Re-learning to learn post-COVID

21 April 2021

Written by: Rei Fortes

How are uni students re-adjusting to new physical learning environments?

Last year, students had to rapidly adjust to online learning as people stayed indoors during the height of the COVID pandemic. A study shows that 75 percent of university students found it difficult transitioning to remote online learning. Now as campuses re-open, students have had to re-adjust to being in a classroom again under new conditions.

So, how are students handling the transition to the new norms of learning?

La Trobe University’s Master of Financial Analysis student Charlene Espique tells upstart that having physical classes during her last semester of studies brings back the feeling of what it’s like to be a university student.

“This is the highlight I would like to end my uni. Having face-to-face classes before I graduate because I spent a year doing online classes and I really miss uni,” she says.

Being able to interact with her lecturers and collaborate with fellow classmates in-person again has improved Espique’s attitude to study.

“I really like the subjects. My performance in studying this semester is better compared to last semester,” she says.

However, not all students found themselves improving during the beginning of the semester.

One issue is re-adjusting to engaging with a “live” learning experience. This is the case with Master of Structural Engineering student Zahir Chedid at the University of Melbourne. He finds it difficult keeping up with his lecturer in the classroom after being accustomed to the slower pace of his online lectures.

“Sometimes I feel that I don’t have time to process all the information. When the lecture is finished, I need to go back to the slides and read it again and sometimes make notations,” he tells upstart.

Some adjustment issues that students are experiencing may be related to the style of learning that is most efficient for each student.

Senior Lecturer of Clinical Neuropsychology Dr Dana Wong conducted a study on a small cohort of post-graduate psychology students at La Trobe University, which found that student responses vary depending on the type of content being delivered and the environment in which the learning takes place.

“If you have content that is very knowledge based, then that’s more amenable to online learning than a more skilled based situation where they’re having to practice skills in a hands-on situation,” she says.

According to Dr Wong, mixed responses from students is expected as this is similar to when students were adjusting to the online environment. Now, students who missed social interaction will be able to communicate with their peers again and those who struggle in large people groups might take longer to adapt.

“Being flexible and having choices… particularly for students who greatly benefit from the face-to-face interaction is really helpful,” she says.

StudyGroup’s 2020 research on higher education students showed that 55 percent deferred their studies and planned to return this academic year. The results also shows that 75 percent of prospective international students intended to begin their studies in 2021.

As more students pursue their studies in university this year, the choice of either learning online or face-to-face will help students make the most out of their education. Several universities have converted some of their courses to be delivered fully online to accommodate this and reduce financial costs.

Despite struggling this semester, Chedid also believes that the combination of online and face-to-face classes will help him and other students improve.

“I definitely think the online system should continue to a certain extent. We should also change the way that the knowledge is transferred more efficiently,” he says.

Dr Wong encourages students to remember their ability to adapt to new situations despite a few negative consequences. She says students and lecturers are still going through COVID together as a university collectively. Having the opportunity to improve learning by seeing each other in person again should encourage students to adapt to the new norm of education.

“We’re not all in the same boat but in the same storm,” she says. “In this kind of uncertain time, weathering the storm means working together to build boats that are robust and trying to look out for everybody else and do the best we can to get through it whatever way we can.”


Article: Rei Fortes is a third-year Bachelor of Media and Communications (journalism) student at La Trobe University. You can follow him on twitter @ReiFortes_86

Photo: Two students studying in a classroom photo by Jeswin Thomas available HERE and used under a Creative Commons Attribution.