Ontario University students alongside with faculty members and academic librarians are facing social isolation, stress and absence of institutional support, according to results of a new poll commissioned by Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) and carried out by Navigator Inc.
OCUFA’s President, Rahul Sapra, said that the poll’s results show the importance that engagement between students and faculty has in the learning process, Erudera College News reports.
“As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the scramble to move courses online, we have lost that human connection and educational quality has suffered,” he said.
According to him, the main concerns of students and faculty amid the pandemic are fees; therefore, the provincial government must invest in Ontario’s universities which lack funding, in order to improve experiences in education and help students and faculty members prosper.
The poll which has included 2,700 Ontario students, faculty, and academic librarians unveiled that 62 per cent of students and 76 per cent of faculty and academic librarians said that adaptations that universities have made to switch to online teaching have negatively affected the education quality.
A third of students, as well as two-third of faculty and academic librarians, stated that they have care-giving responsibilities, which they are struggling to balance while having to work and study at the same time.
Regarding the pandemic, most students have raised concerns about quality education, financial stability due to high tuition fees, lack of job opportunities, mental health, etc.
Ontario Representative of the Canadian Federation of Students, Kayla Weiler, said that students have been worried since the pandemic began regarding the quality and affordability of education, claiming that poll’s results show that universities and the Ontario government should take measures to improve learning and working conditions.
Moreover, Kimberly Ellis-Hale, a contract faculty member at Wilfrid Laurier University said that contract faculty members are not being paid enough compared to the work they had to do, to switch and deliver courses online or even to offer students the support they need.
Among others, the results also indicate that even when the pandemic is over, students and faculty will not see online learning as a required approach for higher education.
Among the important actions that Ontario universities can undertake to tackle the concerns revealed by the poll results, include:
- Reducing class sizes by employing extra, securely employed faculty.
- Lowering tuition fees in order to assist students who are struggling to make ends meet, currently and after the pandemic.
- Investments in better resources for students, faculty, and academic librarians.
OCUFA is focused on strengthening the quality of higher education and represents 17,000 professors and academic librarians in 30 faculty associations in Ontario.