In the three lockdowns that the UK has faced since March 2020, Christopher Hunter has had 3 jobs. One of which was teaching a university course on ‘Advanced Derivative Pricing’ to students in a university in France, EDHEC Business School (Nice Campus), remotely from our living room. Overall, the students did well, but perhaps that was because it was ‘difficult to do exams because while one hopes cheating does not take place it is a fact of life that people take the easy way out’.


In many cases, online learning for secondary school students and university students presents similar challenges, such as ‘limited interaction in class’ and ‘no way to tell if someone is struggling’, as well as the well known WiFi and various technology issues that even adults in business meetings are all too familiar with. There were also multiple cases of cheating on tests involved, because there is no way to know whether one has been cheating or not, unless they did stupendously well having previously done terribly on site. However, students in primary school settings were said to do better, probably because they were more active in class, and hadn’t yet figured out that they could turn off their cameras and mute themselves.


What was different to online learning in this case was that while Dr Hunter was not present, all of the students were, as France was not in a state of lockdown at the time. Educational institutions of all levels were closed in March 2020 until two months later, unlike in the UK where secondary school students not in key years did not return to school for almost 6 months, although had the summer holidays not been in the way, that number probably would have been lower. Lessons taught to these university students in France would include aspects of PDF presentations, scanned homeworks, multiple choice midterms and a handwritten and scanned finals, so basically how you had that one teacher who never asked to have live lessons and only set work that had to be handed in. Had the students all been at home, it probably would have been easier because live lessons could have been done and questions could be asked at an appropriate time rather than email notifications going off at two in the morning. 


The vaccine gives us hope that we will not go into another period of online learning, albeit with concerns about more resistant variants. Parents of children who have gone through online learning have said that for those working online with young children, it is ‘immensely hard to juggle childcare and maintaining a child’s concentration as well has having our own work to do’. Without the incentive of a tropical holiday, students and parents alike are probably also less likely to work hard in order to earn the right to said holiday. Students have also said that ‘social interaction is a major component of a child’s education which cannot be replicated online’. Finally, from the perspective of a university professor, although I am sure many secondary and primary school teachers will agree, they prefer direct interaction with their students. It is ‘much easier to tell if they understand something if you can see their reaction’, rather than attempting to gauge it from behind a blank screen.