Opinion: A grace period would have helped us adjust to online learning platforms amid COVID-19 pandemic

Some faculty members lacked compassion for students during transition
IRIS DENG/THE VARSITY
IRIS DENG/THE VARSITY

On March 13, U of T made the decision to cancel all in-person classes and move to online learning in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time of uncertainty and panic, many professors resumed coursework as scheduled.

However, one of my professors did not even postpone a midterm that was scheduled for the first Tuesday after the online switch.

A better alternative would have been cancelling a week of classes so that students could have been able to travel home, faculty members could have adjusted to the online teaching platforms, and everyone could have had a chance to acclimate to this new development.

This seems to be the logical next step in these kinds of circumstances. However, U of T did not cancel classes, and many students are now having to deal with not only the stress of COVID-19, but looming deadlines and new work environments as well.

For many, the transition from campus to computer is not as smooth as the university claimed that it would be. As someone who is in self-quarantine with four family members, finding a quiet distraction-free zone has proven to be immensely difficult — especially when considering the constant stress of news alerts and endless emails from teaching assistants and professors. As a result, my productivity has taken a dramatic hit — and it seems as though I’m not the only one.

How can we be expected to return to business as usual given the situation at hand?

After receiving the email that in-person classes were cancelled, I immediately made arrangements to return home. During that time, I was so wrapped up with moving out of residence and making sure that my family members were safe that academics were the last thing on my mind.

When I logged into my U of T email account the following Sunday morning, I was stunned to find that my economics midterm would likely continue as scheduled. I couldn’t help but think of the international students who had to return home, or the students who were either ill themselves or had a sick family member.

In the days that followed, these concerns were met with messages from the professor stipulating that students in those situations would be eligible to write a make-up test. However, for the rest of the class, the March 17 date remained, with very little information as to how the format would change with the switch to an online platform.

The university should have at the very least pushed test dates and deadlines to the following week.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that U of T made the right — albeit late — decision to move to online classes. However, they have failed to realize the full effect this has on students.

Not everyone has an ideal environment to work from home. Whether it be distractions, an inadequate internet connection, or a mere lack of motivation that comes with the absence of structure, it is unfair to expect students to perform at their usual level.

Even with the implementation of unlimited Credit/No Credit options for some faculties, the next few weeks could dramatically affect an individual’s academic performance. As a result, students will continue to worry about how their GPA will be impacted while they don’t even know what the state of the world will be two weeks from now.

Haleigh Andrew is a first-year Social Sciences student at St. Michael’s College.

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