Saudi Press

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Thursday, Jan 27, 2022

College students share pros and cons of online and offline classes

College students share pros and cons of online and offline classes

Obtaining an academic degree and professional certificate as a proof of acquiring knowledge and achieving life skills has always been a challenging goal pursued by young men and women.
The younger generation has faced an exceptional kind of challenge that came in the form of coronavirus pandemic that has upended all walks of life and disrupted learning with impacting more than 90 percent of students (1.6 billion) worldwide.

COVID-19 has changed many parameters that have been followed for ages, and it made us create practical solutions to adapt to such a global catastrophe.

The online learning came as a panacea and savior in the hour of distress, thanks to technology as it has turned into a boon during the lockdown period.

In Saudi Arabia, universities immediately switched to online learning as part of measures taken to stem the spread of this highly contagious virus.

Of course, this abrupt change has caused problems to many students and instructors, but it was deemed as the ideal solution, as students carried on with their lectures and studies remotely without any disruption.

Most students welcomed this change while some others viewed this in a pessimistic way as they felt it was hard to digest the disseminated knowledge and needed more time and effort to comprehend the content, apart from the volume of assignments since it was the replacement for some quizzes.

At present, in the fall semester, most of the students have returned to campus and almost to the normal academic routine after taking two doses of coronavirus vaccine and in strict compliance with COVID-19 precautionary measures and preventive protocols.

Speaking to Saudi Gazette, many final semester students of King Abdulaziz University (KAU) articulated their thoughts about their back to in-person learning as well as about the previous online classes before starting the new academic year.

“I feel that the lectures on campus are more encouraging for me to focus,” says Futoon Alotaibi. “When we were taking everything online, some professors made their exams challenging and harder to avoid cheating, but the exams are much easier on campus now.”

She continued: "I get very anxious now when I want to participate in the classroom because before our communication was all in writing and I feel more anxious to speak now in front of so many people".

On her part, Fatima Aziz said: “During the one and a half years of remote learning, I was able to find enthusiasm in online courses as well as to maintain a study-life balance that worked well for me.”

Fatima noted that she had a problem of focusing on remote classes as it seemed difficult for her to separate studies from life at home as they were taking place in the same space.

“Our instructors ensured that the online experience was as close as possible to being in class. That being said, in-person learning is more immersive and I find that I can have more.”

“When we went back to having quizzes and finals on campus, I had to study harder to remember lessons over longer periods of time. Now that we’ve been attending classes on campus for a while, my habits are back to the pre-pandemic period.”

Recalling his exceptional experiences, Malik Zubailah said: “Going back to face to face classes has made it much more effective in terms of understanding the contents of a class, but the problem stems from the fact that most of the physical classes are a continuation of classes taken online during the lockdown period.”

“To be honest, the level of comprehension in the online classes was weak, and focus was an all-time low. You had to find discipline from within as a student in those days, otherwise, you can sleep it off and no one would know,” he said.

“The online exams have been simplified very much and have a lot of space for instant research on some subjects if students got stuck with problems. There was a lot more leeway,” he said, adding, “but now we came back to the state of fully prepared when going into an exam. You either know the answer, or you don’t.”

Presenting a different perspective, Feras Alghamdi said: “I think many students including myself find visual cues such as imagery and gestures, made by the teacher, are helpful to a certain level. And thus their absence or infrequency combined with the sheer amount of information dished out in such a short period of time had a negative effect on our level of comprehension of concepts and methods introduced within the courses of the online semesters.”

“Going back to the usual or normal style had a positive impact on exam preparation for us as it gives more time to study, and of course longer exam periods. On the online mode, we had exams within acute time-constraint and some with the ability to go back and review answered questions before submitting it,” he said.

Alghamdi noted that many students expressed their distress over the remote learning as their schedules were replete with assignments, presentations, homework, and quizzes with no end in sight all throughout the period of the semester.

“This has been a great mental challenge for each student. Luckily we are back to campus as we enjoy more leniencies around assignments and deadlines that they did not warrant from us nearly impossible time management and sleep deprivation unlike the remote learning period,” he said while summing up, “overall being back on campus is a big plus for students.”

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