First of all, I would like to apologize for the mess that this article is. I just threw my ideas together and I plan on reorganizing this a little. Since I want this to be a discussion, I invite anyone who reads this and has comments to reach out to me.
While I am writing this as a student of the faculty of Education of the Bishop’s University, the following merely reflect my own personal opinion and experience.
Before I begin, I would like to explain my situation as I believe this will give a better understanding of the perspective that I will discuss. I am a second year Education student here at Bishop’s University in Lennoxville (Quebec). All my life I have dealt with a visual disability caused by a condition known as Nystagmus. Nystagmus is a condition that causes the eyes to move back and forth involuntarily. Because of my eye condition, my sight is about 10% of that of an “ordinary person.” As such I have lived with many challenges both in everyday life and in my academic life.
I would like to acknowledge that 2020 was indeed quite a challenging year for many people. When the first lockdown happened here in Sherbrooke Quebec, I think that many people did not really know what to expect. The winter semester of 2020 was in limbo and neither the school administration nor the teachers seemed to know exactly what to do. It must be understood that the government had declared a lockdown and we did not know exactly what would happen next. It was obvious that the semester should not end so abruptly, but we did not know exactly how to proceed..
At the end of the winter semester of 2020 there was an abrupt transition from in-person class to online. This transition was quite difficult for me because neither the teachers nor the students were properly used to the online tools that we had. It became obvious for me that I would be struggling at the end of the semester as many of the issues that I had noticed during the semester were exacerbated by the increased reliance on those tools. Namely, moodle was not a very accessible tool, especially considering how most teachers used it.
Because everything was now posted on moodle even more so than before, it was crucial to be able to quickly find information in long pages that we had to scroll through. The problem is that in a sea of text, it can be challenging to find the specific link to click to reach a certain page. And our exams were posted on moodle, not noticing that the exam file had been uploaded made it difficult to begin exams on time. The tool that I used to like because I found it was useful to be able to access all of the files were shown in class because the target of my unconditional hatred.
Obviously, things did get better. I originally planned to take extra classes during the spring and summer semester. However with the world pandemic causing so much change in our lives, I elected to stay home and rest until things calmed down. I did not expect that we would still be in a sort of confinement but not when fall came. The new school year brought about many challenges and the teachers were struggling with the new softwares that we had access to. Classes moved to Microsoft Teams entirely. This brought an unexpected blessing for me. As it turns out, lectures are easier to follow on Teams and Zoom compared to their in-person equivalent. The reason for this is I don’t have to constantly pay attention to a powerpoint projection on a distant wall in the class while also struggling to take notes at the same time. Being close to my monitor was fantastic; it felt like freedom!
As a visually disabled person, transportation is somewhat of a hit or miss situation. On one side, I have access to special transportation from the bus company that will bring to my destination without too much trouble. The issue with this is that I have to reserve transportation 24 hours in advance. This means that whenever there is an instance where i do not know the exact time of a class or an exam, it is very difficult to plan ahead properly. There is also the issue that if I forget to make proper reservations in advance and can be stuck taking standard public transportation. Using the public transportation system would not be an issue if it wasn’t for the fact that sometimes I don’t properly see the bus numbers and get lost in the bus schedule and itinerary. I often lose a lot of time in transportation, and it is somewhat of an annoyance. But with class being online, transportation is not something that I had to consider during that new semester.
I went on campus to get my new books for Winter 2021, and I noticed that there were arrows everywhere. It was extremely confusing. I did not know which door I was supposed to use to go from point A to point B. I have to admit that in the beginning of my time at Bishop’s University, I spent quite a lot of time being lost. After spending 1 semester there, I was able to orient myself without too much problem; however, those arrows were going to be the end of me. It seemed to me that whenever I wanted to go through a door there was a warning stating that this was a forbidden direction. I was really happy that I would not have to stay on campus for very long.
All in all, the pandemic was quite an interesting challenge to overcome. The transition was not effortless, but the results were pretty good. My current classes seem to be better than the previous one in terms of online teaching. I think that it will only get better as time goes. While motivation is difficult to keep up for online teaching, I believe that the results I managed to get out of my first fully online semester speak for themselves.
On that note, this is merely a first draft and I plan to revisit this issue at a later point. If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me.