Are online lectures a blessing or a curse? What are the advantages and disadvantages? A small survey reveals how students and lecturers of Hanze University of Applied Sciences (UAS) experience their digital university life. In part I, we focus on how they are weathering the storm by reaping the benefits of online lectures.
In March 2020, Hanze UAS closed their premises due to the COVID-19 outbreak. As the Corona measures were set in action, a majority of international students went to seek refuge in their home countries and possibly used the chance to escape the nasty state of their shared kitchens for a while. Groningen, the vibrant student city, was suddenly eerily quiet. To this day the bike stands of Hanze UAS remain strangely empty. The pandemic has marked a new era for students and faculty– the era of online lectures.
Since then, more than eight bizarre months have passed. A survey conducted by HanzeMag International, consisting of thirty-nine participants, both students and staff members, clearly shows that online lectures are less popular than physical lectures. As the following figures show, seventy-seven percent preferred physical lectures:
While ninety-five percent felt that students pay more attention in physical lectures:
So, despite online lectures being the clear underdog, what are their perks? Almost all participants agreed that time management is an important factor. One student stated that they are never late to class, ‘because I can wake up five minutes beforehand. I am able to sit in my dressing gown instead of having to get dressed, and I am able to attend class remotely from anywhere in the world.’ Not surprisingly, most students agreed that their favourite place for attending early lectures was out of their own beds.
Undoubtedly, students do not miss cycling through Groningen’s cold and windy rain showers to attend lectures. Instead, by attending lectures from home in their favourite nightgowns, students can allocate the time saved for other things such as work, university assignments, or – most frequently – sleeping longer. Perhaps more importantly, as mentioned by a lecturer, cutting out travels to university is beneficial for the environment as well, although that only goes for teachers (and some students) who travel by car or scooter, of course.
Furthermore, by not having to attend lectures physically, students and staff don’t have to stay in Groningen necessarily. International students can spend more time with their friends and families in their home countries, while simultaneously attending lectures. Better yet, it is finally theoretically possible to attend lectures while gazing out to sea from the balcony of a holiday resort in Spain.
A substantial advantage mentioned by both students and lecturers was the fact that online lectures can be recorded and ‘students can visit the material multiple times.’ Online lectures can therefore be ‘accessed from any location,’ at any given time. It increases flexibility, allowing students to revisit anything that they might have missed. However, multiple students criticized that lectures are often not recorded, making this advantage obsolete in many cases.
For students battling with anxiety, attending lectures online can have a bittersweet advantage. As pointed out by a student ‘it’s the best and the worst thing that can happen to people with anxiety like me. The best, because you can just stay in your safe bubble, but also the worst because the longer you stay in the bubble the harder it is to get out.’