Recent review of the Government’s plan for living with Covid-19 has perhaps raised more questions than answers for college students, with its almost radio silence on the matter of third level education. Under representation, lack of transparency and lack of understanding are just some of the sentiments expressed by students on this issue, so what is the solution to this? How can university life begin to return to some semblance of normality? In short, we don’t know.
What we do know, however, is that student life is more than just what happens in the classroom. We recognise the integral role that extracurricular activities, be it sports or society events, play in student life. Students relying on professional sport to maintain future career opportunities are suffering due to a lack of training. Students engaging in competitive activities with societies, such as debating, have had to adjust to an online platform with no institutional support.
We recognise that there is no quick fix, but these kinds of on-campus activities can at the very least be conducted in a Covid-19 compliant manner should they be given the opportunity. For example, competitive student sports training, adhering to all guidelines, would carry a limited risk but a great reward for the athletes in maintaining performance level and contributing to an improvement in mental health.
What would a mechanism for implementing this type of return to campus activity look like? We propose that when restrictions move out of Level 5, activities with a competitive edge and maintenance of a professional standard return to campus, of course following the relevant safety guidelines. The Government should allow universities some discretion at this stage in deciding which activities can be conducted on-campus in compliance with regulations.
Various buildings around campus are open for students with little to no policing or supervision which has seen students congregate without observing social distancing. At the very least a return of these activities to campus would be closely monitored to avoid any such flouting of guidelines.
While the subject of online learning has been beaten to within an inch of its life at this stage, we do have an additional comment that seems appropriate to include with this set of recommendations.
It has become increasingly evident that online learning is being conducted in various styles across various schools. Some modules feature interactive zoom classes while other students are tasked with listening to a 2-hour audio clip on a subject. Some students cannot attend these ‘live lectures’ and at the same time others are struggling to learn anything from the universities equivalent of a long winded voice message from your annoying friend.
What we see here is the need for overarching, accessible and transparent regulation for modes of online teaching. While we recognise that different subjects are best taught through various mediums, at the very least a school wide policy should be implemented. In this instance students could easier identify and communicate problems they may face in accessing material, this can then be quickly remedied and the student should not experience any detriment to their learning.
Let’s face it, we’re all tired of staring at our screens, we’re tired of asking the Government for answers and we’re tired of being left in the lurch. We wish we had a simple solution that could bring us back to campus with its picturesque Soviet style architecture. While such a solution may not be possible just yet, we believe that a return of competitive activity to campus and the implementation of clear teaching regulations would prove to be of little risk but great reward to students.
The Editorial Board