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Chants from the Chancellery #2: Testimony of a Student in an Online Lecture

By Nishant Pandav (@npanium)

“I miss the air-conditioning and the comfortable seats” says a distraught Merry, a second-year marketing student. As a result of the worsening COVID-19 situation, she has had to start taking her classes online and give up some of the luxuries she had at the university, like a peaceful sleep. “I’ve always had trouble sleeping at night. But with the right jacket, the lecturer’s monologue could put you to sleep within no time.”

Merry claims to have never missed a lecture, “I pay the fees, you know. It’s a lot for the air-conditioning and the comfy seats, but sometimes I get to learn new things as well,” she said. When asked if she ever managed to stay awake, she replied, “If I did manage that, like when the class attendance was too low and falling asleep posed a risk, I played video games with some of my mates. [It] felt pretty adventurous – playing while trying not to get caught.”

Online classes have given her a lot more flexibility, but this has ended up disappointing her. “It’s not even a challenge anymore. I could be getting drunk while eating nachos and the lecturer still won’t notice.”

“They have got potential though,” Merry said, referring to the wide range of possible things one could do during live online lectures. “Like I could be grocery shopping or playing with my cat while ‘attending’ the lecture. Of course, I can sleep in my bed now instead of the chair in the lecture theatre, but that’s just too easy.”

But Merry still misses the in-person experience. “Would I watch YouTube videos over the live lectures? Of course not! I attend online lectures for those gaffes by my classmates and the lecturers. The other day a guy was fighting with his boyfriend and the mic was left switched on. Another day we saw a student’s browsing history while they were screensharing. It’s not the same as watching recorded lectures, really.”

Merry says that she also misses other facilities she could enjoy while being on the campus. “I could sneak out of the class and go to the empty washrooms at level-6 of the Business School. Of course, I had my own toilet papers. UNSW seems to have allocated insufficient budget for good rolls. And if I felt a little fancy, I could also take a shower.” Free food has always been one of the key attractions for her. “There’s this Lounge at level-6. So, if I was lucky to stumble upon an event being held there, I could also have amazing food. Some other clubs had decent food for their events as well.”

With the UNSW campus now shut to students, Merry has to cook her own food in her apartment and share the facilities with her flatmates. Her greatest regret however is not being able to sleep in the comfortable lecture theatres.

While courses next term would be conducted online as per the UNSW COVID-19 email updates, Merry dreams of the day she can sleep in the lectures again.