Not long ago I found out that The Kübler Ross stages of grief were expanded last year to include a sixth stage – Meaning. I still haven’t come to terms to accept and acknowledge that everything happens for a reason and has an inherent meaning to it. In times like these, it is more strenuous than ever. Every single piece of information I’ve ever read, every skill I have ever acquired, every opinion I’ve ever had and heard, everything I ever was and ever will be, makes me rationalize and question things. And the current situation of our online education is no different.
The phrase work from home feels fundamentally flawed to me. We are not working from home; we are under a global pandemic and trying to work from home. We are not learning from home, we are under a global pandemic and trying to learn from home. Workplaces and educational institutions should have displayed a higher degree of empathy. Instead of looking after their students, they decided to capitalize on their misery by accelerating the completion of the academic year.
After talking to everyone I know, and going through various feedback forms of medical students regarding online classes, I can conclude that they are are not serving their intended purpose. There are several reasons for them not doing so.
First and foremost, being a third world country, the internet connectivity, on average, for students and staff isn’t adequate to hold classes without the internet connection severing multiple times. Then some colleges are conducting continuous six-hour sessions, completely draining the students. To make matters worse, they throw in heaps of assignments and quizzes. In regular physical classes, the attention span with a fully motivated mind, on average ranges from 30-40 mins max. Humans can only retain a limited amount of knowledge in a specific time duration. After that, the brain gets oversaturated since it needs time to maintain and process the information. Academic coordinators who are well aware of this factor refuse to acknowledge the logical concept of “slow and steady wins the race”. They love to preach their pedagogy based on student-centered learning but don’t even bother to listen to their students.
Even if the logistical issue of connectivity and time duration gets resolved, the virtual presence of the instructor will never be a viable alternative to the physical interaction during class. We also need to consider the psychological condition of the students attending these online classes. To attend a live online class, you need a noise-free environment with zero disturbances. Can that be achieved in our home? Maybe for some it is a possibility, but for the majority of people, it is a luxury that doesn’t seem possible to be attained. An open and stoic state of mind is one of the primary prerequisites to learning. It is rather bold of institutions to assume that everyone has the ideal environment at home. It’s a privilege not all of us possess. Let’s face it, some of us come from broken dysfunctional families, some of us have to look after our sick family members, some of us need to prepare meals for our family. We are struggling physically and mentally now more than ever.
Recently, a close friend shared her experience. The lecturer asked her to unmute her mic and turn on the video for attendance purposes. She could not comply as that would have meant forty people in her class witness her having a breakdown. To escape from the possibility of such humiliation, she left the class.
Here is another one for you. A student submitted an essay late to his teacher and was asked why. He went on to explain that he and his younger sibling use the same laptop for attending classes and doing homework. So, he can only do his work when they are asleep at night. We never know what our students are going through. But, still, in times like these, some teachers are failing their students in the course due to delayed submissions. I mean come on; we can do better than this.
We direly need to have a check on our priorities. The whole purpose of online classes is to make education more accessible than ever. In reality, they are only creating more barriers. The aforementioned issues are the very basic of gazillion issues our students are facing right now. The purpose of highlighting them is for us to acknowledge these issues and to try to devise a practical solution through shared decision making.
We are in the middle of a pandemic and a very popular university has decided to increase their fee by 40 percent. Is that for conducting online classes? Other universities will soon follow the atrocious example set by these people. People are dying and yet somehow, we are getting more and more desensitized from the whole situation everyday. We as humans have a habit of clinging to our artificial greatness, and we are doing the same during a very somber situation. We are ignoring the harrowing mistakes that have surfaced during the pandemic, and solely focusing on the future without heeding the fact that there’s no future without people.
Lastly, I would like to end this piece of writing with a word of advice. Human touch; we need the human touch from the ones we love almost as much as we need air to breathe. But I never understood the importance of it, until I was deprived of it. It feels as if ages have passed since I met people, gave them bear hugs, and felt whole at that moment. Carving out conversations over chai in the parking lot, under the vast blue sky, dreaming of late night walks. We humans always long for humans. It is what it is. If you are reading this, touch your loved ones, cherish your loved ones, and remember, we are not here to stay.
Written By Aneeq Majid
Hi! I’m Aneeq. I’m dental student by day and reader by night.
I love to eat and sometimes write.