The University of Sheffield is moving all teaching online by 9 December to allow students to go home for the Christmas vacation period within the ‘student travel window’, but not all students are happy with this change.

In a series of polls conducted by Forge Press, 56% of students said they were not happy with the move to online learning.

A further 62% said the University was right to continue with face-to-face teaching this semester.

Alec Turner, a third-year English Literature student, said the move to online teaching will reduce important social contact. 

Turner said: “I find it such a shame to miss out on the interaction with course mates as those small encounters with acquaintances can really brighten your day in a world becoming more isolated. 

“It also helps to talk to peers about the course content, careers, and assessments as you can help each other, gauge if you are all struggling and honestly I am way more open about these aspects with peers instead of tutors. 

“Additionally, it’s just nice to get out of the house with a purpose. I know we can go on walks, which I do everyday, however, it’s not the same as having to be somewhere.”

The University is following guidance from the Government, who have said this is to minimise the risk of transmitting Covid-19 to friends and family at home.

Matt Kilborn, a Chemical and Biological Engineering MEng student, said that although there is a need to reduce the risk of transmission, asking students to go home earlier than usual was not a solution to this problem.

He said: “It seems to have been overlooked that being in the university environment is crucial for me and a lot of others as student accommodation tends to be set up well for home working and also means you are surrounded by people with similar lifestyles. 

“This all helps with being able to focus properly when deadlines are closing in fast. I know I wouldn’t be able to focus enough if I were to go home early especially with the added stress that the end of term brings.”

However, 44% of students surveyed said they were happy about the move to online learning and a further 38% thought face-to-face teaching should not have been happening at all this semester.

Turner said the high risk of Covid-19 in universities has meant students have often been “demonised” and feel “neglected”.

“It would have been smarter to do this [move online] a while ago. At the very least, I think it should have been a University wide option to have what the French department do: in-person seminars with the option to be online on the computer with the tutor leading the sessions.”

They added: “Universities have a lot of money including disaster funds, resources, staff, leading technology and so on. This should have been put to use a long while ago. If we are having in-person teaching use the resources available to make it safe.”

A University spokesperson said: “Delivering an excellent student education while doing all we can to ensure the safety of our students and staff has remained our top priority throughout the pandemic and we have been assured by our local public health teams and academic experts that there is a low risk of transmission within teaching spaces.This view is supported by our own data.

“We know that it is incredibly important to many of our students that they are able to go home for the Christmas break and are working within government guidelines to do this safely. We also know that other students intend to stay in Sheffield over this period and we are committed to supporting all our students, regardless of their decision, whilst still allowing them to continue with their education.”

Image: Juliet Cookson

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