Online courses in progress at the university

ByMike V. Cooper

Feb 28, 2022
Yesterday was an isolated start to the semester for students and faculty at the University of Otago.

The university decided in early February that classes would go online at least until the mid-semester break.

Classes of less than 20 students would continue to meet, provided public health guidelines are followed on physical distancing and mask-wearing.

For Monique Hewitt (21), a law and history student, that meant Zooming into class from her apartment.

“Personally, I like this way of learning. It’s anywhere, anytime,” Ms. Hewitt said.

She was taking two law studies this semester and the lectures were pre-recorded, which meant she could participate at any time of the day. Some teachers showed their faces on the screen, others didn’t.

She was self-isolating because she and three of her four roommates had Covid-19.

“I’m holding up well.

“It’s good to have lessons to focus on now,” Ms Hewitt said.

Yesterday, sitting on the other side of the Zoom screen was Carla Dillon, a professional practice fellow at the School of Pharmacy.

“This isn’t my first time teaching via Zoom. I’ve been here before,” Dr. Dillon said.

She said teaching through a computer screen has its pros and cons.

“It helps students keep learning in these difficult times.

“They have more flexibility and can be surrounded by friends or family to support them.”

She also said Zoom was useful for people with different learning needs.

The shy students sent him written questions, rather than having to muster up the courage to raise their hands.

While Zoom kept staff and students safe, it hurt the classroom experience.

“Teaching via Zoom makes it more difficult for students to get to know each other personally.

“The educational experience is not as rich, neither for the teacher nor for the student.”

She said she would try to get to know her students from yesterday’s class in the labs, but for now she was trying to memorize all 90 names.

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