Students feel compelled to register for fall classes despite online focus, survey shows

A survey by The Ubyssey found domestic and international students expressing a collective feeling of obligation to continue school in the fall, despite many faculties’ announcements that most classes will be online.

Receiving over 360 responses, the survey asked students how the move to online classes in the fall is affecting them. A large majority of respondents said they are planning on registering for classes this coming term, but the top reason for 80 per cent of them centred on the need to graduate on time. However, 28 per cent of respondents did claim they are looking forward to classes, whether in-person or online — just for the pure experience of education.

According to the survey’s data, students said they are planning to register for classes despite most being online simply because they have to. Other than the need to graduate on time, some students prefer to stay with their cohorts. Students also expressed an obligation to continue taking a full course load to maintain their full-time student status as their specialized programs, scholarships, healthcare plans or insurance plans require it.

“I lose my parent’s work insurance if I’m not a full time student,” one wrote.

Another respondent said they must maintain their full-time status for student loan purposes.

While there are key financial factors influencing students to take classes, such as maintaining their scholarships or insurance plans, there is also a financial factor influencing some students to take the term off. The students not planning to register for the fall are mostly against online classes, half of them saying they can’t justify the expense of virtual learning. Most students taking the term off plan on working instead.

Returning to Vancouver

Throughout the survey, domestic and international responses were relatively similar. International students however are more indecisive about whether or not to return to Vancouver for the fall — about half of the international responses said they are returning while the other half aren’t or haven’t decided yet. About 64 per cent of respondents are planning on returning or staying in Vancouver for mainly personal reasons — many saying there is no other place for them to go or many wanting to be close to friends.

A prime concern raised by a few international students is the time difference that would negatively affect their learning experience, one stating they “don’t want to be attending class at 4AM.” The university is currently considering ways to address the time difference issue. UBC’s Associate Provost Simon Bates previously acknowledged in a statement to The Ubyssey that “faculties and course teams are still at an early stage of planning for this aspect of fall instruction.”

“One of the things we are thinking about is if we can offer sessions (e.g. tutorials, seminars, lectures) that are at times that work for remote learners,” Bates wrote in May, adding that schedules for the fall season may look different than the ones students are typically used to.

Online classes set in the fall have driven some students away from returning to Vancouver since many don’t see the point of travelling back to take online classes. Finances play a significant role here once again for 36 respondents, as travel and residence costs hold people back from coming to Vancouver just to take courses online – that along with 10 responses about travel restrictions and 26 expressing an inclination to be close to family, friends and their community.

When asked if UBC hypothetically lowering tuition for the fall would affect their choices to take online classes, a clear distinction was found between domestic and international responses. 39 per cent said their choice of whether to take online classes wouldn’t at all be affected if UBC lowered tuition for the term — a majority of them being domestic students.

Meanwhile, international students take up the majority of the 33 per cent who said this would significantly affect their choice — the remaining 28 per cent of those saying “it would somewhat affect” their choice were a mix of domestic and international.

The many respondents claiming that their decision to take online classes wouldn’t at all be affected if UBC decreased tuition in the fall likely interweaves within the common reality for students exhibited in the survey — that most people have a predetermined need to take class anyways, online or in-person, tuition hypothetically decreased or not.