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How students and schools can successfully prepare for a semester of online learning

By: Haeley DiRisio

As the fall semester gears up to start, college and university students will have a very different school year than usual. With the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, Canadian schools have decided to hold classes completely online. However, learning from home can make it challenging for students to stay concentrated and motivated. Looking at some ways to succeed can be beneficial to approaching this new way of learning, as well as understanding the adaptation schools are making in order to help students with this transition.  

Transitioning into completely online courses will be a learning curve for students and professors. Johnathan Small, Associate Vice President of Online Learning at Regis College, wrote an article listing some ways students can successfully adjust. Small mentioned tips such as looking ahead and making sure students are prepared for assignments, setting times allocated for study and work periods, communicating between professors and students as well as communication in group projects. Other articles cited time management, flexibility and staying disciplined as keys to successful online learning.

As for what professors and schools can do, Brooklyn Frizzle, vice-president at the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), said, “There are some lecturers that are doing amazingly and there are others that are still doing live lectures, which is incredibly difficult for students, especially at McGill, a very international school.” Live lectures are something that posed as a problem during the start of the pandemic, with international students having to wake up in the middle of the night for live lectures and exams. Other issues included some professors reusing old lectures, while some students had trouble finding stable internet and quiet work spaces. 

“From the student end, we have been very vocal about what we need to succeed,” Frizzle said. He added that recorded video lectures instead of slides, access to graded assessments, remote office hours and accessible communication are useful tools universities can implement in order to help students succeed.

Tyler Poirier, president of Central Student Association (CSA), a student advocacy service at the University of Guelph, said the university is doing a good job of connecting students through different groups in order to help them stay motivated.

“If students are feeling disconnected from their academic experience, they can at least connect with people in their majors,” Poirier said. “Although many of them won’t be on campus, they can still have connections to those in their departments and colleges.”

Poirier also mentioned that health services, hospitality services and athletic facilities will have some limited in-person access as long as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to decline. CSA’s services, such as the Guelph Student FoodBank, Student Help and Advocacy Centre and other services that are still being reworked due to COVID-19, will also be accessible in different capacities.

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