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Emergency conditions stress students but flexibility garners praise

According to a survey organised by the Student Union (OYY), studying under the emergency conditions has presented challenges for most students. Flexibility in arrangements, however, has facilitated studying.

Approximately 70% of respondents to the survey say that the emergency conditions have hampered studies a little or significantly. In the opinion of most of them, switching to remote studying has been stressful. The studies of Stina Huhtela who is studying Swedish have been hindered by challenges in timetabling and lack of structure.

“I’ve got used to distinguishing study and leisure time from each other, so that studies are taken care of at the University and home is for relaxing. It’s been difficult to do school things at home, because studies have lacked the previous structure,” says Stina.

According to the survey, the greatest reasons for difficulties in studying are the changed availability of study materials and indispensable physical study environments, an increase in workload and factors concerning course arrangements. Factors not directly related to studies such as loss of income and leaving children at home have also stressed students.

“It seems that the days are just gliding by. Being alone has felt really difficult, but I’ve already begun to get used to it. Fortunately, the teachers have been understanding about the various situations of the students,” says Stina.

According to the survey, the students most need support for being in isolation, the lack of community and the uncertainty caused by the situation. The work situation and income are also worrying students at the moment.

Flexibility of remote study garners praise 

It is noteworthy that about 40% of respondents to the survey say that the flexibility engendered as a result of the emergency conditions has helped their studies. Both Stina and Simo Salonen, who is studying electrical engineering, say that following lectures remotely has helped their daily lives. They do not spend time going to the university, and following lectures can even be done while eating.

“On many courses, we’re encouraged to make teaching videos. Nothing has increased learning as dramatically as clearly visible and explained examples that you can replay and stop whenever you need to. Thank you for that!” says Simo.

Of the respondents to the survey, more than 60% were of the opinion that distance learning has worked well or very well. Most felt that online exams, essays and other written assignments worked well.  Group work done remotely divided opinion. The proportion of students who had done group work and felt that it had gone well was the same size as that who felt that it had gone badly.

“The university’s investment in the digital world even before the outbreak of the coronavirus now shows how necessary it was and it is bearing fruit. In the emergency situation, the teachers of courses have very easily mastered the art of giving lectures on Zoom, and have also utilised other digital tools”, says Tuomo Glumoff, Dean of Education at the Faculty of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine.

Some studies proceeding as planned

Of the respondents to the survey, more than half said that studies have proceeded as planned. Simo’s studies have proceeded better than normal as there has been more time for study with the cancellation of hobbies and other activities. However, effort must be made to keep up the daily routines.

“It’s worth, say, hiding the study material in your bag, and only taking it out at certain times on working days. At the weekend you should keep the bag closed. I’m already missing my pals and having fun with them but, sure, we’ll get through this with video calls and hand sanitiser,” jokes Simo.

Approximately one-third of respondents said that their studies have not gone as planned.

“For example, as an experimental field biochemistry suffers in a situation like this because in no way can all teaching can be done remotely,” says Tuomo Glumoff.

Enough information available

According to the survey, 70% of students have received information about doing their courses and about the policies of the faculties either well or very well.

The Faculty of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine began holding weekly information sessions for students at an early stage. The purpose of these information sessions held on Zoom is not only to convey information about teaching arrangements but also to keep up the community spirit.

“As far as I know, the students have been very satisfied that the faculty is remembering their existence, even though the corridors are echoing with emptiness,” says Dean of Education Tuomo Glumoff.

Up to one-fifth of the students have been present at the information sessions. In addition to conveying information, the sessions have also noted the students wishes, which will be taken into account later, for example in organising summer courses.

Approximately 1,600 students responded to the survey organised by OYY. Respondents came from all faculties. The survey was sent to all students studying at the University of Oulu, and they could respond between 3 and 11 April.

Report: The effects of the emergency conditions caused by coronavirus on students of the University of Oulu

Text: Iia Paloheimo

Last updated: 19.5.2020