ARE ONLINE LECTURES A BLESSING OR A CURSE? WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES? A SMALL SURVEY REVEALS HOW STUDENTS AND LECTURERS OF HANZE EXPERIENCE THEIR DIGITAL UNIVERSITY LIFE. IN PART II, WE FOCUS ON THE STRUGGLES THAT STUDENTS AND STAFF ARE FACING WITH ONLINE LECTURES.
In our former article, we dealt with the advantages of online lectures. Although the participants agreed on common advantages, such as sleeping longer and having a broader definition of what is appropriate to wear during lectures, seventy-seven percent of participants agreed that they prefer physical lectures. So, what exactly are the drawbacks of online lectures that make people miss attending physical lectures? To answer this question, the 39 participants, consisting of students and lecturers, were asked what they perceive as disadvantages of online lectures.
I get easily distracted by my phone and people around me
The most frequent disadvantage was – oh, sorry, just another Instagram notification – too many distractions. This comes as no surprise as ninety-five percent of the participants agreed that they pay more attention in physical lectures. ‘I get easily distracted by my phone and people around me,’ stated a student. By attending lectures from home, students lack a sense of connection to the actual lecture. As noted by a lecturer ‘it is difficult to get all participants actively involved; you don’t have a good overview because there isn’t really a connection.’ It is, as one student states, ‘easy to walk away from your laptop without the lecturer knowing,’ to, for example, go grab a snack from the fridge or answer the doorbell.
To make matters worse, even if you turn off your phone and barricade yourself in a quiet room, often technology can get in the way of the most ambitious students. ‘Bad connection and awkward moments of silence,’ are a plague of online lectures. As students are ‘extremely dependent on the Wi-Fi,’ a lagging connection can disrupt lectures and presentations, which makes asking questions and understanding explanations more difficult, and ultimately causes those gruelling long silences.
University assignments are conducted together with people you have never met
Another downside that students and teachers mentioned was loneliness and the lack of human interaction. A student mentioned that ‘you don’t feel as involved. It feels like something abstract that you have to reach out to. You don’t feel needed there.’ Students and staff miss seeing, interacting, and talking with each other.
This lack of human interaction seems to also have an effect on student’s levels of motivation. By ‘not being around people, overall, the feeling is different in a way that it doesn’t motivate you to work.’ Furthermore, students mentioned that the ‘constrained communication with fellow group members,’ makes it more difficult to get to know other students, instead university assignments are conducted ‘together with people you have never met.’
As a teacher it is almost impossible to “read” the students as you would in a face-to-face classroom environment
One lecturer summarised the essence of online lectures’ drawbacks very well: ‘[Online lectures are] very one-dimensional. As a teacher it is almost impossible to “read” the students as you would in a face-to-face classroom environment where you can see who understands or not, what works or not, and adapt your style and material as needed. Also, there is just something wrong with teaching while sitting down. The prime motivational role of a teacher is also much more difficult when the human contact aspect is removed. From a student perspective there appears to be a sense of loneliness, isolation, and a loss in the sense of community normally associated with university.’