Surveying the effects of the

pandemic on the educational environment

By ANABELLA VILLANUEVA | November 14, 2020

Cover photo: Empty classroom at the Inholland University of Applied Sciences in the Hague on Nov. 11, 2020. The university has moved to remote learning since March 2020. Anabella Villanueva / The Amsterdammer.

Schools and universities, once full of students and life, are now empty. The diverse study environment that students used to enjoy, especially in a multicultural city like Amsterdam, has been zeroed down to just the screen, the student and the teacher. 

A survey was conducted for this article in which 43 students from three universities participated.

Illustration by Anabella Villanueva / The Amsterdammer

In March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic greatly escalated in Europe, education systems needed to find new ways to continue teaching. Fortunately, the technology of our time has made it possible for students to keep learning and moving forward online. Now, we are able to learn from any part of the world; getting to class has never been easier!

Our academic landscape has changed drastically: classes are just a click away, meaning no more early alarms and rushing to catch the metro on time. We can transport ourselves into this digital classroom simply by grabbing our laptops or phones. Most of us log in from our bedrooms or any place where we can connect to the internet. 

 

That being said, the technology is far from perfect and online classes sometimes fail due to technical difficulties. Digital environments may be subject to problems of unstable WiFi or lagging on both the student and the institution’s side. The difference in time zones can also be a challenge for students that have returned to their home countries. The current measures and this online learning environment have isolated and confined us to this virtual world. Many of us are now missing out on what was supposed to be an incredible chapter of our lives.

Despite being deprived of our lives as students and the interpersonal interaction of an offline classroom, the fight to keep learning goes on, not without consequences. The absence of social interaction has affected the productivity of many students who have lost motivation and focus. This has a great impact on mental health and, as a result of loneliness, depression is also on the rise. 

Results from a study elaborated by The Amsterdammer with 43 participants from 3 universities in The Netherlands

I conducted a survey for this article in which 43 students from three universities participated: University of Amsterdam (UvA),  Inholland University of Applied Sciences and Leiden University.

Results found that 90.7% of student follow all of their classes online. Among them, 74.4% stated that online teaching has affected their learning environment and 88.4% of all participants indicated that they spend the majority of their time in their bedrooms to study. 37 out of 43 students stated that online education has affected their motivation and psychological well-being. Many of them think there is not enough interaction with other classmates and teachers during online classes.

Overall, students also said they struggle to engage in discussions or exchange opinions like they did before. Along with this, some students are also not as lucky as others. Many have had to drop out of school due to lack of adequate resources such as a laptop and a stable internet connection.

“The majority of students in the survey stated that they do not like the idea of being monitored as it is stressful, invades their privacy and adds more pressure.”

Illustration by Anabella Villanueva / The Amsterdammer

Students are not the only ones affected by these new teaching methods. Teachers share the same experience and have also needed to adapt and familiarize themselves with the new, often complex, digital tools. When taking an online class or a digital exam, teachers now also consider their students’ location in order to make it accessible.

Teachers and students are learning how to use these tools together within a virtual environment to maximize the experience for both parties. Video conference platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams are the only “back-to-school” offerings available to students this year, who have all become much too accustomed to recorded lectures, digital textbooks and online exams. 

 

Institutions such as UvA and Leiden University have incorporated the use of proctored exams in this new learning environment. Proctoring is a software that monitors your computer by accessing your webcam and microphone to prevent any cheating during the exam. This measure is particularly controversial and has faced mixed reactions. Some students think it is necessary because it would be unfair to pass an exam by cheating.

The majority of students in the survey stated that they do not like the idea of being monitored as it is stressful, invades their privacy and adds more pressure. Approximately 58% of students voted against proctoring and only 13 out of 43 students in the survey approved of the monitoring software.

The closing of schools and universities has also caused a significant loss of certain educational opportunities. Many institutions decided to cancel exchange programs or internships abroad because their priority was to keep students safe. It has now become challenging for us as students to continue developing our curriculum and knowledge. 

 

While online education continues to prove challenging due to several reasons, it is likely that this is what the state of education, especially at universities, will look like for the foreseeable future.




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