After the University of Portsmouth was forced to close to limit the spread of the dangerous disease, many students faced an anxious wait to see whether they would be able to complete their studies and in some cases be able to remain in the city.
Sports management and development student, Regina Lubiatowska, 23, said: ‘We were informed by email there would be no more face-to-face lectures. It was quite a shock – particularly the speed of everything.’
Fellow course member, Eddie Koppoe, 25, added: ‘I think having to change courses at short notice had a big impact on students. There has been a high level of anxiety for students in their first and second years – particularly for subjects which have a lot of exams.’
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Concerns over lockdown have been a particular issue for international students.
Regina said; ‘There were two Lithuanian students on our course who chose to go home over fears of being stranded.’
Eddie added: ‘Other students may want to go home but can’t because of the restrictions on international travel. This is potentially very traumatic.’
While students understand the university’s response to ‘unprecedented circumstances’, Regina does feel the closure of the library could be a potential problem.
‘While you can get around 80 per cent of books electronically online there are certain journals which you can only get as copies in the library. I also think there will be problems when it comes to printing and submitting work,’ she said.
The university moved all lectures, seminars and tutorials to online learning platforms such as Webex and Google Hangout. Some courses also had to be adapted.
Eddie said: ‘I had three presentations left to do and they’ve now been adapted to essays. This may put me at a disadvantage as I’m better at presentations.’
While accepting certain aspects of the course can only be delivered when physically in the same environment, course lecturer, Dr Mike Rayner, feels out of adversity there are a number of positives which can be taken from the remote learning experience.
He said: ‘There has actually been more student interaction. Sometimes in a large lecture hall students can feel quite intimidated about asking questions where it’s much easier to to become involved in discussion via the chat facility. Attendance has also been very good at a time when traditionally students attending lectures tends to decrease as they focus on independent work.’
Dr Rayner feels the positive response to online learning could lead to ‘a big push’ to incorporate an increased element of remote teaching beyond the coronavirus pandemic.
While students feel their academic outcomes will not be adversely affected they do feel ‘robbed’ of the full experience of university life.
Regina said: ‘We had so much planned for finishing the course where as now it looks like we won’t get the chance to even meet up. I had been looking forward to my graduation ceremony but this now looks like being postponed.’