Bring back our classes, say students, as uni announces big step back to campus

Football stadiums are near full but Swinburne announces lecture theatres will remain empty for the rest of 2021. Photo: Thomas Bravender-Coyle
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Uni classes – but not lectures – will be back next semester, Swinburne says, as students express their anger at continued lack of on-campus class time. Thomas Bravender-Coyle reports.

Swinburne Uni students have expressed their frustration at the staggered return to campus and the continued reliance on online learning this semester.

An online poll by The Standard showed 85 per cent of the 325 Swinburne students surveyed were frustrated with the reduction in on-campus tutorials this semester.

Student Liana Zucchet was upset by the situation.

“The fact that we’re paying the full cost of the unit and only getting half of the contact hours with tutors is absurd,” she said.

Pro-Vice Chancellor, Education and Quality Associate Professor Tara Magdalinski said the university was aware that students were eager to return to campus on a regular basis.

We’re pleased to let you know that we are planning to return to a full schedule of small group classes on-campus, including tutorials, labs, studios, workshops and other similar classes

“Lectures, however, will not return in 2021,” she said.

Students have had reduced contact hours this semester because of COVIDSafe restrictions, with many units conducting tutorials fortnightly.

Student Jessica Norris said she “was getting less than four in-person [tutorials] for the whole semester”.

“I communicate better, learn more and am motivated to do well in a classroom environment, so [I’m] pretty disappointed to not be utilising that, now that it’s safe to do so,” she said.

Student Fiona McAlpine said, “I don’t like having fortnightly tutorials, and I find it frustrating when there are no study materials available online for that week besides the lecture.”

Student Jodie Roberts said she has business and law units that have workshops on campus every three weeks.

Their infrequency just adds to the disjointed feel of the semester. I definitely feel less engaged.

“I really miss peer interaction, and I wish I had more time on campus,” she said.

Bring back our classes, say students, as uni announces big step back to campus
Swinburne students will be back on campus next semester for small group classes, not lectures. Photo: Thomas Bravender-Coyle

Swinburne Student Union president James Atkins said he was aware of the complexities of returning to full capacity, on-campus learning, but he also understood how students were feeling.

“Many students [are] reporting dissatisfaction with the current blended learning model,” he said.

Mr Atkins says that the student union would consult with the community through surveys and testimonials to identify what needs to change for a better student experience in Semester Two.

A/Prof Magdalinski said the ability to offer on-campus classes during Semester One was hampered severely by Covid-19 restrictions on physical distancing and room capacity.

“In many cases, this meant that only half the number of classes could be offered, with the remaining classes replaced by online classes or self-paced learning,” she said.

“The volume of learning remains the same regardless of the number of contact hours.”