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A Student Perspective: Challenges, Struggles and The Silver Lining of COVID-19

By Danielle Provencher, former Graphics & Web TFEE Student with the Hub

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Photo by Sebastian Mantel on Unsplash

It took me completely off guard at first.

I didn’t have the luxury of immediately asking my teacher a question if I was confused, or the ability to throw creative ideas around with my peers, or even feel the warmth of my teachers smile in-person. These were some of the challenges and changes I faced when first moving to online.

Moving to online learning was a transition that I did not expect to happen.

Being a part of the Graphic Design program, one day I had been rushing around excitedly in-class to put together our famous exhibition show (something that our program is known for) and the next, our teacher had announced that we were to resolve to online learning (from the discomfort of just our laptops).

Our program was extremely fortunate. Being a part of a mainly digital creative program means being able to work from only a laptop. My peers and I can attest to how terrible we felt for our friends in trades programs that require hands-on experiences to pursue their learning.

By third year, many of us have built strong relationships with our teachers. We have learned how to effectively communicate with our professors. There is an equal relationship based on respect and learning. Not only was it challenging to lose the ability to learn face-to-face by being able to ask questions and challenge ideas, but we also lost the nuances such as a nod of encouragement that only comes with the positive subtleties of being in person.

I can attest for many of the students within the Graphic Design program that many of us found it not only extremely challenging to benefit from our program while navigating an online-learning curve but disheartening. I still remember the first class when my teacher looked extremely overwhelmed: he sat in front of 17 black screens because everyone felt too intimidated to turn on their camera. I had completely lost the sense of connection to my peers and even with my teacher. I felt totally discouraged and disconnected.

However, something happened – slowly, but surely.

As we sat there facing one another on-screen without having the ability to sit with our chosen group of friends… we started turning our cameras on.

Our teachers, who I commend deeply for hurdling through this change with a sense of adaptability, courage, and positivity I have never seen before, encouraged us to participate as they too slowly adjusted to the intense changes.

Our cameras turned on, and as the days turned into weeks we started having deeper, longer, and more in-depth conversations.

By mid-April, we were laughing, challenging one another, and even resolving an online exhibition show all through individual and one unified effort.

As the next weeks went on, the ability to connect before, after, and on weekends felt all too perfect.

Covid-19 set us up with “nothing to do” – so everything was what we did.

We found joy in the tiny things, like applauding one another’s work through the online reaction emoticons or laughing all-together at someone’s background stolen from ‘The Office’.

Many of us were contacting each other, often, actually more often than ever.

We focused more than ever.

We laughed more than ever.

We even cried all together during our last class because of not just the changes we have gone through over the past three years, but because of what we have been through. A strike and a pandemic. It made us feel pretty incredible. I honestly think that this would not have happened if we had not had the opportunity to bond over this challenge.

Some of the biggest challenges we faced were adaptability: having the courage and wits to move to the discomfort (at first) of just our homes while being in class, perseverance: having more distractions than ever, we had to shift into a “now or never” mindset and get things done. Finally, community: as we adapted, we slowly adjusted to our online community and realized just how important it is to forge a sense of family in the classroom when times are challenging.

The biggest opportunity we (ironically, despite being online all of a sudden) realized was community and connection. My teachers, who I commend greatly, put their best foot forward and took on the challenge with bravery and lowered their guard more than ever. They saw our vulnerability and true selves and consequently the opportunities to learn truly became deeper than ever. There was an absolute level of respect that led to greater learning because we felt in this together – a force greater than all of us led us to the conclusion that learning requires us to become unified.

Sometimes when bad things happen, the silver lining is that it makes us realize what is truly important. For many of us students, that includes the opportunity to sincerely grow and expand our minds and consciousness. So, we put our heads down and focused on our work, with our minds and hearts open, we learned and grew more than ever.

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