The impact of Covid-19 on our lives has been epic. The increasingly consequential lack of social interactions – key to developing and moulding change – has become ever more apparent in the age of limited socialising as a result of enforced restrictions. Whilst university education remains possible, campus life has changed immeasurably since the pandemic wreaked havoc. Plenty of questions have emerged in response to the Government’s most recent lockdown measure. For students, how to stay connected to university at a time of virtualized learning? For teachers, how to stay connected and support students?
Universities around the world are looking for answers, but few have them. Students at the University of York recently suggested creating a routine, going on runs, and making a daily to do list. But the impression of most is the problem is deeper and relates ever more acutely to the problem of mental health. Feelings of loneliness caused by isolation have given rise to increasing cases of depression and anxiety amongst student communities. whilst reduced activity can intensify procrastination and feelings of worthlessness.
The ability of successful education stems from an ability to adapt. This is why students at Bethune-Cookman University, a small historically black college and university (HBCU) in Daytona Beach, Florida, recently harnessed student engagement technology provided by Upswing, to stay avidly connected to their students.
According to Dr. Arletha McSwain, President-elect of the United States Distance Learning Association, “Upswing has helped us realize that communication does not have to be burdensome or overwhelming. Upswing’s virtual tutoring offers our students the convenience of availability, accessibility, and valuable one-on-one sessions” she recently told PR Underground. Upswing uses a virtual assistant – known as Ana – to communicate directly with students who are “more likely to respond to a text message as opposed to an email.”
The University of East Anglia is also adapting in the context of new guidelines. Online teaching will continue until the end of term, with access to “Prepare to learn” and “Software Skills Hub” courses via Blackboard, both providing information on how to optimise your remote learning experience. Meanwhile, several new challenges have been devised by UEA + Sport to help keep campus active. This includes the launch of a themed GPS challenge as well as daily posts “aimed to help staff and students achieve something, even a small task, every day of lockdown.”
Dr Neil Ward – Deputy Vice Chancellor – told students that “UEA is here to support you, and if you have any questions about your course or would like support, there are a range of options – you can speak to your advisor, contact student services or speak to our Covid Response Team by email or live chat”. Clearly, there is light at the end of the tunnel.