How time zones amplify the inherent challenges in remote learning
It’s almost the end of your 8:45 a.m. Zoom lecture when the professor goes over the allotted time, again. Luckily, this time she’s only answering a question. She’s done five minutes later and logs off quicker than she can say goodbye.
You check the time on your laptop. It’s nearly midnight here in Hong Kong. If you go to bed now, you can get six hours of sleep before your next class at 6.p.m. EST.
Traditionally, every September, international students would return to Montreal for the start of the fall semester. However, as Concordia continues with remote learning, and with widespread travel restrictions in place, many students have decided to not return to Montreal this school year. For those who have decided to remain home, they face the unprecedented challenge of adapting to a university schedule based outside their respective time zones.
At the time of writing this article, I found surprisingly little on the official International Student Offices (ISO) website for these students. What I did find was mostly limited to the restrictions in place for travel in Canada. However, Concordia states that the university cannot provide any guarantees for students that they will be permitted to enter the country with the information provided. This has left many international students to make decisions about the 2020-2021 school year completely uninformed as to whether or not their decisions are valid, as was the case with Antony Flanagan, a third-year Fine Arts student at Concordia.
“I went onto the Canadian government website and looked through the restrictions,” said Flanagan. “I thought, well I might be able to get away with a few things, like some of them were vague criteria, but I called them and they just said no with what I had.”
Living in London, England, Flanagan finds the five-hour time difference frustrating but manageable. It’s when a student’s life outside of school begins to conflict with their school schedule when these challenges become more serious.
That has been the experience of a friend of mine, another third-year Fine Arts student who wishes to remain anonymous, currently studying in Honolulu, Hawaii.
“I can sum [remote learning] up for you in two words: it’s shit. I’ve been so unmotivated. I have so many classes that I need to catch up on, not to mention I’ve slept through a good amount of my classes … I work until 10 and my job is a 30-minute commute so I don’t get to bed until 11-ish. I just have no energy left,” she said.
As midterms are quickly approaching, she frequently questions her ability to continue like this in the long-term. She admits that deferring next semester has crossed her mind, but considers that to be her last resort. She would rather see Concordia provide more support to students stuck in similar positions.
Except for resources at the Student Success Centre and The Access Centre for Students with Disabilities, international students have to rely on the policies of their professors for support, which has left many students in serious trouble.
“I emailed [the professor] and asked if there is any way he could record the live sessions so that I don’t have to stay up from 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. every night,” said Mohamed Almoallim, a fourth-year JMSB student studying from Saudi Arabia. “He told me to go find another section and that they weren’t going to change just for you.”
It’s this apathetic attitude towards students that have left him questioning his faith in post-secondary education in recent months.
“I’m learning online from professors at school. I can look at any search engine, find a reliable source, and find so much information. University is really worthless in a way, at least how it is now.”
It’s a common opinion shared by many students studying outside of Concordia’s local time zone, as time differences serve to amplify the inherent challenges in online learning. Concordia must provide more to students studying abroad, or risk having its international students become disillusioned with higher education completely.
If you are an international student studying abroad, you can find more information here.
Feature graphic by Taylor Reddam