Presto card, laptop, mask, proof of vaccination and ID. The list of school essentials grows larger as second year students make their way to campus for the first time.


Second year students spent their first year in post-secondary online. The fall semester is the first time they have been on campus. Of the students spoken to only two preferred in-person classes. The rest either preferred strictly online or a mix of both. 



Do you prefer online classes or in-person classes?

Some students are only on campus once a week while others have all of their classes in-person. Patrick Allen, a 2nd year human biology and immunology double major at the University of Toronto, is only on campus once a week. Allen prefers in-person classes due to the distractions at home. “With online learning it’s easy to get distracted, you’re in a comfortable environment so it doesn’t feel like you have to study,” Allen said. “In-person you’re in a lecture filled with hundreds of other students trying to get good grades and actively learning, it helps me stay focused.” 

The lack of focus from students during online lessons has been noticed by professors as well. Not all students have in-person classes, some have the majority if not all of their classes still online. “[Students] are far more disengaged then they were before, I have classes that are so,so quiet now, honestly I can ask if the sun came up and some people won’t put their hands up,” said Paul Finlayson, business professor at the University of Guelph-Humber. Finlayson has found the issue of disagened students to be universal for all online classes regardless of the year the students are in.

“When I was going to school it was like going to a cafeteria and having 3 healthy options and some fast food on the side, metaphorically what students are getting into now is they go into a kitchen with all the best food, fast food, candy, and are given an empty plate, and [teachers] are telling them to eat healthy,” said Finlayson

Finlayson has observed that students have become less prepared for class since the switch to online. Allen has noticed this with himself ”Everything was open book the first year, now all my quizzes are closed book, I had to force myself to learn again, I couldn’t rely on notes I had to find my own method of learning, it was harsh getting back into it,” said Allen

For some they prefer online classes as a matter of convenience and accommodation. David Jakob, a second year psychology student at Guelph-Humber, and Jay Dagayo, a second year philosophy major at Ryerson, commute to school through public transit. Jakob has a 2 hour commute to their campus while Dagayo takes an hour. Jakob has found it easier for them to have their accommodations met.

“With online classes there is less of a worry about talking to professors about my accommodations, like being able to see the powerpoint or having specific test settings,” said Jakob.

“Online is a lot less stressful, in terms of making it on time for classes, I can wake up and go over to my computer, and not worry about missing my class because it is an hour away,” said Dagayo. 

The convenience of online classes has come at a cost.The range of time spent in front of a screen for Allen, Dagayo, and Jakob goes from 9 to 14 hours a day. Allen said that in his first year he spent a lot of time sitting alone in front of a screen and felt his mental health go down.

After missing a full year on campus some students believe they have not missed out on much. “I know I missed out on certain things, but it doesn’t feel like I have,” said Jakob. Dagayo does not feel like she has missed out on anything. Allen however felt like he missed out on a lot but mainly the social aspect. Max Tirona, a second year honours mathematics student at the University of Waterloo, also feels like missed a lot in his first year but has now made up for it.


Do you feel like you are getting the full campus experience?

“I wanted to meet people which is really hard to do in a non-awkward fashion in online classes, it is so much easier to do in-person” Tirona said. “I feel like I made up for it now in my second year.” Tirona lives in his campus residence with two roommates. Tirona said he is getting the full campus experience and has been enjoying school more now that it is in person. Out of the people asked, Tirona is the only one who said he is getting the full campus experience.


Having their first year be all online made it difficult to meet new people. Despite sharing the same classes together for a year some second year students are seeing and hearing their fellow classmates for the first time this semester. Allen found that meeting new people last year was very difficult. In response to the difficulty Allen and his friends created a social club at U of T to help students meet each other called Connect You. 


As the first half of this semester comes to an end online classes still remain. In time we will see if more second years come around to in-person classes or if they will gravitate to a mix.