Discussions are actively underway about what the education should look like this autumn. University of Helsinki has already announced that the studies will be mostly online and University of Eastern Finland has announced that they aim to have the education at campus, the rest of the universities are still pending. What the autumn will look like is unclear, given the Covid situation. But what do we even really want from the studies in autumn?
65.4 percent. That is the proportion of the 870 ÅAU students who responded to our survey who have experienced increased negative mental impact during the past year. As many as 65.2 per cent had difficulty working from home and 49.2 per cent thought it was worse to study from home. At the same time, 17.8 per cent of the respondents thought that it was better to study at home. What should the studies look like in the future, after the pandemic?
Right now, most people probably have a huge desire to be able to return back to campus as soon as possible. We miss the community, the social contact and simply having a reason to leave the apartment. We are really dreaming of sitting in a lecture hall at eight o’clock, just to be able to see the face of those sitting next to us. And just imagine how wonderful it would be to have lunch together after the lecture! But the question is how long this situation actually would last? Thinking of a rainy Monday morning. Wouldn’t it be incredibly nice to attend the morning lecture from your bed under the covers?
The student movement has worked for several years for more flexible studies. We have worked hard to get rid of attendance requirements in as many situations as possible. More flexibility, yes please! Flexible studies enable e.g. to work alongside the studies and make it easier for the students who have children for example. Some study better in the morning, some during the day and some late in the evenings. Is it really necessary for the university to draw the line when adults should be doing their studies? The students are not one and the same person, but a group of different individuals with individual needs.
Compared with previous years, the Student Union has during the past year worked hard to open study spaces on campus. Didn’t we just wish to get more distance learning very recently and now we demand that we would be able to return to the campus, are we not able to make decisions maybe someone may ask.
In students’ lives, most of your social life is connected to the studies. You participate in lectures, you drink coffee with fellow students between lectures, lunch with fellow students, workout at the gym on campus and in your free time you hang out with fellow students at study events. Over the past year, all of this has been completely nonexistent. The social contacts have been completely stopped and replaced by staring at a dark zoom screen in your own apartment, day in and day out.
When making a decision about what the studies should look like in the future, one must take into account that we have never experienced a time where we would have had the opportunity for flexible distance studies and at the same time been able to live a normal life. The university took a giant digital leap in the spring of 2020. Hopefully this means that in the future you will not have to be crammed into a lecture hall with 300 others even though you are ill. Hopefully you could also choose to go to campus to study with friends or quietly in the library.
What the future campus and studies will look like is still unclear, but what is clear is that we will not fully return to what it was before the pandemic. With major national guidelines such as Digivision 2030 coming up, we can expect changes at all levels. I hope that the university will see digitalisation as a complement to the physical studies and that with the help of digitalisation you can offer more flexible studies while not undermining the importance of the social contacts that life on campus makes possible.