University professors deplore empty lecture halls

University professors say they are just talking to each other because the return to on-campus learning has not yet taken effect.

Dozens of photos and confessions posted on social media by educators across the country show how the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically altered the college experience – for educators and students.

The startling snaps come as new data reveals student satisfaction at universities is below pre-pandemic levels.

Lecture on empty chairs

Universities have had to provide distance learning during the pandemic when shutdowns prevented students from attending classes in person.

But although lockdown restrictions have been lifted, university professors say it has become normal to teach in an empty room.

A Twitter thread started by an Australian teacher on Monday sparked a discussion about in-person education post-COVID.

Jan Slapeta, Professor of Veterinary and Molecular Parasitology at the University of Sydney, posted a picture of his empty lecture room.

The tweet received more than 2,000 likes and hundreds of replies in 48 hours, with fellow college professors sharing their post-COVID experiences.

Queensland University of Technology retail and consumer expert Gary Mortimer said he could understand Professor Slapeta’s frustrations.

“I feel your pain,” Professor Mortimer wrote, along with a photo of a bare auditorium.

A senior lecturer in criminology at the University of Melbourne, Dr Sahar Ghumkhor said she too has seen low attendance from her students this semester.

“I have about 120 students this semester and I usually have 5-7,” she replied.

“I had one [student] in my lecture yesterday (class of 90),” wrote Tina Skinner-Adams, associate professor at Griffith University.

It’s not the first time Professor Slapeta has shared his frustrations, after detailing a similar experience earlier in the year.

“Shock! 9 o’clock conference – no one! Where are they?” he said in a May tweet – alongside another photo of empty chairs.

“My first lecture for this cohort, so hopefully it’s not a reflection on me. I was told to give the lecture anyway, because some might watch it on stream.

“50 min discussion with chairs. Is this what Uni is now? Help @Sydney_Uni. »

Change him

The University of Sydney had ‘moved away’ from major conferences, focusing instead on different learning opportunities, a spokesperson said.

“We still offer larger lecture-style classes both online and on campus, but we’ve been moving away from that format — where it’s primarily a teacher speaking — for some time,” they said.

They said the university had seen an increase in on-campus attendance since the start of the year.

“We were delighted to see so many of our students back on campus in Semester 1, with approximately 30,000 attendees each week in May. Currently, there are over 40,000 people on campus each week, including large numbers of students – while remote options are still available for those unable to attend in person.

Speaking to the National Press Club on Wednesday, the university’s vice-chancellor, Professor Mark Scott, said the university’s campus was packed with students.

“This year we are back on campus, strong,” he said. “We still have many internationals students unable to be on campus due to to local and limited lockdowns access to affordable flights.

“Still much more [students] came back for second semester. The university is once more alive and buzzing with the the energy of students and staff.

He recognized the importance of face-to-face learning – and that it had to be a priority.

“Online teaching throughout COVID the lockdown has underlined for us how compelling in-person learning is for our students. Particularly our undergraduate students,” he said.

The university spokesperson was unable to confirm The new daily before the deadline, what were the attendance levels before the pandemic.

They said minimum attendance requirements for students varied from discipline to discipline.

Student dissatisfaction

The Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching (QILT), a series of national higher education surveys endorsed by the Ministry of Education, surveyed 264,660 students in 2021 to assess their experiences in higher education. Higher Education.

The survey, released this week, found that 73% of students said they had a positive overall college experience in 2021, up from 69% in 2020, when national student satisfaction hit an all-time high.

However, 73% is still far from the previous national norm, with students reporting between 78 and 80% overall satisfaction between 2019 and 2011, when annual surveys began.

The survey found that only 42% of students felt they belonged at their higher education institutions, down 10 points from 2019.

Overall, 19% of respondents said they had considered leaving their institution in 2021, citing ‘health and stress’, ‘study/life balance’ and ‘work load challenges’. work” as main motivations.

Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said more work needed to be done to engage students on campus.

“We know there’s still a long way to go to get satisfaction levels back to pre-pandemic levels,” Ms Jackson said.

Angela C. Hale