Student Life Uncategorized

What first-years can teach us about surviving online school

Freshman students seem to be some of the best-equipped to handle university life

To put it frankly, the Fall 2020 semester is a hollow shell of what it could be. The pandemic, self-isolation, online classes, and stagnant tuition are all contributing to a rightfully pessimistic outlook on the academic year. And, naturally, the mood among most students reflects little hope and optimism. But there is one group of students that seem to be showing some much-needed enthusiasm: first-years.

One would think that incoming students to Concordia, who’ve never gone through university life, would be the most disgruntled with a greatly diminished freshman year. From what I’ve seen, this just isn’t true.

I’ve worked extensively with first years in my time at Concordia. In 2019-20, I worked in the dorms as a Resident Assistant, supporting students with their first-year experience.

Now in the current coronavirus-online-Zoom year, I’ve been working as a Student Facilitator on a new program Concordia is trying out called “Homeroom.” Delivered entirely on Zoom, Homeroom is a series of weekly sessions where first years can come together and hang out, learn about the university, and enrich their freshman experience, if only for an hour a week. This project has been extremely successful, with hundreds of first years logging in every week.

With those credentials, I can say with confidence that I have a decent insight into the attitudes of first-year students. With this, I believe there are three quintessential elements of a first year student: curiosity, energy, and above all, enthusiasm. Has this pandemic halted these virtues in students new to Concordia? I would say absolutely not.

For one, the first-years are still fascinated with Concordia. Most are coming from high schools or smaller CEGEPs, so the thrill of seeing such a monumental and happening institution (flaws and all) for the first time still has them asking me countless questions about clubs, events, opportunities, and everything else the school has to offer. I’m sure we can all remember our first month at Concordia, feeling an identical sentiment.

Energy is in abundance during these Zoom sessions. Students, always eager and on time, get much of their weekly socializing during this short hour. I’ll often run short presentations, either on university life, or skills development, which students happily participate in and engage with. I can’t help but smile hearing of all the connections and benefits everyone gets from these meetings.

Finally, there’s enthusiasm. While you could argue that this goes hand-in-hand with energy, I’d say enthusiasm encompasses a much broader and more abstract feeling. It’s the anxious yet exciting knowledge that this is the start of the crazy journey of going to Concordia. One that could last two years, five years, or 30 years (if you end up becoming a tenured professor). There’s an insatiable curiosity with what’s to come.

Granted, the sample size of my subjective observation is small; 50 or so students is not representative of the thousands of first-year students in 2020. But when I chat with some of my coworkers, the stories I hear are the same, and I’d wager these truths hold up for thousands more.

Mind you, this is all happening entirely online. No campus tours, no orientation or frosh week, no awe at the massive lecture halls or student-run bar crawls. This is excitement that you see with each passing year, and this one is no different.

Perhaps it’s due time to emulate some of this. Through the drudgery and tragedy of this online year, I feel many of us have lost sight of our deeply rooted hopes and goals. We’re monotonously going through the motions of being university students, with more apathy than ever before. Maybe one solution lies in the spirit of 2020’s freshman class.


Feature photo by Ben Mulchinock


Concordia’s fall semester is moving online

Concordia will be following the lead of universities across the country

Concordia University has officially announced the upcoming fall semester will be almost entirely online.

In an official statement made this afternoon, the administration said the decision was based on public health recommendations regarding social distancing, and that an online semester is the “responsible choice.”

Some exceptions will be made for courses that require hands-on learning, such as studio work, biology labs, and research labs. Concordia students involved with courses that are deemed an exception should expect big changes to how the courses will be taught in person. 

The administration said the in-person classes will be taught with “fewer participants than usual, attending on a rotating basis.” More details regarding which other classes will remain on campus are still to come.

Students that are unable or uncomfortable attending in-person classes will be provided an online option for in-person classes. 

Student access to campus life will also be affected, with all campus libraries closing during the fall. Online access to the library collections and research assistance will continue to be available.

Concordia’s announcement comes the same week as McGill’s announcement to move classes online.


The online conundrum for Concordia students

Why paying more for online classes just isn’t worth it.

We’ve all been in this situation: to take an online class, or not to take an online class?

We all know the obvious pros of doing so: Online classes have the reputation of being easier than “real” classes (INTE 290, anyone?). For some, taking an online class practically means not taking a class at all until finals come along. Taking a class on the web also allows you to quite easily cheat your way through online quizzes. Some websites even cater specifically to students offering answers to quiz questions free of charge.

Clearly, online classes can be the lazy student’s dream. But, at the end of the day, are they worth it?

After all, education is not cheap; online classes usually cost even more than regular classes.

These extra costs include online materials for the course. In many cases, students won’t ever use this resource. Once the course is over, there is no going back: unlike a hard copy of a textbook, it is impossible to re-sell this resource.

The quality of education for online courses does not even come close to comparing to that of a real, sit-in class.

Firstly, the sections are humongous; some have hundreds of people. This means that the one professor in charge can obviously not correct all assignments, so the burden of the work falls to the TAs.

There is also the matter of limited interaction with the professor. More often than not, you will communicate mostly or entirely with the TA if an issue arises.

At the end of the day, we wonder what can one really learn from the online classes currently offered at Concordia?  Many would agree (including a vocal minority of our masthead) that, in many cases, they have learned nothing.

Offering online courses is very important. Some students, especially those who have children at home, work days, or have mobility issues, benefit greatly from being able to take course online. But should the quality of their education have to suffer for that increased flexibility?

Paying a little extra could be acceptable if it meant a richer, more challenging and engaging work enjoyed from the comfort of your own laptop, but Concordia’s offered online courses are anything but.

Online classes at Concordia have a poor reputation within the student community, and should be revised because what they are now just useless. And expensive.

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