The pandemic has made many of us much more familiar with online learning than we may have been otherwise, with many SAIT students who would have opted for in-person classes having to take their courses entirely online.
Almost two years on, the biggest struggle facing some online students continues to be isolation, with education experts and advocates stressing the importance of continuing to reach out and stay connected.
“For two years, I’ve just spent my time in my house,” said Tyrone Dizon, a student in SAIT’s information technology diploma program.
“I definitely missed out on talking to people and getting to know people.”
Bhavneet Dhaliwal, another SAIT student who completed SAIT’s medical laboratory assistant program last year, also noted struggles taking her courses online.
“Some of my class said they prefer to have it online because they don’t have to get to school by eight o’clock, but I think the majority is more leaning towards having in-person classes,” said Dhaliwal.
“You’re forced to pay attention, then you’re forced to actually listen and focus.”
“I think I would have been better in classes, and it would have been a lot easier if it was in person. I know personally, I did the entire course in my bed.”
Statistics Canada (StatsCan) conducted a crowdsourcing survey near the start of the pandemic in April 2020, which was completed by over 100,000 post-secondary students in Canada.
StatsCan noted that, “Among participants who reported that all of their courses had moved online, almost one in ten (7%) reported they were unable to complete some or all of these courses.”
Canadian Psychology, a peer-reviewed journal, also published a study looking at psychological distress among university students during COVID-19 in Feb. 2021.
The study found that, “students without pre-existing mental health concerns were more likely to show declining mental health, which coincided with increased social isolation among these students.”
“The biggest danger to being online is isolation. It’s like the illness of online learning,” said Amy Burns (PhD), associate dean of undergraduate programs in education at the University of Calgary’s Werklund School of Education.
“Making sure that that sense of community exists and that there isn’t this feeling of isolation is what allows you to really engage in those important learning moments.”
SAIT’s student association Saitsa advocates for students and offers activities, programming, and volunteer opportunities. Saitsa also strives to improve and maintain student mental health through their Mental WHAT program.
“The biggest danger to being online is isolation. It’s like the illness of online learning.” – Amy Burns (PhD), associate dean of undergraduate programs in education at the U of C’s Werklund School of Education
“I think that a huge part of your academic success is your extracurriculars,” said Saitsa’s volunteer coordinator Bekah Callaghan.
“For a lot of students, that’s how they meet their friends.”
“There is also some really innovative stuff happening around how you do things online,” said Burns.
“You can create an excellent community online; this is not something that has to be done face to face.”
Saitsa is still facilitating opportunities for students to get involved in their community– even if from home.
“Join any clubs that you’re interested in, and get connected as much as possible,” said Callaghan.
“And remember that we’re here to support.”