News - April 3, 2020

Online education – At her wits’ end during practicals

Luuk Zegers

Aarzoo Kohra (22) from India is a Master’s student in Plant Sciences. ‘When you need help in the classroom, you can go to the teacher or ask your friends. Now, if you get stuck, you have a problem.’

©Kohra Aarzoo

‘I flew back to India on March 17 because of the corona crisis. It turned out to be the last flight from Amsterdam to New Delhi. After that date, all flights were cancelled. I am happy that I went back to my parents' place because I feel at home  and I am close to my family here.’

Although Kohra is happy to be with her loved ones, she is less pleased with the transistion from campus education to online education. ‘In the fifth period, I took two courses. With one of the two courses, things are good. The teachers are giving web-lectures and presentations from home, and we can watch them anytime we want. With the other, on breeding, they use lectures from last year. This is where problems arise because, in this lecture, the teacher uses a laser pointer. She says: “this should be crossed with that.” But it is impossible to see the pointer, so you can’t see what should be crossed with what. Also, it took me twenty minutes of buffering just to load one minute of a lecture. That is just not workable.’

Practicals from home: not very practical
The biggest problems are the practicals, Kohra says. ‘For those, we need a lot of statistics and special software. Many students, like me, have no background in that. I never followed a statistics course. When I registered for this subject, I thought I would learn this during class. When you’re in a classroom, you can go to the teacher or ask your friends. Now it is all online, and the guidance is through pre-recorded video clips. You just need to do it. But if you get stuck, you have a problem. I did get stuck and wanted to discuss that with the teacher during the virtual classroom, but then the screen sharing did not work, so my issue could not be solved.’

If you get stuck, you have a problem

‘In the end, I was not able to understand anything’, Kohra says. ‘That was really upsetting. Some of my friends have the same problems. But we don’t have the time to dive into it, because we have other subjects as well.’

Extra stress
Kohra wrote a post in Facebook group Wageningen Student Plaza to see if others were struggling as well. ‘Someone replied that we need to have some stability in these stressful times. If we cannot understand the online lectures clearly because the laser pointer is not visible; the microphone is not loud enough; or screen sharing does not work properly, we have a problem. Normally, this can be solved by discussing it with classmates or the professor. Now, that’s not possible for some classes. This makes it harder to complete assignments properlybefore the given deadline and get good grades. It puts a lot of extra stress on us in already stressful times.’

‘I know the university is trying its best. The teachers are amazing, and they do all they can so we can study and learn, no doubt. But can you expect us to keep up the normal pace in these abnormal circumstances? Period 5 is a big and important period. I think WUR should allow students to just focus on one course in this period. Maybe we can do our second course later. That would be a great help. It would relieve so much stress and anxiety.’