Student Interns: The Best of Both Worlds
Over the course of the last year, we lost and gained many things in the move to remote learning. In this article, the EDTL Student Interns discuss what they would like to see educators keep from this past year and also what they hope is emphasised with a return to campus.
There has been plenty to take from the last year. All of us were forced to think differently about teaching and learning, and the plus-side of this is that there have been many positive changes for both students and lecturers. Saying that, there have also been parts of education that all of us have missed and will be very eager to see return this year. Here, the EDTL Student Interns reveal the one part of college they hope is emphasised this year after missing it as well as one lesson to take forward from this past year.
Lauren Muldowney – NUIG
This academic year has been filled with highs and lows which have provided plenty of opportunities for reflection. While its had its challenges, there are lots of aspects that I would like to carry forward from this year. Specifically, having recorded lectures available has been an incredible asset to my learning. The ability to watch lectures at different speeds and rewatch them at a convenient time has been a game changer which I hope continues as we head towards ‘normality’ in higher education.
Having said that, the usual casual social interaction with classmates has been something I have missed. Friendships and meeting new people have always been a valuable part of my university experience and my hope is that future students will get those same opportunities. Those connections often serve to improve the atmosphere in classes and encourage participation. With a blended approach, I feel that we can take what we have learned from the past year and improve the university environment overall for all students.
Katharina Kurz – MU
One thing I would love universities to see carry forward is the enhanced understanding of students who might be in disadvantaged positions, compared to the others in their cohort. The pandemic required both students and lectures to be sensitive, and mindful of each others’ needs and professional and personal circumstances. Last year the lecture hall was filled with a sense of ‘we are in this together’, which sparked interest in one another, and encouraged understanding and empathy amongst the university community.
What was missing for me was the most was the lack of personal interaction with other students and educators. Building relationships is crucial to education. This year, I feel like many students missed out on the chance to find and create their own identity within the local, and wider global university community. Engagement with others fosters a sense of belonging, which helps create a positive university experience. I am looking forward to more in-person chats, coffees and pits when we return.
Jasmine Ryan – UL
A large part of my college experience has consisted in working actively in student representation as a class representative and student council member. I think we should carry forward the online infrastructure developed for facilitating the Student’s Unions to be more proactive and connected across years, programmes, and departments. General feedback from the class and department representatives this past year has praised the medium of online meetings as helpful for getting face time with department staff and administration. Most importantly, it has led to tangible changes in the handling of various issues from ensuring representation and cohesiveness across the myriad University of Limerick programmes to petitioning for a wider selection of classes in the upcoming semester. All in all, we should continue to use online meetings where necessary so that student representatives can have the opportunity and the time to converse and delegate with elected officers and administration in their institutions.
The major thing I have missed from this year is routine. For some students, recorded lectures had many drawbacks alongside benefits. Recorded lectures are great for self-study but when lecturers failed to upload them at stated times, it was difficult for students to structure their week and routines as the release of content could be unpredictable. As we move forward to our new normal, a hybrid of online and on-campus learning, we must ensure all content delivered digitally is available at allotted times unless otherwise stated.
Robyn Meyler – MU
As we transition back to a normal academic term, I feel it’s important to reflect on the parts of online college that were beneficial to learning. I found that completing groupwork online was much more efficient and productive. Having shared word documents or PowerPoints to work on together was much easier than trying to type up an assignment in person. I found meeting online was extremely efficient and easier to organise around schedules, compared to on-campus meetings. The comment feature on MS Word was a great way for teammates to edit each other’s work and working on platforms like MS Teams made the group work much more transparent as it was easy to see who was uploading work and participating in discussions around the assignment.
The main thing I found that was lacking from my college experience over the past year was student engagement and participation. My online lectures were not very interactive and I missed participating in class discussions. I didn’t feel very involved in my classes, which made it hard to engage with the material and actively learn. I’m looking forward to in-person, more natural learning, where students can ask questions in real time and steer the class discussions so there’s a flow of conversation and learning.
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