What are we really learning at university?

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Photo by Lauren Symbolik-Berger

Especially in today’s normal, with remote learning, some students may ask – what are we actually learning in university, and more specifically, this year? Are tests beneficial, or are we just memorizing facts to spit them back out on the page? Are there better testing styles as we continue our post-secondary education paths? 

Remote learning can be a harder way of learning. The hands-on aspect and chatting with our classmates are virtually nonexistent. 

Yes, we have breakout rooms, but many people do not engage in discussion as much because they may not be comfortable or the motivation is gone since it is online, in comparison to face-to-face. I would much rather engage in a conversation face-to-face because it feels more personal and ‘real’.’ 

In a way, this year, we have been teaching ourselves the course content, especially in asynchronous classes. We must continue to be motivated as we navigate this brand-new year. 

Testing is a hard topic to discuss, as there are different ways to approach it. Some professors or students may think that studying and writing standardized tests does not help a student learn the course content. Students are simply memorizing the facts and writing them out back on the test paper. 

Particularly in Arts courses, when we take a test, it is simply whether we can remember the facts and translate them onto paper. I personally prefer writing essays because I know I’m learning more, rather than memorizing effectively. It is hard to memorize many facts all at once. 

In comparison, math or science-based courses make sense to have standardized testing. When it comes to math, it is about doing calculations with the correct formulas. Math is a process, not memorization of facts and repeating them. 

Perhaps in Arts courses, testing would be more effective in an essay or reflective format. Especially, a reflection based test would alleviate the stress of studying and honest ideas can be shared without the stress attached. Maybe if we learn without the stress of big tests, we can take in the information more effectively. 

However, we cannot just stop here and say we are not learning in at university. Regardless, we are, in fact, learning many things in university. I learn facts and concepts in my courses every time I read or go to class. 

We could just say that maybe we are not learning as much with the pressure. Taking away the pressure from tests would be so much better, it would be much more relaxing as we continue in our studies. 

I have definitely improved my writing skills since I have started university. This is an important skill to know in life and the workplace, and every post-secondary student must learn how to balance their time effectively to make sure they stay on track with course content. 

There are so many life skills learned too, like cooking and living on our own. Students do learn in university, inside the classroom (or this year – in the Zoom call) and outside the classroom! 


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