Blended learning is playing with students’ safety and it’s completely unfair

We feel like we’ve been brought back just for the unis’ benefit

Many students started off this academic year with the promise of blended learning. The idea of face-to-face teaching back in September was a factor in why many students moved across the country to their university town. It was in some sense a relief to students that they could look forward to a semi-normal uni experience, particularly for those who had work and other summer plans cancelled. It was simply nice to have the possibility of normality not too far away.

This expectation did not quite live up to reality for many students, particularly those who have missed out on any campus based lectures. And whilst it was naïve for many of us to hope for some normality, we are now seeing just how much blended learning has impacted our safety as students and let’s just say it’s wildly unfair.

Not to mention the fact that forcing us to go to uni in the first place is wreaking havoc on our mental health. This is particularly true for freshers, who are expected to move into halls with a load of people they have never met before and then potentially have to isolate with them in lockdown.

It’s not an easy balancing act trying to establish what is the right thing to do when it comes to the pandemic and I really don’t envy those who are making the decisions. But logically, it was pretty obvious that blended learning would create an added risk to student safety and here’s why.

We moved across the country for our uni’s benefit

A large number of students have been let down by the promise of blended learning since they never received contact hours on campus. This is frustrating when we are then expected to pay rent and all of our tuition fees for something we could have done without moving across the country.

In order to fund all this many students have part-time jobs usually in supermarkets and bars. Students up and down the country are going to work and putting themselves more at risk just because we have been put in a position that we didn’t need to be in the first place.

It would have been safer to stay where we were in September, or at least feel like we had more of an option in the matter. Moving into student housing and halls comes with its own difficulties mentally and physically which have only been exaggerated by the pandemic.

Compulsory in-person lectures aren’t fair

Some students are required to be on campus and whilst it’s great that they are getting their money’s worth, why is it a requirement? Even non-vulnerable students may feel uncomfortable going out and sitting in lectures in the current situation, so why are they forced to?

In cases of practical work, such as in medicine, the reasons are a little more straightforward. If you don’t get the practical experience you need, you can’t really graduate which is understandable. But why are unis forcing us to go to a general lecture or seminar just for the sake of it?

As young people, we were continuously told that we have a better chance of fighting the virus off. But that shouldn’t be a reason to force us onto campus. And I know plenty of people at university who have suffered badly with Covid-19, despite being otherwise healthy.

I can’t go and see more than one person at a time but sitting in a lecture theatre with a whole load of other people, albeit socially distanced, is just fine. Coming into contact with anyone right now is a risk and students should have more of a say in what risks they want to take.

What about vulnerable students?

In all the commotion surrounding students during the pandemic, I am yet to hear much about the support for vulnerable students.

Although universities are making provisions for those who are classed as at-risk, there should’ve still been a stronger focus on them at the beginning of the academic year.

Vulnerable students are very much at risk of becoming seriously ill. Coming back to uni and trying to complete a degree in the midst of a pandemic is extremely daunting and there hasn’t been enough support for them.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

I’d rather drop out of university than have to self-isolate in halls again

‘I left halls because of mental health and they told me to drop out or keep paying rent’

Bristol Uni U-turns on threat to take unpaid rent out of bursaries