As online hours stretch into 2022, some after-school students in Ottawa say they are struggling to stay engaged in their school work, make friends and keep hopelessness at bay.
Many students moved to the city in the fall and settled either on campus or in their own apartments in anticipation of personal tuition.
Away from their support network for the first time in their lives, some find it difficult to stay motivated and healthy.
I just sit at a desk and click through lecture after lecture without feedback or encouragement and it just feels like it’s going to be like this for a while.– Gabbie Cruz, Carleton University student
Several Carleton University students who reached out to CBC via Instagram described their asynchronous classes as paying a lot of money to watch YouTube videos.
While some of the pre-recorded classes are published in blocks, others are published periodically. Students who spoke to CBC said some of the videos were openly recorded before the pandemic.
“You feel very disconnected throughout the lecture when you see all the students in real life talking to each other and learning and being really engaged,” said Carleton student Gabbie Cruz.
In an email, Carleton University spokesman Steven Reid defended the asynchronous learning model.
“Some students are early birds, while others either prefer or can only learn and study late at night. Asynchronous courses provide flexibility,” Reid wrote in an email.
He said the school offers a range of personal and online resources to help students build study and time management skills.
Gabbie Cruz, Carleton University
“Online school has just really drained my passion for something,” said Cruz, a 2nd-year student living off-campus. “I just sit at a desk and kind of click through lecture after lecture without feedback or encouragement, and it just feels like it’s going to be like that for a while.”
Cruz completed the first year of their education in childhood and youth studies at Carleton University from their family home in Oakville, Ont.
When they signed up for second-year courses this summer, a workshop in the fall and all of their winter vacation classes were scheduled to be personal, so they took a leap and found an apartment with two roommates off campus.
Cruz is a “strict planner” who relies on a bullet journal to plan their days, but said there have been challenges.
“I do all the things about living alone – balancing, making sure I have food to eat and making sure I have time to sleep,” Cruz said. “When you live at home with your parents, it’s almost all taken care of, and you can focus entirely on school.”
Last year, several of Cruz’s online classes required students to log in at a specific time, but this year, with the exception of one personal workshop, they are responsible for their own schedule.
Cruz has taken advantage of the advice Reid mentioned, which they describe as “pretty good in theory”, but ultimately “performative” without better support.
Cruz said they do not understand why the Panda game and other sporting events have been allowed to continue, while other activities they value – such as theater – remain canceled.
“You do not know why things happen, so it just feels like they’re just coming out of nowhere, and you can not stop them, and it’s very inevitable that you’ll land in these pits.”
Kaylie Wood-Lyons, Algonquin College
First-year business, marketing and entrepreneurship student Kaylie Wood-Lyons had heard good things about life at Algonquin College, but after three months, she would “never, ever recommend this housing experience to anyone.”
“I thought I was going to have a mental breakdown over how limited we feel here and how we feel like we’re just being treated like prisoners.”
Wood-Lyons, from Carleton Place, Ont., About a 40-minute drive west of Ottawa, said she chose to move in to overcome the isolation of pandemic life. But with no visitors allowed in the residence, it has not gone that way.
“I even got super, super sick. I had to be hospitalized and I still had to go down and go outside myself and get medicine from my sister because they would not let my sister go up,” she said.
Algonquin College said in an email that it is considering allowing fully vaccinated visitors next semester.
Daniel Vlassov, Carleton University
“I burn out at the end of the day. I do not have a proper break from my dorm room, where I have a double room. I work in front of my bed,” said first-year computer science student Daniel Vlassov. who lives on campus.
Vlassov said instead that he could have used the money he spends on accommodation for tuition, which he covers through student loans.
But with a personal class scheduled for next semester, he says he feels he has to stay on campus, saying the university has not been forthcoming with information.
“They say, ‘We’re investigating this …’ but we never get a clear answer. ‘
Carleton shares COVID-19 information via email, its web portal and on social media, according to Reid. Students get more information directly from departments, he said.