Introduction to the Author
My name is Taylor Simard, and I’m a 20-year-old student living in Canada. I study at Carleton in Ottawa, and double-major in Humanities and Art History, which both follow my life-long passions for books and art, and I’m completing a minor in Biology.
I’ve learnt a lot throughout university. The humanities program boasts the fact that they produce thinkers like no other program can, and I believe they have good founding for that, as I prove it more and more myself every day. I started out my university career in only this program; I was in love within the first week. There’s nothing like studying the literature of ancient civilizations and realizing that they’re just as ridiculous and emotional and funny as we are today. There’s something special about realizing the creators of great works of art are just people responding to their circumstance, and I know I’ll never stop learning about the funny quirks of ancient people’s that make them geniuses through the lens of time. In my second year of school I added a major in Biology, I thought maybe I’d become a physiotherapist if my arts dreams never fleshed out, it was like my back up plan. I’m too passionate a person to rely on a back-up plan, though, and instead I found a second love; within the humanities curriculum there was an art history year-long course that covered the emergence of art to the contemporary. I feel in love all over again with studying art, and I decided to drop the biology major to a minor, since it wasn’t my passion, and add an art history major instead. All of this was a mess by my third year, but I still added the major, even though it meant I’d have to add another year to the end of my degree, which was undoubtedly worth it.
And now you’re all caught up. I’m living through my third year of university in the time of Covid-19, and it’s hard, really hard compared to the love that I found in a classroom, the ease of chatting with professors about silly things after a confusing class. But it’s getting better, we’re all figuring out how to learn remotely, and how to teach remotely, and how to find our happiness in studying remotely. The world isn’t going to go back to being the same after this, we’re going to have to learn and adapt, and it’s quite possible that I’ll have to finish my degree partially online, but we’re getting better, and hopefully, that’ll be okay. I know that me and my generation are stepping into the world and the workforce in a very uncertain time, but I have faith in the world’s adaptation to the virtual, and I know that I’m following my passions, and I believe that everything will work itself out.
As we all know, the world has changed due to the pandemic in innumerable ways, and it will continue to influence us in the years to come. As for my experience, I’m nearly finished my
first full year of university online, and I’ve been writing about my experience and the merits of virtual learning and virtual art, and now, looking back at the majority of the year that I’ve gone
through, I can comment on the way that my school, Carleton university in Ottawa, Canada, has responded.
Like everyone adapting to virtual things, some things go wrong, and some things go right. I wrote in my first blog that the passion I had for the material I was studying stayed alive, and that is still true. Some classes brought it out more successfully than others though. Myself and my roommates ended up prioritizing classes in the order of our passion, and though we’re still getting good grades in all of our classes, the information that we’re properly retaining differs. The common factor within my friends and me in enjoyable classes is the compassion of the professor.
In my first semester of online school, professors didn’t change much. Some of them were more compassionate with extensions and the like, while others seemed to be even harder on students, giving us more work, since many professors were under the false impression that we have more time now. There was one professor that only uploaded the weeks material the night before the class, asking students to complete readings and videos overnight because he couldn’t be bothered to film his lectures ahead of time. This wasn’t all of the professors, though, and in my experience, I’ve had more good than bad.
On our school’s platform professors are able to see which students watch their lectures, and I’m willing to bet money that the numbers dwindled as the
first semester went on. Thankfully, this meant that some professors did adapt for the second semester. For two of my art history courses, instead of giving students multiple assignments throughout the semester, they made it so that there was only one assignment, along with a midterm and final. To do this they made participation a higher percent of our grade, and implemented small weekly discussions to make sure students keep up with the class. In my opinion, this is a much better way to keep students engaged, and it shows that virtual learning can get better, even if it might have a long way to go. These professors adapted their teaching strategy, seeing that standardized essays and tests weren’t the solution or the only measure of success in this case.
Being a student through all of this has been undeniably difficult. We fall into a routine, and it becomes difficult to find motivation, when everything is the same. Because everything we’re doing is at home, everything feels like homework, whereas before, a lecture was a lecture, and finishing an assignment felt like making progress. Now, finishing a lecture just means that you’ve done the bare minimum to stay afloat. It’s a difficult time for everyone, as we’re all well aware. Thankfully, as I mentioned, the professors are trying their best to help us, but there is still a lot lacking from virtual learning.
This is why I say, with confidence, that while the world may become much more virtual, we need to change the way that virtual learning occurs first. Like my art history professors adapted, everyone else needs to also adapt to understand that students will only be able to keep up with their course load if their basic self-care needs are being met.
I’ve read some works of Aristotle, and one of his philosophies that stuck with me the most was his writing that in order to be fully human, we must be with other humans. We can’t be the best of our forms, in fact we can’t be anything without another human to interact with. All of the things that make us human, our ability for reason, and emotion, are null and void without another human to interact with. That’s not the state that the world is at now, but it does show that we need to be compassionate with each other in this time, because people aren’t the same, and they aren’t in their best form right now. Our expectations should be flexible for people’s situations, and I think that as long as we can do that, a virtual world wouldn’t be so bad. It might have its drawbacks, but the passion is still there, and there are benefits too. I’m passionate about art, and I’ve talked for eight blogs about all the benefits that studying art virtually would bring, but other people are passionate about different things, and I’m sure there are people out there who could write their own eight blogs about the benefits of their own passion being studied virtually. I’m eager to see how schooling, and the world overall comes out of this. I hope with my whole heart that we grow, and believe that virtual interactions and learning will become a part of our daily lives, ideally, with both passion and compassion included.