University students struggling with impact of online classes as pandemic wears on
Breanna Reid-Clarke has attended all her university classes over the last two years from her bedroom and it's taking a toll.
Studying from home as a result of the pandemic has meant feeling isolated, and has brought challenges in building strong connections with colleagues and instructors, says the 21-year-old.
Now, even as universities make plans for students to return gradually over the next month, some like Reid-Clarke say they aren't hopeful their post-secondary experiences can be turned around.
"My school experience (was) basically taken from me ... so it's frustrating," says Reid-Clarke, who studies politics and governance at Ryerson University in Toronto.
"I don't really have hope that everything is going to return, and if in the event that it does return, I just feel like things are just going to be shut down again."
Post-secondary institutions moved learning online when the pandemic hit and a return to campus that began in September was suspended when the Omicron variant arrived late last year. Many universities have now said they're planning a phased return to in-person education in the coming weeks.
Reid-Clarke says the uncertainty around her school schedule over the last two years has made it difficult to plan not just her academic activities, but also her shifts working at a retail store and a students' association.
"We don't really know what we're doing constantly. And we also have that pressure from our employers to kind of almost know what we're doing," she says. "It just makes things really, honestly, annoying and difficult."
Erfan Nouraee, a second-year electrical engineering student at York University, is hoping the return to campus takes place.
He says he needs access to university laboratories and equipment to do his research, noting that remote learning has delayed some of his work.
"It's been really challenging for me to find a place to work on my inventions and projects," he says "I really was uncertain about it -- what I really should do going forward? Should I stop all my work for the year ahead?"
York University was among several post-secondary schools to recently announce a phased return to campus that is set to start Jan. 31. The University of Toronto and Waterloo University, meanwhile, said on-campus classes and activities will start resuming on Feb 7.
Ryerson University said it will start a gradual return on Jan. 31, with a full return anticipated by Feb. 28.
"I hope that many of you will welcome this return and see it as an opportunity to begin a post-pandemic way of living, learning and working," Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi wrote in a letter to students last week.
Kelly Gallagher-Mackay, an assistant professor at Wilfrid Laurier University who has been researching educational experiences during the pandemic, says online learning works better for some and is less successful for others.
Going to university is more than just academics, she says, and online learning that's taken place so far has deprived students of some of the in-person experiences that come with being on campus.
"They don't go out for a coffee after class, they don't kind of take what they learned in the classroom and go into social life with other students," she says. "There's big lost opportunities for peer learning, for socializing."
Educators feel the impact too, she says.
Gallagher-Mackay says she got to know students she taught in-person much better than those she taught online.
"It was only a tiny handful of the students who rarely turn the cameras on (who) I know well enough to write a letter of reference for," she says.
"I knew quite a lot of my in-person students well enough to talk informally ... or get a sense of what their interests were, why they were taking our program, all those kinds of things. And that two-way knowledge leads students to be more likely to seek help from their professors when they need it."
Kristina Llewellyn, an associate professor of social development studies at the University of Waterloo, says remote learning has exacerbated inequality issues that some students from equity-seeking communities face when they study from home.
"It's everything from basic access to the internet, to the time that it takes for online learning when you're juggling full-time employment or other caretaking responsibilities," she says.
"We know that there's great inequality when it comes to who has to juggle, for example, during the pandemic, a full-time position in addition to their learning."
The pandemic has also compounded mental health issues many university students have had, she says.
"There are not enough robust resources happening on university campuses to address mental health concerns of students," she says. "We need to ensure that those resources are put in place now and post-pandemic."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2022.
Toronto Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
The white gunman accused of massacring 10 Black people at a Buffalo supermarket wrote as far back as November about staging a livestreamed attack on African Americans, practiced shooting from his car and travelled hours from his home in March to scout out the store, according to detailed diary entries he appears to have posted online.
Pierre Poilievre is denouncing the 'white replacement theory' believed to be a motive for a mass shooting in Buffalo, N.Y., as 'ugly and disgusting hate-mongering.'
A driver who struck and killed a woman and her three young daughters nearly two years ago 'gambled with other people's lives' when he took the wheel, an Ontario judge said Monday in sentencing him to 17 years behind bars.
Half of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 still experiencing at least one symptom two years later: study
Half of those hospitalized with COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic are still experiencing at least one symptom two years later, a new study suggests.
A former police officer, the 86-year-old mother of Buffalo's former fire commissioner, and a grandmother who fed the needy for decades were among those killed in a racist attack by a gunman on Saturday in a Buffalo grocery store. Three people were also wounded.
Ontario’s four main party leaders were relatively civil as they spared at Monday night’s televised election debate in Toronto.
The rising cost of living is worrying Canadians and defining the Ontario election as prices go up on everything from groceries to gas.
Facing daily instances of violence and abuse, gender diverse people in the Canadian prison system say they are forced to take measures into their own hands to secure their safety.
A racist ideology seeping from the internet's fringes into the mainstream is being investigated as a motivating factor in the supermarket shooting that killed 10 people in Buffalo, New York. Most of the victims were Black.
Who are Quebec's English-speakers in 2022, anyway? A new study shows they're young, extremely ethnically diverse -- and are struggling in the workforce, with higher unemployment and lower income than French-speakers.
Quebec coroner calls for independence in public health director role in final report on long-term care home deaths
The government of Quebec needs to ensure the role of the public health director is independent and without any 'political constraint,' a Quebec coroner has recommended in a final report into deaths at long-term care homes during the pandemic's first wave.
As moving season approaches, the ongoing housing crisis is on the minds of many Montrealers seeking a new place to live.
Two suspects are facing a slew of charges in relation to two stolen vehicles on Monday — one of which was a pick-up truck that struck a school bus in London, Ont.
“He did not have a bad bone in his body.” That’s what Gaetano Pelliteri said Monday in a letter to CTV News about his best friend, Zachary Hartman, 27, who passed away over the weekend.
The call came in just before midnight and police responded to the area of Wellington Road south and Bradley Avenue.
The Waterloo Regional Police Service has released the name of a man they say could have information on the suspicious death of an eight-year-old boy in Cambridge.
Police are looking for a driver involved in a hit and run collision in Kitchener that sent a cyclist to hospital with serious injuries.
The Kitchener Rangers' playoff run came to end over the weekend and the team is reflecting on their up-and-down OHL season.
After a fire in a nearby business closed the shop, Sudbury’s Positive Inception officially reopened Monday.
Mine Mill Unifor Local 598 says staff at some of the area's long-term care facilities and nursing homes may have been exposed to cytotoxins.
An Ontario landlord who says he's exhausted his savings and credit after his tenants allegedly stopped paying rent six months ago is frustrated he has no power to evict them.
The Canada Day main stage will be at LeBreton Flats park just west of downtown Ottawa this year, not on Parliament Hill.
Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford faced a barrage of attacks from the other three major party leaders in the Ontario election debate Monday.
Western University's Northern Tornadoes Project says a landspout tornado occurred east of Ottawa during Sunday's severe weather, making it the first confirmed tornado of the 2022 season.
What will it take to win the vote of Windsorites? Residents share their top issues ahead of the Ontario election
With just over two weeks until Ontarians head to the polls, candidates are running out of time to convince voters they will keep their election promises.
OPP in Essex are investigating after it was reported a weapon was brought to a grade school dance on Friday.
The leaders of Ontario's four major political parties took the stage for a live televised debate in Toronto on Monday night.
Barrie businessman Paul Sadlon, 89, walked alongside his lawyer into a courtroom to stand trial on Monday, accused of sexually assaulting a woman following a business meeting nearly three years ago.
A truck rollover on Highway 400 south of Newmarket is causing major delays Monday, according to provincial police.
Many people who contracted COVID-19 during the sixth wave complained of lasting symptoms, sometimes known as long COVID, which Dr. Sohail Gandhi said can result in low energy or extreme fatigue.
The RCMP's treatment of their tactical team in the days following the April 2020 mass shooting in Nova Scotia was characterized as "absolutely disgusting" Monday during testimony before the public inquiry examining the killings.
The mother of an Indigenous woman shot by New Brunswick police in 2020 told a coroner's inquest Monday that less than two hours after she was awakened by an officer seeking her daughter's address to check on her safety, police returned with news that her daughter had been killed.
The emergency department at the Glace Bay Hospital has been closed since July of 2021, and it’s unclear when it will reopen.
Calgary police said in a statement issued Monday they have identified a suspect wanted in an incident that resulted in the death of a Calgary mother of five.
Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk weren't even born the last time the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but they still understand how much the Battle of Alberta means to fans of both teams.
Kids at St. Alphonsus elementary and junior high won't be able to continue in the school's long standing Italian language and culture program in September.
Sex workers are raising concerns about a proposed law aimed at cracking down on human traffickers who use short-term rentals, saying the move could make things less safe for them.
Some busy beavers have been taking a toll on a Winnipeg neighbourhood's tree canopy, prompting a group of residents to work with the city to save the trees.
With the heavy rain Winnipeg has received, many homeowners are finding cracks in their foundations undetected during the previous two years of drought.
A Vancouver dad whose son is on the autism spectrum took to social media to share how painful it was to see only one classmate at his birthday party. Now, he's receiving a flood of support that he hopes marks the start of an important conversation.
A Metro Vancouver food bank program that provides fresh groceries to people in need is serving 10 times more families than it was before the COVID-19 pandemic.
British Columbia Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon said that if elected premier he would halt plans to build a new Royal B.C. Museum, calling it a “billion-dollar vanity project” after he took his seat in the legislature.
The Alberta man accused of first-degree murder in the deaths of a 24-year-old woman and her 16-month-old child is due in court on Monday.
Community members and councillors weighed in on a newly proposed safety and well-being plan crafted by administration to make Edmonton the safest city in Canada by the end of the decade.
Officers performed a vehicle takedown in northeast Edmonton Monday afternoon to end a "short" police chase.