British Columbia

Overworked and overwhelmed: UVic faculty and students brace for Round 2 of pandemic university

Like many colleges and universities, the University of Victoria transitioned almost entirely to online learning due to the pandemic. But according to the 5,000 students and about 200 instructors polled in a new survey, this transition has been less than ideal. 

Internal survey reveals high workload, accessibility have been challenges of transition to virtual learning

Both students and faculty of the University of Victoria reported feeling stressed by the transition to online learning, according to a new internal survey by the post-secondary institution. (Marcelo del Pozo/Reuters)

Students and staff at the University of Victoria are feeling overwhelmed and overworked as they head into the second semester of school under COVID-19, a new internal survey revealed. 

Like many colleges and universities, UVic transitioned almost entirely to online learning due to the pandemic. 

But according to the 5,000 students and about 200 instructors polled in the survey, this transition has been less than ideal. News of the survey was first reported as part of a feature by UVic's student paper, the Martlet. 

"[The survey] pretty much exactly reflected what students have been complaining about ever since this transition started, and that's a lack of accessibility to their coursework and the sheer amount of work they have," said Sarina de Havelyn, the director of outreach and university relations for the university's students' society.

De Havelyn said that in the process of going online, many professors have added daily or weekly check-in assignments and forums that students must contribute to. The extra work is made more challenging for those students who are unable to find adequate study space at home or the 10 per cent of students, de Havelyn says, who do not have regular access to a computer.

"All piled together, [these factors] are making courses completely unmanageable," she said. 

Instructors, too, are feeling the strain, says Lynne Marks, president of the university's faculty association and a professor of history.

"They are totally overwhelmed. They are doing at least one-and-a-half times as much work, if not two times as much, and there are not enough hours in a day," Marks said.

She says everyone is trying their best given the circumstances, especially when there isn't any firm precedent to rely on.

"It's been a learning curve for faculty, for students, but also for the people in the learning and teaching centre who are telling us how to teach," she said.

Susan Lewis, associate vice-president of academic planning at UVic, says she knew the transition would be hard. She noted the university had spent $6 million on transition efforts like funding extra teaching assistants and technology experts, and boosting mental health supports for students.

Lewis said they'll also make efforts to improve communication between the university, students and faculty.

"I want to acknowledge the frustration people feel when they don't feel they have all the information or all of the answers right away," she said. 

"Our goal is to provide students with as much information as we can provide when we have it ready."

 Classes at UVic resume on Monday. 

Listen to the segments on CBC's All Points West:

With files from All Points West


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