We’ve Returned to Campus- but how do UWindsor Students Really Feel?
University of Windsor students started to return to campus this term.
This move came following nearly two years of virtual learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it is not exactly business as usual, as enhanced safety measures are prevalent throughout campus. What may be more obvious, though, is the enthusiasm that many students are feeling about being back.
“I [like] coming to the University and attending class because it’s more interactive,” student Diksha says. “In an online class, the lecture is going on and you’re listening, but there’s no [actual] interaction.”
Feelings of isolation that come along with the lack of interaction from online classes are certainly not uncommon. Although many students connected and chatted in program-specific Discord groups, it was not a complete replacement for face-to-face conversations that can now be had inside the classrooms.
“It’s a good thing, everybody can gather on campus again. It’s kind of difficult for me to socialize through the Internet,” Ziyan shared.
Some individuals, though, were not initially thrilled with the shift. “I found that it was a bit weird at first, just from being online for so long and kind of forgetting about the aspect of being in person and the environment”, explained psychology student Briagh. “I do have a couple of classes online, and I feel like that’s helping me transition.”
UWindsor’s current hybrid model is proving to be beneficial for many students, as it allows for the ability to “create own your day how you want it,” as Briagh said. While some enjoy the flexibility that online learning allows for, others may value it for personal health reasons. At every turn on campus, there are reminders to follow the safety procedures in place, such as completing the daily survey and scanning the Safe Lancer app, wearing a mask (which will remain in place despite the lifting of the provincial mask mandate), and social distancing. Some students are satisfied with these measures, while others question if it is too much.
“It’s very safe to come to the University,” Diksha says. “All are wearing masks and sanitizing, [and] there’s safety instructions.”
These steps are commonplace throughout not only UWindsor but in many public spaces. However, Ziyan admitted that he finds that having to complete the daily survey is “kind of a hassle.”
Dr. Jamey Essex of the Political Science Department offers a different perspective on the shift from online to in-person learning.
“Short of just keeping everyone off-campus, there is always going to be a risk associated with being back in the classroom,” he discussed, “the vaccine and mask mandates and the attempts to ensure social distancing are what we can do as an institution, and I think we’ve all stuck to these pretty well.”
“On the other hand, the daily screening and QR codes, the stickers on the floor, and the plexiglass shields on the floor are more safety theatre than actual public health measures, [though] they’re not causing any more harm or increasing risk.”
Dr. Essex says that although his experience with online teaching was mostly limited to the Fall 2021 semester due to research and parental leave, he was very happy to be able to come back to in-person teaching. “The energy and enthusiasm of students is much better to gauge and encourage in person than it is online,” he explained. “For students who may struggle with the material in class or who need a bit of extra help, the online environment makes things much harder, and I could see that it hurt their academic performance”.
“Students may not realize this, but online teaching can take up much more time than in-person teaching because you have to create a lot more content that is downloadable in the form of slides, recordings, info sheets, and so on, and managing grades and assignments online can be more complicated than just dealing in paper and in-class discussion.”
When asked if continuing with the hybrid model would be a viable option, Dr. Essex explained that “hybrid teaching is expensive as it requires a lot of equipment and setting up classrooms differently.”
“There are fully online universities in Canada, and their undergraduate program completion rates are way below thirty percent, whereas UWindsor is generally well above sixty-five percent, even ninety in some faculties. We’re not set up to be an online university, and students miss something very important in their education and university experience when they’re only or mostly online.”
“My sense is that the University wants to go back to something more like normal sooner rather than later,” he concluded.
To watch the full video, visit here.
Filming credit: Briagh Ouellette and Weadee Mombo