With Canadian universities beginning the Winter 2021 remote semester, Global News investigated further into the overall morale of post-secondary students with regard to COVID fatigue. McGill ECP's Dr. Nancy Heath and PhD candidate Stephanie Zito (McGill M.Ed '20) were both featured as part of the news piece:
The following is a series of McGill-associated excerpts from "Morale at an 'all-time low': Post-secondary students grapple with COVID fatigue":
The second wave is leading to more fatigue
According to Nancy Heath, a university professor of educational and counselling psychology at McGill University in Montreal, at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, students had the habituation of an “I can do this” attitude, but today this isn’t the case. What we’re seeing in this semester that we were not seeing (before) is a level of fatigue that has led to an incredible decrease in coping resources. Students are at an all-time low. This coming month is going to be the hardest for our students, for our instructors, for all of us,” she said.
Grappling with screens, isolation
Stephanie Zito’s own hardships with mental health played a role in her drive to study the topic with Heath at McGill. The first-year PhD student also started an Instagram account during the summer of 2020 aimed at bridging the gap between technical jargon around mental health and creating an accessible, friendly way for young adults to find community and support.
In addition to pre-existing stressors that have been heightened by the pandemic, like studying for exams, students are also struggling in coping with social isolation and inflexible professors, which have become some of many main hindrances to their studies.
For Zito, social isolation has been the greatest challenge. Living in Montreal, she said that being in lockdown and the recently implemented curfew has left her home all day with only her screen. “It’s just utter silence. When you’re in person, you’re lingering after class, talking to people in your class. But (online), you have nothing,” she said.
Amplifying the needs of students
In order to know what communities need, students say post-secondary institutions should amplify and listen to students to know what initiatives could be revised or newly implemented, said Zito.
She also says offering outreach on social media through informative infographics and livestreams could be more beneficial.
“We’re living in this era where we don’t want anything to be time-consuming. Especially as students we always have something to do,” she said. “To have readily accessible materials that suits our needs is very valuable.”
Zito added that students sometimes don’t read emails and something institutions could work on is finding ways to improve communication and access during an online learning environment.
In terms of online resources post-secondary institutions could implement to help students this winter, Heath said that it is a tremendous challenge but schools can work on delivering opportunities for students to interact with one another. According to Heath, despite some mental health activities being made available in online formats, some students are not joining.