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Online School, a pandemic and no break

by Evan Lindsay November 4, 2020
Online School, a pandemic and no break

The lack of a fall reading week is adding to an already difficult fall semester

With the pandemic still in full force, Montreal is remaining under red zone status until at least Nov. 23. The reality of virtual school has set in, and students are struggling to find success in the online classroom. It’s no secret this fall semester has been challenging.

Online midterms add significant stress to the usual midterm season, and without a fall reading week, students have no chance to breathe.

Last year, students voted favourably on the addition of a fall reading week. Sixteen per cent of the student body took part in the vote with 86 per cent voting in favour of the break.

“A fall reading break would be a great method to reduce midterm stress and should be given increased consideration due to the pandemic,” said Omar Hamdy Salem, a third-year Economics and Political Science student. “I would like [time] to brush up on my midterms, perhaps spend some time [on] Zoom sessions with friends to try and study together.”

Despite the vote, a break has not yet been implemented.

“Concordia makes their academic calendar a year in advance … This fall had already been too late; the earliest convening time would have been fall 2021,” said Isaiah Joyner, the CSU’s general coordinator.

But just because it didn’t happen this year does not mean that the project is dead.

“The project is still ongoing, so we could see it as early as fall 2021,” said Joyner.

In a statement made to The Concordian, a concordia representative said “We will shortly be issuing a community consultation document to solicit feedback on two possible options: one, beginning the term before Labour Day, and two, shortening the term from 13 to 12 weeks.”

This means students will soon be able to give feedback on how they want the fall reading week implemented.

Without a break in the fall, the semester has been intense, and students have lost any relief that came from attending school. Going to the library to study, getting coffee at the Hive or even meeting their professors in person… simple aspects of the university experience have been stripped away.

“The blended lines with online learning and remote learning and now having to work so much harder because of the adaptations and the classes feeling even more overwhelming, they cut directly into your home life,” said Joyner.

“You could really go and make a separation — work-life balance, school-life balance — but now they are all blended into one … Taking a step back seems almost impossible.

A fall break is not only an opportunity for students to study, but also to get some rest from the fast pace of the school year.

“People [could] detach themselves and realign, take it easy and be like, ‘I’ll make it to the break,’ but in the fall it’s just go, go, go and it can be very challenging,” said Joyner.

“I would spend it just studying … [and be] able to breathe and not do assignments after hours and hours of video lectures,” said Noah Choen-Wanis, a second-year Engineering student.

But the absence of a fall reading week isn’t the only thing contributing to students’ stress.

With online school comes a lack of personal attention from professors; a major change for many students.

“Not having in-person classes where it’s much easier to learn for me and get ready for midterms makes studying and midterm prep much harder,” said Cohen-Wanis.

Hosting midterms online comes with a lot of technical chaos as well.

“With how disorganized and random the assignment time and location is, [it] makes it a lot harder to study and do the work needed for the midterms,” Cohen-Wanis continued.

“I’ve felt more stressed than last year mostly because of all the self-managing and self-teaching I’ve had to do this semester … [it’s] mostly self-motivation issues,” said Emily Allen, a second-year Sociology student.

Online classes meant many international students remained in their home countries this year, which comes with unique challenges.

“This year, studying from my home country El Salvador has proved exceedingly difficult due to the constant power and internet outages [and] a lack of an appropriate study space,” said Jose Morales, an Industrial Engineering student.

A reading week could have been the perfect opportunity for students to recuperate from the stress of online school and the pandemic.

“I think a reading break would allow you to manage assessments … you could study all your courses at once without missing a class,” said Allen. “I think it would have been good last year, but this year even more so.”


Photo by Christine Beaudoin

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