Online campus: adapting to the new norm

Campus students share how their studies have been interrupted with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sep 19, 2020

“It was the second semester of my foundation year when the pandemic happened in Malaysia.

“I had the chance to go back home before lockdown was announced; but I decided to stay in my hostel as I had been to other parts of Kuching, two weeks prior.

It was the best decision I had made for my family’s and my own health as well.

“The lockdown affected my campus life. My course mates and I started our new version of lecture classes via the online platform. Initially, we were not accustomed to that new method, and those who were at home with low internet performance struggled so much to keep up with our class schedule. Even so, with the help of the 24/7 available internet coverage and the hostel’s Wi-Fi, I did not have issues accessing the Google Classroom.

“The non-face-to-face classes gave me a gloomy, lonely vibe, and were not as productive as the physical classroom as I waited for new updates in the Google classes.

I faced both the laptop and phone for almost five days straight and stayed up on certain nights to complete the assignments. Worst of all our already-planned programmes which involved staging, festivals, and camps were cancelled due to the pandemic.

“So, alternative ways were introduced for our social programmes. Mostly, they involved videos for presentations, and acts for our drama class. They were fun, actually. Plus my assignments went well.

“After the 47th day stuck on campus, I finally managed to get home safely and was reunited with my beloved family in Betong.”––Arcelia Sheira anak Duat, IPG Kampus Tun Abdul Razak, Kota Samarahan, Sarawak

“I’m currently a third-year student studying in the Multimedia University, Melaka.

It was right about the end of our semester when the MCO started as the COVID-19 pandemic hit Malaysia. My hometown is in Sabah and since the MCO, I have been staying in Melaka due to several reasons. It was a three-week semester break for my university. However, everything was uncertain during that period. After a while, the university decided to proceed with the trimester through online learning.

“Returning to Sabah would always be the first choice, but with the unstable Internet connection, it would be frustrating to try to reconnect to online classes every time the internet was disconnected. Therefore, like many Borneo students, I decided to stay in Melaka. Thankfully, my housemate and neighbour were around, so we formed a small community.

“As the semester kicked in, everything seemed so new. It required a whole set of different skills for online studying. First, it really was a challenge to my self-discipline as a student. A whole new mind-set is required for students to be prepared before the class and to be fully focused during the online classes. It was quite easy for students to get dis tracted during online classes as we are not restricted to anything. Prayers before classes always helped, with the intercession of St Thomas Aquinas. Next, as engineering students, we were really struggling as there was no physical demonstration or teaching for us to understand the subjects. Simulation and online platforms are key features of online learning. It is important to have a group of friends to discuss with.

“There is always a sense of feeling disconnected from the Church as we are unable to attend online Masses and have Catholic student gatherings. However, with the initiatives from the Malacca Johore Catholic on Campus (MJCC), I am blessed to join online webinars and gatherings. Although the environment was totally different, these online gatherings simply remind me of how important it is to be in a community.

“I was blessed to have a wonderful family who always support me through video calls and affirming messages. The feeling of missing home will always be there. Simply realising and accepting that these are the new norms somehow made me prepared. Hopefully, the situation will get better and physical classes will resume. Until then, stay safe and God bless.”––Ian Tai, Multimedia University, Melaka

“The end of the RMCO is nowhere in sight, but we know that it’s for the betterment of the community.

“Well, I feel that this quarantine has been an opportunity for me to concentrate on my studies. Particularly for that semester all my subjects are tough, and my lecturers are strict. Thank God, I had more time to complete all my assignments and read plenty of journals without rushing or stressing. The outcome surprised me, as I had higher scores for that semester. So, I feel that this quarantine had helped me to concentrate on my studies and gave me more time too.

There are also some negative aspects of the RMCO. I can’t get to meet our friends regularly, especially the for
eign students who had to return to their countries. University life needs to be the best life not only for studies but to enjoy and be with friends. It’s quite sad that we can’t spend our three years together properly. Furthermore, I prefer face-to-face classes than online classes. Sometimes, we are not sure of what our lecturers are teaching, we might forget there is an online class on that day. So, this affects our studies too. But the plus point is, we don’t need to read and prepare a lot for the online exams.

“During the lockdown, I have also learnt how to cook a full meal, started to play all the 90’s card games, video chat, sleep late at night because of Netflix, learn how to manage and save money and mainly realise the feeling of missing someone that you cannot see for months.

“I believe that the quarantine has taught us something. Our country is still not in a stable mode, so let’s stay safe and practice our social distancing.”––Sylvia Ruth, KDU University College, Penang

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