In a survey conducted by The Leopard, it was found that 59% of Goldsmiths University students do not want to go online full-time because students find practical courses are difficult to participate in remotely and are facing mental health problems without human interaction.
Goldsmiths Student Union has advocated for Goldsmiths University to go fully online for this term because COVID-19 is putting students in danger.
On their website, the Student Union said that Universities could quickly become the care homes of a second wave. However, as stated in the official Covid-19 section of the University, since 28 September 2020, 81 students and 12 members of the staff have tested positive, with less than 5 people testing positive over the week between 5 and 11 November 2020.
According to research by the University of Oxford based on the data collected by the Office for National Statistics, the average age of people who died as a result of Covid-19 is 82. Thus, students are less at risk of contracting the virus and, as a result, not many people are thinking about the implications the pandemic may be having on them.
The Leopard asked Goldsmiths University students in a survey what they think about the term going fully online this year, and received an overwhelming response from 109 people.
The study showed that 59% of the students who took part in the survey do not want the university to go fully online, with 57% of the interviewees stating they would like to have more in person activities.
Some students claimed that there are several problems related to a potential fully online course.
One Musical Theatre student said that they find it really hard to achieve their full potential and learn everything clearly over a webcam, because they don’t have a lot of space at home to move around.
Additionally, quite a few students expressed their concerns about the impact of the online classes on their wellbeing. Many expressed their desire to see and interact with other people – especially for those who have recently moved to London.
A Masters student said, “I’m new to Goldsmiths and to be honest I am horribly lonely and it is having a detrimental impact on my mental health. I wish I could meet people at societies and clubs because it feels impossible to make friends through online classes. I’m autistic as well, which makes it harder. The online classes I have are excellent, but I need socialising opportunities.”
The vast majority of the students expressed their disappointment regarding tuition fees. Most of the respondents felt that paying the full tuition fee is not fair and that if the University would go fully online, they should consider a decrease in the tuition fees because the services students are paying for have not been provided.
One student said: “I’m paying the same price as I did last year, I don’t want everything to be online. Also, it is extremely stressful always waiting for email replies and not having questions answered instantly – especially in 3rd year.”
Another student whose learning disability will be affected more by a fully-online year said, “I have dyslexia and dyspraxia and for me I learn best through face-to-face. I am paying for an in person education. Not an online course. It’s ridiculous that we’re even paying the full amount for a partial face-to-face course. If I was to pay for a full online degree/course I would pay at most half of what I pay. I do not want it to be fully online. I feel many share my feelings on this matter.”
The price for undergraduate courses at Goldsmiths is £9,250 annually for Home/EU students, while for international students it ranges between £16,390 – £22,950 per annum (2020 entry) depending on the course, when comparing the average annual fees for online courses, the disappointments of students become clearer.
The alternative side is that some Goldsmiths University students would prefer if the University would put all courses online in order to keep everyone safe. There are a lot of students who are living with their parents or vulnerable people, so having to spend several hours on public transport to get to university will increase their chances of contracting the virus, thus, putting their loved ones at risk.
A second-year student from the Psychology Department said: “It’s too risky with the virus. Although I do believe face-to-face teaching is better, we still shouldn’t risk everyone’s health if there are alternatives in place.”
Others feel that having face-to-face classes would be unfair towards students who wouldn’t be able to attend courses in person. By making the year fully online, everyone will have equal opportunities.
One third-year student from the Performing Art Department said: “There are people who physically cannot go in due to being vulnerable etc and you shouldn’t discriminate against those in that category, therefore putting [learning] online fully as an option would prevent discriminating.”
Students are very divided on how well their term has gone so far. The answers ranged from “fantastic” through to seriously struggling with regards to online lectures.
A third-year student from the Institute of Management Studies said, “It’s going really well. Not everyone was expecting [the course] to be so organised and satisfying. I believe I prefer [class] this way than the normal one as I am used to. It’s easier to ask for help as you can book online seminars and one-to-one appointments. Everything is recorded for you and you have 24/7 access if you need to watch [the lectures] again.”.
Another student said: “I think that it has been a very difficult term and a massive amount of respect to all professors is due. I imagine it has been difficult for everyone. I have found it very hard but am still persisting. I just wish I had space to work properly, and I wish I could socialise with other students… term so far has been a very lonely and isolating experience.”