Student Adaptation Problems to the Post-Pandemic Situation and How to Build Back Better Turkish Higher Education in the Post-COVID-19 Period

Ali Gunes, PhD Keynote Speaker /Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University, Istanbul, TURKEY

The coronavirus, known as COVID-19, which occurred in late December 2019 in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has wreaked havoc on life in several ways, from individual life to family and social life, from health services to economics and politics across the world. Around 6 million people lost their lives. Millions of people have begun to suffer profound psychological problems, millions of people have lost their jobs, and many have fallen into poverty-stricken situations. But the most impacted area of life is education. Schools have shut down their doors as a precaution to their students for a long time to avoid the rapid spread of the virus to the broader population. Thus, there has been a sudden shift in the education system from the traditional face-to-face model to the online one since March 2020. Students have started using their computers, mobile phones, tablets and so on to take their education without interruption.

The success and failure of this new urgent shift have drawn various criticisms from different perspectives, and they will continue to do so for a while. Both students and faculty faced many challenges concerning the new situation. For faculty, the delivery of courses, proper continuation of the planned curriculum, motivation of students, assessments and intimacy and so on have become main concerns. On the other hand, many students have also had many difficulties such as the lack of technological equipment, weak or inadequate internet connection and insufficient space of proper study, loss of intimacy with faculty and friends and thus socialisation, yet what is more important for some students is that they have developed different habits of study in which they were not very serious, concerned, and engaged but loose, free, and indifferent behind the webcam. However, when the face-to-face or hybrid form of teaching started in the fall semester of 2021-2022 academic, both faculty and students started having difficulty adapting to normalcy as it used to be in the past. This adaptation problem affects students’ academic success and creates psychological frustration among faculties and students.

This paper will focus on this adaptation problem faculty and students encounter when they are back to school during the post-COVID-19 period – the issues intricately linked to how faculty and student may adapt themselves to normalcy at the university after a long interval of lockdown. As for this issue, there are mixed statements from the university authorities and faculty members, and my own “real-life experiences” show that the students – old students and newcomers, who graduated from the high school a year before – seem to suffer a kind of adaptation problems to normal study atmosphere in the wake of the two-year-long lockdown. Students tend to act as in the period of lockdown – free, relaxed, and indifferent; they do not like pressure to study, and they seem bored and less interested in the classroom. Not only does this new situation influence faculty’s psyche and motivation in the school, but it also affects students’ learning process and academic success. In this respect, this paper will first present these adaptation problems and how they impact the students’ individual lives and educational success through interviews with university students and faculty members. Finally, the paper will suggest workable solutions to overcome these problems and bring students back to normalcy in their lives for the sake of their academic success at the university and afterwards.