By Cindy Yong, SMU School of Accountancy
With the announcement of all classes going online during Singapore’s Circuit Breaker in 2020, Accountancy graduate Cindy Yong resigned herself to plodding through her final term in SMU School of Accountancy (SoA) while being stuck at home. To her surprise as the term wore on, Cindy slowly discovered that online learning had its benefits too.
I was hit by a wave of disappointment when news first broke that most classes would be held online. Being in my last term, I wanted to have the full experience of being a student one last time before stepping into adulthood. I never imagined that I would say this, but I actually missed going to school physically. I missed hearing the incessant chatter of voices while passing through crowded corridors, I missed sitting in a full seminar room attending classes and I missed hanging out with my friends in between classes during term time.
However, with the widespread community transmission of Covid-19 back then, I realised this unappealing virtual arrangement was necessary for the health and safety of everyone. Regardless, this bizarre situation did provide me with some eye-opening and refreshing perspectives about learning in the new normal.
One significant problem I noticed was that ever since online learning began, my sedentary lifestyle would give me frequent backaches and neck aches. Sitting in front of my laptop for long hours was unavoidable, especially with back-to-back classes, which explained why I had to stock up on several packets of pain relief patches. Apart from that, I had to take walks around the house during breaks and minimise stationary activities when class was over to keep myself active.
Pain relief patches became part of my ‘home desk’ supplies
Physical discomfort aside, I found myself slowly adapting and appreciating some of the benefits which came along with online classes and here’s why:
I really enjoyed the luxury of rolling out of bed five minutes just before class starts. Back-to-back classes were also more convenient as I did not have to sprint from building to building to make it in time for the next class.
With the time saved from commuting, I was able to explore my hobbies and participate in more activities outside of school. I managed to squeeze in some time to develop my interest in food photography and yet, keep up with the mountain loads of work.
Active class participation
Even into my final term, the fear of making an unintelligent or unconstructive comment during class never went away.
Interestingly, when my classes were held over Zoom this semester, I felt more emboldened to share my thoughts during class, and the fear of being judged became less pronounced.
This sudden migration to online learning also made me appreciate the value of class participation. Without class participation and the means of a two-way communication with the professor, it would have been no different from learning through YouTube videos. Using Zoom and other video conferencing platforms, we were able to engage the professor and our peers effectively, retaining the core interactive element of SMU’s pedagogy even in an online setting.
Learning through Zoom proved more effective than I thought
Flexibility for group meetings
Throughout the term, most of our group meetings were also held online, which created the flexibility of being able to meet anytime and anywhere. Many of the meetings were arranged impromptu which minimised the hassle of finding a common time and suitable venue just to meet as a group.
One of the most significant changes that I had to adapt to was online examinations. Never in my 23 years of my life would I have ever thought that I would be taking school examinations at home in my pyjamas (yes I really did!). But, with Covid-19, anything is possible. I was initially slightly self-conscious with the webcam recording my every move but eventually I grew accustomed to being watched by invigilators whom I could not see anyway.
In truth, it was extremely daunting to do accounting papers through the Lockdown browser (a tool to ensure we only access the exam browser and no other windows) as the nature of these modules requires a great deal of calculations and workings. Nonetheless, kudos to our SoA professors who took pains to prepare the examination papers such that the experience was as seamless as possible. Ultimately, I grew to enjoy online examinations as the isolation reduced the pressure of sitting in an examination hall surrounded by my peers scribbling more furiously than me!
I will never view an exam the same way again
On hindsight, this term has been truly memorable, and I am grateful to have been able to experience online learning firsthand just before I left SoA to pursue my career. The experience helped to prepare me for what to expect when starting out on my first job in this new normal.
Finally, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to all the professors and faculty for their hard work in facilitating a positive learning environment despite the circumstances. My only regret is that I was not able to meet them face-to-face before I left SoA, but I believe there will be many more opportunities for that in the future.
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