Going Digital And The Fears That Come With It

The author did a great job with connecting their education, what is going on, and their beliefs.

Cecilia Hernandez

Michelle Namachemo writes about the uncertainty and fears students face regarding online learning in an already stressful time.

Illustration by Nino Mekanarishvili

What an unprecedented time indeed. The COVID-19 outbreak has completely altered the world as we know it. We’ve been forced to rethink how to go about our everyday lives. Everything has been split into 2 categories: essential and non-essential. Those falling in the latter category have had to fall by the wayside as we grapple with the pandemic. Those in the former have been maintained but with strict guidelines limiting interpersonal contact. This is where distance learning comes in. Education is too important to halt but the mass in-person contact sessions are too risky at such a time.

For students, there is a great fear of change, both the change that has already happened and the change to come. Since the onset of the pandemic, our lives have transformed into something most of us don’t recognize. There is a strong feeling of uncertainty about multiple aspects, uncertainty about the pandemic, lockdown, the future and life as we know it. Students are worried about the huge leap we are taking with our education and how to cope with it concurrently with all the other aspects of life. We worry about how to adjust to it all. We are all grappling with how to navigate what is largely unknown territory for most of us.

Illustration by Liani Malherbe

The concept itself is not new, but for many students it is. Most of us until now have been undergoing the traditional form of in-person education. The interaction students have with each other and lecturers is invaluable, hence this shift is a daunting one. The biggest concern I have gotten from my peers, and one I share myself, is that of the communication barrier that the distance learning brings. We are used to explaining our ideas with an amalgamation of gestures, illustration, words and even how these words are said. These layers of conveying meaning are completely lost when we take education digital. Now we are only left with the words. It lessens the efficacy of the communication as compared to the in-person method, especially for students who are not as skilled at the precision of language and getting their points across with words. Students are afraid they will not be able to relay their questions and ideas effectively and in return will not receive the answer they seek.

Another big worry for students is time and pacing. These are two very big issues. I think I speak for a lot of students when I say we do not want to extend the academic year and consequently the length of study.  A friend even said (half-joking, half-serious) she would rather be in class over Christmas than extend the year. Many are also afraid of the pace of how this will go. Some are concerned we will not have enough time to adjust adequately to the new learning environment. Another student has even stated that they are content with having no more recess periods if it meant the pace could be such that the change is well-cushioned.

All in all, students are anxious. University is hard enough without an ongoing pandemic shifting every aspect of our reality. This change is daunting but we are up to the challenge and hope our lecturers are as understanding and accommodating as we will be with them. This is new ground for a lot of us involved in tertiary education and it will take a team effort to overcome the obstacles.

Michelle Namachemo

Second Year Civil Engineering,

by Laylaa Motola
Meme by Laylaa Motola

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