Island students reflect on virtual education

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by Hadeel Alhadi

MANITOULIN – it was the morning of March 13 when post-secondary students across the country learned that their schools have moved online and that they have to evacuate residence immediately. As the academic year is coming to an end, Manitoulin students reflect on the challenges that accompanied online learning during a global pandemic.

“The biggest challenge was to commit to it. It was really boring to just sit there for hours in the same environment; you don’t have the same stimulation as when you change classes and see different people,” Mathew Redmond, a first-year biomedical science student at the University of Ottawa who hails from Mindemoya, stated. Mr. Redmond added that procrastination was a real obstacle. Since being at home for a university student is associated with holidays, it was hard for him to get into the right mindset to do work. It is no surprise that being on Manitoulin comes with extra distractions, since Island activities seem like the better alternative to staring at a screen for hours. 

April Torkopoulos of Gore Bay, a French student studying at the University of Guelph, shared the same struggles and advised future university students, “when you get work online from your professor, check it right away because when you leave it for later, it just never happens and you might fall behind.” 

Leaving university mid-semester left students missing the activities they enjoyed and grew a passion for. Mr. Redmond said that one of the things he misses the most about university is intramural hockey, which served as an enjoyable activity and an opportunity to meet new people. 

Ms. Torkopoulos expressed that she also is missing such activities which for her included theatre and charity work. She also added that leaving mid-semester meant leaving during exams which was especially tough since she usually utilizes the space and resources provided by the library on campus to help her study. 

Missing out on these activities is a concern shared by 2020 high school graduates. Zoe Smith of Little Current, a future biomedical science student at the University of Ottawa, voiced her concerns over not being able to make connections since she might be starting university online next year. Ms. Smith also mentioned that having to navigate science labs virtually poses a different challenge as you are missing out on acquiring the practical skills. 

When asked about the benefits of online learning, Ms. Smith praised the flexibility that accompanies the experience saying, “Online learning has been nice because I have more time to do things. I find that I can multitask, so if a class is easy or unimportant I can get other work done at that time.” 

Other Manitoulin Secondary School (MSS) students are finding a silver lining in this experience as well. Rachel Sheppard of Mindemoya, a future engineering student at Western University, shared how she is staying motivated. “I tell myself ‘I need to learn this, this is valuable for my education’ and I use that to keep me motivated to still do my class work even though my mark cannot drop.” 

Ms. Sheppard added that she misses being able to help her friends with assignments and ask her teachers questions in person which helps enhance her learning. 

Even though the uncertainty of next year is stressful for 2020 graduates, MSS students are keeping a positive outlook and trying to make the best out of this experience.