A Year of Online University in Review

In December 2019 the first cases of Covid-19 became known to the public. Over the upcoming months, schools and universities all around the world began to close their doors, forcing educators to adopt an entirely new way of teaching. And learning.

As another academic year is coming to an end, we will look back and see what the transition to online learning has meant for students and educators all around the world.

Student’s Mental Health

The lack of social interaction, academic support, and worry about the general state of the world has taken a toll on student’s mental health. As studies repeatedly showed, rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts increased amongst college students worldwide. Worse, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the Covid pandemic has disrupted mental health services in over 90% of countries. This is making it harder for students and academic staff to receive the support they need. While this cannot be fully attributed to online-learning, it is a facet of students’ lives that has been heavily disrupted and will have undoubtedly had knock-on effects.

Accessibility Debate

For some students, attending lectures from the comfort of their home, has made it easier to engage with the necessary content. However, by relying on (often expensive) technology, stable internet connections, and a quiet space for studying, online learning may not be equally accessible to all students. Critics have been concerned that a transition to online learning has caused already disadvantaged students to fall behind, increasing the overall attainment gap. To avoid this, some Universities support their students by offering virtual office hours and live sessions. Though this continues to be an issue, the flexibility of online learning allows students to study at their own pace. This in turn allows them to answer questions, they otherwise would have skipped, increasing their overall performance.

Financial Difficulties

Over the past year, students have repeatedly called for a reduction in their tuition fees. Many have perceived the quality of teaching to have changed significantly. Likely, because the sudden transition to online education left teachers with little time to adapt. Furthermore, an already expensive lifestyle became even harder to afford as students lost their jobs to the pandemic. It is not unlikely that this financial burden put yet another strain on students, perpetuating the cycle of poor mental health. Some governments and institutions have since offered their students financial support. In addition, as students and teachers are gaining more experience, we are starting to see the actual cost and perceived quality of online teaching align.

Credible Assessments

Alongside the actual teaching and learning portion of online education, students and teachers were required to sit and deliver many assessments, usually done in person, online. There have been clear benefits to this. Some studies, for example, suggest that students show fewer signs of anxiety before online examinations. Others are considering the possibilities of automated marking procedures to speed up marking. However, there has been great concern around the credibility of online assessments. As online education continues to play an important role in our delivery of knowledge, we have made it our goal to create a platform that allows students to sit their examinations comfortably, whilst also ensuring credibility and integrity. For more information on the Active-Class exam monitoring system, click here.

How We Move Forward

Ultimately, everyone’s experience of online education this past year has been shaped by factors that far exceed just the quality and method of teaching. Whilst, it may seem that introducing online education has appeared to be at the cost of student’s mental health and general learning experience, this should not be the case.

By providing an intuitive, easy-to-use learning management system that helps students and teachers to take and deliver credible assessments and by donating a part of our profit to mental health charities, Active-Class hopes to take an important step in amplifying the benefits, whilst minimizing the potential downfalls of online education.

Sophie Miszori
Sophie Miszori

Undergraduate Psychology Student at the University of Kent