OER Guest Post: How did international postgraduate students’ make connections with others when they were attending Zoom University in their own country
Author: Yuhong Lei-PhD student at Lancaster University
The Covid-19 pandemic brings an ongoing and long-term impact on higher education from 2020, institutions have moved most teaching activities online (Peimani & Kamalipour, 2021). The United Kingdom, as a mainstream study abroad country, has attracted a large number of international students every year. A master’s degree in the UK is basically only one year, and international students are paying higher tuition fees.
International students who started their studies in 2019 or 2020, had a very special learning experience. In general, some students were attending the course online in their own country, while others stayed in the United Kingdom and also attended the classes online at their rented accommodation or apartment. Although the most difficult time has already passed, it is important to have a deep reflection of international postgraduate students’ learning experience during lockdown, which can bring benefits for improving the international students’ learning experience in the post-pandemic era.
As all the students (both stayed in their own country or in the UK) had to attend all the learning activities online, which led to a wide range of discussions of the students’ learning quality. However, from the perspective of students, their tuition fee should be decreased as their traditional learning became purely online, the learning facilities on campus were unable to be used, and the social activities with others were almost cancelled. Therefore, students were claiming they were studying at the “Zoom University”.
Especially for students who were living in their own country and attending courses online. Although they only needed to pay the tuition fee, they saved a lot on living fees and accommodation fees. Unfortunately, they lost the opportunities to experience different cultures and have connections with others on campus. Students were stating that they did not have any connections and in-depth academic conversation with other students and supervisors, as well as difficulty making new friends or having connections with others in the community on campus during the master programme.
Moreover, some international postgraduate students need to conquer the time zone difference. For example, they need to attend the class late at night in their own country, which leads them to have to sleep during the daytime. Thus, they had less communication with their families, although they were living together. In addition, although universities were making a huge effort of making online communities through Teams, Moodle and other platforms, it is hard to make a real in-depth and ongoing conversation, the groups were always very quiet.
These students practical community was other students who also attended the course online and they already knew each other (eg. there were classmates or friends in their previous learning institutions), and new friends known by via social media (such as universities’ whatsapp or Facebook freshmen group). They can have a stable and on-going community because they shared the same learning time zone, they were living in the same city, other people around them might not understand their difficulties and pressure but they could understand each other and thus had the chance to have both learning and social activities altogether. It can be seen that they made a community break the boundary of the universities and majors. However, this community was made because they did not have physical boundaries.
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