Comment Student Experience

Online Learning: An Absolute Disgrace

Editors note: this article was submitted for publication on or before the 8th September 2021 and reflects information available at that time.

It is an absolute disgrace that the majority of students at the University of Edinburgh will still have online learning this year.

Within a mile of campus, there’s the Scottish government “keeping young people happy” by enabling many-hundred-person escapades in the sticky undergrounds of Edinburgh’s nightclubs. On the campus itself, thousands of festivalgoers trickle in from the rest of the UK and the world to catch some form of entertainment at the Fringe. While these are allowed to function freely, a mirror image of the capitalist, targeted society we live in, students are thrown a half-chewed promise: a ‘hybrid’ learning system in which “some” learning is in-person and “some” learning is online. There are multiple issues with this promise (“promise”).

The first problem with this is it is hypocritical: society-at-large functions freely with no restrictions on contact or movement – why is it that specifically students alone are subject to an ostensibly invisible coronavirus risk?  The increasing coronavirus cases in the UK are inconsequential: it is unfair that students alone face the consequences of this. On top of this, Edinburgh University themselves sold out to Fringe organizers they have no duty of care towards: they could have and should have refused, but the allure of money apparently supersedes the lives of students who keep them functioning.

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Next, assuming students are somehow more likely to pass on coronavirus in Appleton Tower than the infamous Hive, most students expect to be fully vaccinated before term starts. Even accounting for a small number of unvaccinated and/or anti-vaxxers within the student populace, the medical risk of increased COVID transmission is minimal.

The final issue with this is that it inherently cheats students out of that glorified, valuable ‘university experience’. Ignoring the fact that this is clearly an outdated promise with vaccination rates higher than ever – this is something the administration did last year. The exact same promise in an entirely different environment: cases were at an all-time high, variants kept popping up and the government had imposed total lockdown. But even then, the University failed to deliver: multiple subjects had lectures that were not just recorded (instead of live) but recycled from previous years. And even when restrictions were lax, many students did not have the live, in-person classes they were promised. It is rather convenient for the university to not put in the effort because they’re still able to command extortionate fees from students (not you, Scottish students) – what guarantee do we have that this doesn’t happen again? 

University is about so much more than “getting sloshed”. You learn from the best minds in the world and interact with interesting people from around the world in your lectures and tutorials. You go to multiple societies, making friends for life as you chat in a converted closet on the second floor of Old College. You can’t replicate these experiences online with squares of profile pictures and low-quality 10 MP cameras: all of us have four years in total, many of us have fewer now. Let us have this year.

Image credit: Public Domain Pictures