Under his leadership, we recently came together online to discuss what sets classroom courses apart from e-learning. This productive exchange allowed us to identify the aspects of classroom lessons that we are missing.
Here are the seven aspects that came up most often in our discussions.
1. Sense of belonging and friendships
Being in class creates a sense of community that online learning does not easily provide. It allows students to bond with peers who share their academic mindset and interests. It’s not easy to do the same online, with most students rarely conversing with each other during and after their distance learning courses.
When they are grouped together in the same place, the students naturally forge links and it is certainly easier for them to discuss among themselves and with the professors. Classroom lessons generate lively discussions where students can exchange ideas. Conversely, distance learning courses generate an impersonal and largely anonymous experience. “They don’t engender the friendly relationships that usually come from classroom lessons. I feel like the opportunity to network has been missed,” said one student.
“[Distance courses] don’t engender the friendships that usually come from in-class courses. I feel like the opportunity to network is missed. »
Online courses also limit students’ ability to benefit from the support of their peers, whom students normally turn to if they have questions about educational orientations, institutional procedures, Moodle, etc It is different in the context of online learning: unable to forge links with others, some students say they feel “uncomfortable to exchange emails with strangers”.
The situation is particularly difficult for graduate students. One of them testified: “As graduate students, we generally have little time to indulge in our hobbies and see our friends. Our social interactions over the course of a week often boil down to time spent in class or in meetings. The fact of being deprived of these meetings generates in us a great feeling of loneliness and sadness, which should not be underestimated. »
2. Social signals
It often happens that the social signals emitted go unnoticed in the context of distance learning, resulting in a misperception of people and situations. Students deplore the lack of “human aspect” of online exchanges. “I feel like I’m talking to myself or spending my time filming myself, rather than discussing,” said one of them.
The problem is amplified when students turn off their cameras during remote lessons. This results in an absence of perceptible social signals, which can lead to a feeling of insecurity during exchanges. Students find it difficult to “develop a sense of trust and familiarity” with their peers, whom they perceive as “outsiders” because they cannot see their faces.
“I like to see other people studying in the library because it motivates and comforts me,” said one student. Without the ability to study in the library or other common areas, students are less motivated to do their homework and prepare for exams. It seems that the library is a comforting place that promotes resilience and generates solidarity among students. One of them believes that seeing his peers study allows everyone to see that he is not alone in struggling and pushes him to do his best.
Graduate students also say that chatting with their professors after class allows them to forge bonds that are beneficial to their learning. “It’s not all a question of mastering the program, underlines one of them. Establishing a good relationship with a teacher pushes me to ask more questions, to seek more answers. »
Participation and concentration are essential for learning, but distance learning does little to help them. “Without face-to-face interaction with their professors and fellow students, some students find it difficult to concentrate during class and refrain from asking questions. In addition, online courses are prone to distractions of all kinds: notifications, Zoom chat, and any other inevitable source of distraction within the home or neighborhood.
Merely believing that they would do better in classroom courses can lead students to believe they are ill-equipped to study online, and therefore to place less importance and work less on it. “Students have to take classes and tutorials, do their assignments, take tests and exams. Not having to do it on the spot increases the chances of them putting these things off until the next day. »
Graduate students are no exception to the rule: “Coming to a given place to study alongside people you can talk to before and after class, or during breaks, helps you stay focused and to be interested in the subject studied. »
Does taking classes from home undermine confidentiality? Concretely yes, for many students. Online meetings from home do not provide the same level of privacy as in-person meetings behind closed doors. Very often other family members are also present at home due to the pandemic, which can cause students to give up virtual appointments for lack of personal space at home and deprive them of human interactions. .
Similarly, some students refuse to talk to their academic advisors about their problems from home, for fear that someone will overhear them. They feel more comfortable and supported if they can talk face-to-face with these counsellors.
6. Routine et discipline
Perhaps the first key to academic success is discipline. However, online learning does not require the same organizational structure, which can affect student grades and their learning experience. One of them confides
7. Campus Synergy
Simply being on campus provides students with a positive educational and social experience. It allows for a clear distinction between work and home, which does not exist in these times of distance learning. “I see my home as a safe place, where I don’t have to stress, where I can forget about the day and relax. »