COVID 19: How Higher Education in Scotland was affected by the Pandemic

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By Michael McDermott

This year and last year have been extraordinary and the kind of years that you never thought you would have to experience. Living through a global pandemic.

Coronavirus is having a huge effect on education in Scotland with most university and college courses being carried out online behind the safety of a laptop screen.

However, the quality of higher education across the country cannot possibly remain with many students agreeing that online learning is just not the same as being in a classroom or lecture hall in person.

Students Graduating Pre-Covid-19

Speaking to several university students across the country, they had their say on the current situation and their thoughts on what the Scottish government has done to help.

When asked what changes his course has made to adapt to online learning, Stirling University student Cameron Laird said: “We were told at the start of the year that the course was being altered so that the more important lab sessions were in third year in the hope that we could physically be there ourselves.

“All lectures were pre-recorded and are easily accessible on our canvas.

“All seminars this semester were live sessions, however, unlike last year attendance was not required only the submission of the seminar task.”

Cameron is currently in his second year at Stirling studying sports and exercise science and when asked how he is coping with his course being completely online the 19-year-old said: “With learning being online the motivation to go online and watch a lecture is very low.

“When I was on campus last year, I may be only missed one lecture a week and never missed a seminar.

“Whether that may be a simple afraid of missing out mindset but it seemed easier to physically go to the lecture hall.

“As a visual learner, it is a lot harder to follow only written instruction especially when the task is confusing and when I had never used this programme before.

“As much as this is a huge learning curve for both students and lecturers, I feel as though learning wise it has gotten a lot harder and more complicated to keep up with tasks.”

Cameron highlights a lack of motivation that he did not have last year, the effect lockdown has had mentally on teenagers across the country will be playing a part in why attendance rates have dropped, and work rates are lower.

Stirling University

With lots of assessments being made open book conditions in universities, major changes have also been made to HND college courses with many of the graded unit assessments being cancelled by the SQA to relieve stress on the students.

This is a major change to the courses which highly revolve around the graded unit.

While this will help the students and lower their workload there is some controversy behind this as the SQA decision happened two months into many of the courses which meant work that had already commenced is now irrelevant and worth nothing.

Some courses which require heavy loads of practical work such as nursing and dentistry have been extremely affected by the pandemic, although the theory work can be done online and at home, these courses are extremely practical and require lots of training that are hard to accomplish under current social distancing guidelines.

One student who has had to adapt to these changes is 19-year-old Rachel Gallacher who is currently in her second year of studying child health nursing at Edinburgh Napier University.

Rachel said regarding the practical aspect of her course: “I think that given my course is a practical course, it is difficult for us to get the full learning experience.

“It can be difficult to learn practical skills without seeing it being done and having practised it before going into the clinical field on placement.

“When it comes time for us to go onto a placement, I think it will be hard for our mentors as they will need to show us more examples of certain procedures and ensure we understand them before allowing us to help and perform them ourselves as it would have been before covid.

“It is also difficult with our pharmacology class as we are having to solo learn all the information about how different medications interact with one another, etc and I think moving forward into placement it will be interesting to see what will happen when it comes to giving different medications to patients and what our mentors and university will do to support us as students.”

Edinburgh Napier University

The Scottish government has increased funding into education to cover the damages the pandemic has caused with extra equipment being bought and universities and colleges being able to supply laptops out to students in need.

However, when asking students if they knew of any government support the large majority was unaware.

University of Edinburgh student Joseph Mitchell said: “I am not currently aware of any support the Scottish Government has given towards education during the pandemic.

“Apart from financial assistance to students during the summer I haven’t heard about any further support for students at my university.”

University of Strathclyde student Sam Law continued: “I am not aware of the details for support from the government, however, I receive regular emails from the vice-chancellor of education at the university talking about how they have been in constant talks with the government, so I assume they have been working out how to help universities.”

University of Strathclyde

The government are not broadcasting enough of the help they are offering to higher education and need to make the students more aware and keep them informed.

With the academic year coming to an end and vaccines being produced and rolled out there is the promise that next year education will go back to normality and students can go back to lecture halls and classrooms and be able to get the most out of their courses once again.

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