How did Students Adapt to Online Learning?

An Opinion Piece by Joseph Sahyoun

For my BCM 212 research topic I took an in-depth look at the way that students adapted to online learning and if they preferred it to on-campus studying after having done it for a year now. This was something I was extremely interested in exploring because of how relevant it is now more than ever as students across the cohort have slowly begun resuming study on-campus and have now begun comparing the two varying experiences and seeing whether they preferred online or on-campus studying more. This is a topic that all students in the cohort can relate to and learn from, potentially learning what methods of study best suit them and how they adapted to the change. The main aim was to look at the nichè aspects of the question and see what parts of online learning hindered or helped students as opposed to the overarching question of if they prefer online or on-campus study. With students having spent an entire year online this is ample time for them to decipher these smaller aspects of the experience and determine how they adapted to the drastic change in study. These were the main ideas and topics being explored in my research topic. Going into the research I was fairly certain that the students would have preferred on-campus study despite having done it for such little time at a university level and they would’ve found the transition somewhat difficult.

When pursuing and gathering information for this task it was imperative to use platforms that were most accessible to students from the cohort as well as using methods that were easy for students to engage in to vastly increase sample size. This is why a large portion of findings were gathered via the use of Twitter and Google Forms. Twitter is the main online location that BCM212 students congregate and share thoughts and information, so by posting polls on this platform information was collected a lot easier as well as the fact that the cohort has a #BCM212 hashtag made collecting information significantly more convenient. Using this method I was able to release 4 quick polls on my Twitter account using the hashtag, garnering a total of over 100 votes across all the surveys. This was a method best suited for gaining statistics for more basic questions, Google Forms was the platform being used for the more specific finding such as students rating their online learning experiences on a scale of one to ten. The largest issue with this method was that they were merely numbers on a screen with no person to attach the results to due to the anonymity of the platforms. All these methods allowed for key findings to be gathered from a multitude of platforms and were critical in finding answers from a variety of sources. 

When collecting the results there were multiple results that were unexpected whilst there also being a similar amount of results I anticipated. 

This was evident in the Twitter polls which saw a lot of very close results, when tweeting the poll that asked “have you felt as if your marks got better or worse after classes transitioned online?” an even amount of students responded with “my marks improved” and “my marks stayed the same” with 40.9% each. 18.2% responded saying their marks declined. This was a key finding as prior to commencing research there was a large expectation that people would’ve noticed a decline in their results, especially considering that an astounding 73.7% of students said they preferred on-campus study out of the 38 votes in the first Twitter poll I released for the research. Similarly, on the final Twitter poll that I released I posed the question “what were your general thoughts on online learning?”. An astounding 53.3% said that they weren’t too phased by it whilst smaller percentages said that they didn’t like it at 33% and that they didn’t care at a mere 13% with UNESCO reporting in mid-March that over 1.38 billion students from all education levels being affected by closure of schools (UNESCO, 2020). The findings were particularly notable as when I released the Google Form there was a notable amount of results from people saying that they had positive views towards online learning once it began, scoring it an 7/10 on average in terms of how positive their views were going into it. This was not of any surprise as the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education 2020 found that online learning severely increased anxiety amongst many students and lowered their connection levels towards school and their fellow peers (National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education, 2020).

Results from the survey also found that travel was the main reason that people preferred online learning with a significant majority of students who answered the poll stating that the convenience of not having to travel to university was a large upside to the transition. These in fact were the key findings that were collected from the research conducted.

When looking at the results that were gathered via the Twitter Polls and the Google Form there is a lot of information that can be seen and used as ways of coming to a well-informed conclusion. Luckily, when analysing the results there weren’t too many outliers and many results favoured similar votes and therefore made coming to final conclusions a lot easier than originally anticipated. Main results found that despite the fact that online learning was sprung on students so suddenly a large portion of them didn’t seem to be phased by the transition from on-campus study to online learning. However, results from both Twitter and Google Forms both showed that over two thirds of students who replied to the poll did not prefer online learning at all despite being unphased by the transition. The main reason people preferred the transition was that it saved time on travelling, however a lot of students who answered the polls noted that the lack of accessibility to teacher assistance and the lack of motivation to study resulted in on-campus study being their preference of study. Most notably however is the fact that students did learn useful skills they never would have from on-campus study as stated by 100% of students who completed the Google Form.

Using all this information it is evident that regardless of the fact that students didn’t prefer online learning they learnt many useful skills that allowed them to adapt to it. It was also learnt that students had trouble adapting to on-campus study once online study began phasing out. 

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