Twitter picture exposes sad reality of post-Covid university study in Australia

A picture posted on Twitter by an Australian university professor has revealed the sad reality of post-Covid life.

Professor Jan Slapeta from the University of Sydney took to Twitter on Monday afternoon to share an image of what was scheduled to be a face-to-face lecture he was facilitating.

The picture shows rows of empty chairs and desks in the lecture theatre, which were once filled with wide-eyed future professionals.

“Should I be shocked again? 1pm lecture – no one! I lectured empty chairs,” said the Professor of Veterinary and Molecular Parasitology.

“10 min in a student that was early for 2pm lecture showed up (completely unrelated subject different degree). We had a great discussion and I had one keen student learning. Where from now? Help @Sydney_Uni.”

The tweet quickly received over 200 likes, with university staff from across the nation joining Mr Slapeta in his cry for help.

“As someone who taught for over 25 years (high school and undergrad) I can honestly say I find this really upsetting. Teaching is social and there is nothing like building knowledge together with students in a room,” said teacher Michael Dezuanni.

“I understand online & on platform learning. I have written about it and support it. But I’m not sure that we understand yet just what we lose when we go completely online. And I don’t think students understand what they miss when they are not part of in-person learning.”

“I had one in my lecture yesterday (class of 90)”, said another lecturer.

Among those professors was Gary Mortimer from the Queensland University of Technology, who shared a similarly confronting picture while saying to Mr Slapeta “I feel your pain”.

Other Twitter users offered suggestions for teaching staff to increase face-to-face attendance numbers.

“It’s crazy and sad that everyone just prefers remote class or (to) listen to recording,” said another user.

Some commenters questioned the overall value of face-to-face lectures, as well as large class discussions as a learning format.

“How many students actually enjoy lectures? They’re cheap. They seem to be ‘one size fits none’ ways of sharing information uniformly. Sharing information uniformly is not meeting individual student needs, and is not equitable,” said one user.

“If I were a student and could watch recorded later at 1.75x speed, that plus the fact shared air indoor spaces are increased Covid transmission risks, I wouldn’t be turning up either,” said another.

A Sydney University spokesperson said students are being strongly encouraged to attend campus and return to face-to-face learning when possible.

“Since August 2020, we’ve supported as much in-person activity as possible,” said the spokesperson

”Student attendance at lectures has been declining for several years – even prior to the pandemic.

“We do still offer some larger lecture-style classes both online and on campus, but have been moving away from this format – where it’s mainly a teacher talking – for some time.

“We are now focused more on live and interactive classes that require active student participation as they explore and apply ideas and concepts, which are demonstrated to result in better learning outcomes.”

The university has more than 250 clubs and societies running events throughout the year in the hopes of attracting more students back to the campus.

“Since Semester 2, 2021 we have supported more than 85 student-led projects with more than $160,000 in Student Life grants, encouraging a reactivation of campus,” said the spokesperson.

“We were delighted to see so many of our students back on campus in Semester 1, with around 30,000 attending each week during May. Currently, there are more than 40,000 people on campus each week including large numbers of students – while remote options are still available for those unable to attend in person.

“We know that university life is about far more than what is learnt in the classroom so we encourage all students who are able to come to campus to do so. Face-to-face learning and our campus community bring invaluable social and cultural opportunities.”

Originally published as Picture exposes sad reality of post-Covid university life in Australia

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