‘At least we get a few more lie ins’: Cambridge offer holders react to the prospect of online lectures

‘How well can you get to know someone via a Zoom call?’

Following yesterday’s news that lectures for the next academic year will be held solely online, many offer holders have been left concerned about the nature of their studies. While current Cambridge students shared a mix of reactions, including enthusiasm for studying in bed and general outrage, the reaction of offer holders is more continuously subdued.

From worries about socialising and the impact upon mental health, to missing out on the “Cambridge experience”, it seems that the class of ’23 are just as confused as, well, the rest of us.

Human contact

It’s now been almost two months since the UK lockdown started, and now many offer holders have expressed concern about the impact of online lectures upon meeting new people. One prospective English fresher has said: “An aspect of school I took for granted until now was just sitting in class next to actual people and talking to them”, wondering “how well can you get to know someone via a group chat or a college / subject Zoom call?”

While the University has not ruled out face-to-face supervisions and seminars, the possibility of not meeting students from other colleges in her lectures has saddened Iona, an offer holder for Physical Natural Sciences. She added: “It’ll also be a bit odd not travelling around Cambridge for lectures at various departments, which will take away some of the uni experience”.

When will we next sit in Lecture Room 1? (Image credit: Matthew Penner)

Some positives?

For some, however, the prospect of online lectures offers an unforeseen amount of flexibility, which some current students are “gassed” about. One MML offer holder remarks that “the measures outlined seem realistic and fair, even if it isn’t what we wanted or imagined”, acknowledging “it’s a difficult situation and no one can be sure what to expect”.

Many appreciate the fact that lectures on Moodle can be accessed on demand (“at least we might get a few more lie ins”, as one astute NatSci offer holder admits), because, as another says, “I’d be quite happy being able to listen to lectures and pause them or rewind whenever I want. It’s quite comforting that I won’t have to rush writing everything down as the lecturer is speaking”.

Although some currently having online teaching admit that “it’s much harder to focus”, it seems that the flexibility of online lectures appeals to many – even if online supervisions don’t.

Flynn, a prospective Maths student, is more reconciled with the idea of online lectures over online supervisions. He said: “I’m sort of ok with online lectures if supervisions are still in person”, because the latter are “a lot more useful in person whereas evidently lectures are a bit more impersonal so can afford to go online if necessary”.

However, there are discrepancies between various subjects, and as an Engineering offer holder remarks: “Project work with machinery and materials is such a big part of our course. Online classes are going to be tough”.

For how much longer will Sidge stand deserted? (Image credit: Matthew Penner)

The stress

What underpins the attitudes of many of the offer holders The Tab Cambridge spoke to is the stress of simply not knowing what will happen. Many wonder what will happen to labs and supervisions, and as Flynn remarks: “I would like to have certainty in what’s going to happen and how my course is going to work … if the whole course would be online including supervisions, some people might find it hard to justify paying the full tuition fees for online teaching”.

Most of the offer holders spoken to have used the word “uncertainty”, and it seems that this is a buzzword for this entire period, for current and prospective students alike. As another Natural Sciences offer holder says: ‘There are lots more important questions which still need answers” – but when we will get those answers, however, remains unknown.

Featured image credits: Iona Lynn, Flynn Ryan, Ikechi, Ewan,  Christian Richardt, Wikimedia Commons

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