Rachael Dyal, Op-Ed Editor
Humber commenced online classes last week, and never in a million years did I think it would take a global pandemic to make me want to go back to school.
I’ll admit when I heard school was going to be online, I thought it would be the perfect time to slack off and catch up on all the sleep I missed during the semester.
Look at the perks: online courses provide the convenience of working in the comfort of your home and, if you wanted to, you could mute yourself during a lecture on BlueJeans, an online video chat site, to focus your attention on things that may not be school-related.
Don’t get me wrong. Despite these perks, there certainly are challenges that come with e-learning, such as lack of motivation or engagement on behalf of students.
There may also be confusion about updates on future assignments and upcoming deadlines, and professors may face technological difficulties trying to run a course.
Despite these inconveniences, I still had no problem with not being able to access a physical classroom during this time. I thought attending lectures from the comfort of my bed would be amazing.
But, after speaking to Neil Dyal, a former principal for the Toronto District School Board’s e-learning summer session in 2018 — who also happens to be my dad — I learned there are more extensive issues concerning remote learning.
“I think the biggest downside to online learning is accessibility,” Dyal said. “Ensuring all students have a way of connecting with the online learning environment is tough.”
Dyal alludes to the reality that many households in Ontario run under the poverty line. In fact, a 2018 report found 15 per cent of children in Ontario live with families who make less than half the median household income.
Thus, it’s unfair to presume some people have access to high-speed Internet, for example.
There are also many students, such as international ones, who may not be able to access courses online due to lack of financial resources, Dyal said.
He said there are usually solutions for most of these accessibility issues.
However, the coronavirus pandemic made these challenges more difficult to solve since resource centres, such as libraries that often have computers available, are closed.
“In a face-to-face classroom setting, you have all the elements for teaching and learning in the same place, and you know that everyone is capable of accessing whatever the teachers teaching,” Dyal said.
Students who need assistive learning also face difficulties with e-learning.
“Students who are special-needs learners and require help from the teacher or need the teacher to slow things down or put things in different ways for them can have trouble accessing this help through online forums,” Dyal said.
I mentioned before my only two criticisms of e-learning were lack of motivation and organization. One time last week I completely forgot I had an online course because the professor changed the time. I ended up sleeping right through it.
At the time, I shrugged it off and blamed the error on this professor’s organization skills and my own nonchalance.
But I selfishly failed to realize that online learning poses considerable problems for other students who learn differently or for students who lack accessibility.
And, as Dyal acknowledged, it’s a privilege to even have access to e-learning courses. Not everybody is lucky enough to have the resources they need to learn effectively online.
The classroom grants all students access to materials they need for efficient learning, and that’s why I miss it.
Not only does in-class learning allow me to keep up with what’s going on in a course, but it also benefits many students who need the facilities that unfortunately e-learning may not provide.
So, before you decide to drink that glass of wine the day before class or to mute yourself on BlueJeans to sleep, just remember that it’s a privilege to access online education.