An Uncertain Return to Campus
By Ewan Kennedy
As the concern for COVID-19 has slowed down, students in Calgary have started to return to campus. This came after students were moved into online school at the start of the pandemic, over two years ago. The decision to move students and staff back to campus was no doubt a very complicated one, which saw many different views and perspectives come out on the matter. There was discourse among students and staff as to whether or not these institutions were making the right decisions, but most of the students agreed they were drained from online classes and needed a change.
Most had complaints about online classes, as they felt it was not what they had signed up for. To make it worse, post-secondary institutions in Calgary had decided to return to campus in the middle of the Winter-Spring semester. When asked about the situation, Ernest Sarna, a student at the University of Calgary, said, “ It screwed with my rhythm and stuff that was really badly done.”
While attending online classes, students had reported feeling lonely and disconnected from their respective programs. ” It was, you know, a little lonely to be cooped up,” said Ernest. This certainly had an effect on students overall performance in their classes and in their lives.
The decision to move students back to campus so rapidly created some new complications. A study done by the University of Oxford in conjunction with Queen’s University on students during the pandemic, brought troubling information to light. They had reported that “ 56 per cent of students had described feeling increased levels of anxiety, loneliness and restlessness associated with social isolation.”
When asked about returning to campus, Owen O’Shaughnessy, a student currently transferring from the University of Calgary, said, “ I was a little unsure about my social skills coming back, having not talked to people or made any friends.” These feelings of isolation and loneliness were common for most people throughout the course of the pandemic, but it has had the greatest effect on students.
As a result, student performance would also take quite a hit. In a survey conducted by Oneclass, it was found that 85 per cent of students had their academic performance affected by the pandemic. With all of the changes students have had to go through over the last couple of years, this came at no surprise.
It screwed with my rhythm and stuff, that was really badly done. – Ernest Sarna
Many students have also directed their complaints towards certain professors and instructors in their particular programs. It was reported that a high number of educators were doing very little to engage with their students, as many resorted to using pre-recorded, unengaging videos for class. “ That didn’t make me feel great as a student, like if they’re not going to put in the effort why should I? That was pretty frustrating,” said Owen.
As we continue to move away from the pandemic, we must put more focus into the success and well-being of students. There needs to be more of a focus on students’ mental health, social health, and feelings of social isolation. Hopefully, post-secondary institutions will put more support systems in place, otherwise a full return to campus may end up hurting students more than it is helping.