Stella van Schaick is the communications and content manager for Amsterdam based Ed-Tech company StuDocu. StuDocu was founded in 2013 by four students to exchange study documents with each other and together strive for better grades. Millions of study documents have been shared by students and are accessible to everyone in the world. Currently, more than 12.5 million students are using StuDocu to access high-quality materials.
From a young age, parents begin setting the stage and applying the pressure. “You are so smart, you will be a doctor one day”, they tell their toddler after correctly stacking learning blocks. Despite the child’s age and limited cognitive abilities, this is where it all begins; parents begin building up the insurmountable pressure to live up to standards which are too far-fetched for some.
While 94 per cent of parents expect their child to attend a college, sources for frustrations come from a multitude of places. Stress is not new to students, but it is something that has grown over the years and reached an unprecedented new height with COVID and distance learning. A study conducted towards the beginning of the crisis showed that less than 20 per cent of students feel happiness regularly, and 69 per cent stated that their most prevalent feeling was stress. Parental pressure should not shoulder all the blame for these startling statistics, as there are plenty of others. If one thing is clear, it is that students need assistance and to do that we must understand what they are suffering from.
Why happiness is hard to come by
The top 3 things students love about graduating from primary school and learning at a higher education institute are moving away from home, feeling independent, and meeting new people. Coincidently, quarantine life keeps them astray from these three experiences. Being stuck at home can begin to feel like a prison cell after a while, and there is nothing new about making new friends online.
So, with the sources of happiness evaporating, the pain points students face remain without any counterbalancing. One of the significant sources of stress has even significantly been amplified. 68 per cent of students are dependent on the facilities their university provides—the same universities which have been closed for months now.
Some of these facilities may be small, like a printer or a copy machine. But what if they are dependent on the Wi-Fi? Or even a computer? This is a genuine possibility for some students, especially given the rising global unemployment rate. Should a family forgo eating so, they can provide proper education to their child? Students already pay the excess in tuition fees, thus providing more resources with less income is just not a possibility for students. Therefore over 50 per cent of students fear that they will not be able to continue their education.
Another serious source of frustration for students while being locked in their homes is that everyone else is as well. Mom, dad, older brother, infant sister; they are all in the same house for nearly 24 hours a day. Many of these parents are also working, so cooped up and bored younger children have nothing better to do than to distract their older siblings. 71 per cent of students stated that distraction from family was the most significant disadvantage of having to study at home.
One look at a university library and you will see rows of students studying with earplugs and headphones. That is because noises can be a source of distraction and lead to serious unproductivity. While the same earplugs can be used at home, there really is no remedy for an 8-year-old trying to get their studying sibling to play tag for hours on end.
While educators and universities have done their best to adapt, it is safe to say that they were not prepared. Their inability to adopt technology early led to a rapid adaptation when the facility closures began. While this learning curve has been the priority for the past few months, it is now time for students to become the priority. How can universities help students adapt instead of hoping a return to in-person learning will solve the problem?
Accessibility to education, which is the students most significant pain point and number one source of stress, is something that is entirely in the hands of the universities. Yes, they may have had to close their facilities, but students are still paying the same amount for their education. In fact, only a select few universities have elected to reduce their tuition fees. It is a curious decision considering students pay for things like the Wi-Fi they cannot use, the library they do not have access to, and quiet study spaces that students wish they could enjoy.
It is evident that to start, tuition costs absolutely should be reduced for those who have been forced to study under quarantine conditions. However, it should not stop there. One of the most significant benefits of physically studying at a university is the collaborative nature of it. Students do not just learn from the lecturer or their textbooks, but they also learn from discourse with their fellow students.
This does not mean that group work has stopped at university, but there is a big difference between collaborative learning and group work. The time spent walking to class, or the 15-minute coffee break in the middle of a lecture are opportunities for students to come together and discuss the frustrations with their learning objectives. This becomes significantly more difficult when you study online. Coffee breaks are spent alone, and a personal conversation is not as easy as just talking to the person next to you.
It is up to educators to realize this disadvantage and encourage the students to continue to do so. Voice their opinions, talk to their peers, and have them share their notes with those who are struggling to grasp concepts.
If universities and educators are unwilling to realize the issues plaguing students and make the necessary changes to help them succeed, then they have failed to provide an adequate education.
More about StuDocu
Headquartered in Amsterdam, Netherlands, StuDocu’s mission is to empower everyone to excel in their studies by providing the best tools to students who want to study more efficiently.