational and “well-being” reasons for having online subjects.

Dr Erica Cervini is a sessional academic who lectures and tutors in Introduction to Communication at the Australian Catholic University.

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