Energy and motivation dip during the pandemic
What’s it like to be a student during a pandemic? Up and down. The greater distance between teachers and students has affected the quality of education, Master’s Student Teo Elmfeldt, believes.
“It is more important than ever to be open to more learning methods,” he says.
Elmfeldt, who has an influential role as a student at KTH, was invited to our Lunch ‘n’ Learn series of seminars to talk about student experiences of studying in the shadow of the pandemic – remotely, with zoom lectures and on your own at home.
“Generally speaking, it is pretty OK, in purely technical terms,” he says. “Study materials, lectures and information are all available on the digital platforms.
“On the other hand, it is now much harder to stay on top of things, to feel motivated to keep up, and to learn from your friends. I myself have got a lot less done and feel more tired than usual. ”
Many students are missing those small but significant moments you get outside of your studies. These can be chats during breaks between lectures, group learning in front of a whiteboard or some other feedback from teachers and course mates that happen spontaneously on site, that inspire you and help you to stay focused.
Maintaining an interaction, dialogue and cooperation between teacher-student and students-students, despite distance learning is important, Elmfeldt stresses.
“There are many different ways to resolve this, but it is important that clear expectations are put on you so you know as a student when you need to interact and that if you don’t feel up to this right then, that is also alright,” he says and adds:
“Course coordinators need to be attuned to this and think through the different course components when it comes to distance learning. Many students really struggle with the isolation, get stuck in a vicious circle and then can’t find the energy to get in touch with friends and course mates.”
What is the key to ensuring teaching works as well as it possibly can?
“Clarity, structure and a teacher with a sense of curiosity and determination to improve it.”
He thinks that group work and individual study have worked best during the digital transition. Exams and lectures have worked less well, although this has also differed from course to course:
“Lectures and exercises often lose much of their energy when they are organised remotely. Even the fact that most lecturers usually do this standing up, as opposed to being seated now. This makes it harder to stay focused during the lecture.”
Elmfeldt also advocates more exams being done as written assignments instead. He feels Zoom invigilated exams don’t work particularly well. “Even though there is less risk of cheating, many students think you can cheat if you want to,” he says.
“Organising exams in a good way remotely is complicated.”
We are now a few weeks into the spring semester – how do you see things going from now until the summer?
“It is very much a case of sticking it out. Get into the habit of looking forward to everyday things and accepting that you won’t get as much done as you usually do. Of not being too hard on yourself and not being afraid of taking a proper break rather than thinking you can stay concentrated and keep studying hour after hour.”
Text: Christer Gummeson