Updated: Feb 11, 2021
Well, I don't think this needs much of an introduction as the title is very self explanatory, but there is a worldwide pandemic currently going on right now. That means that most schooling has gone virtual.
I was in the middle of spring semester when things went crazy and switched over to online learning. My spring break was coming up in March and the news we received was to stay home and not come back. Which meant online school.
Online school has its pros and cons, but I have learned, if not anything else, the value of learning in person, of having teachers that are committed, and of working hard at what matters most to you.
Online learning isn't all bad! I was stressed out of my mind in my sixth semester of university wondering how I was going to make everything work during midterms with projects due, tests to take, paying the bills, and keeping afloat. When the pandemic hit Boston, I was scared, nervous, and anxious to get home, but deep inside of me I was relieved. The unknown gave relief. Being home meant relaxing, not having to pay for as many things as I would on my own, and letting me do what I wanted in time that I had off.
Of course, with quarantine and restrictions, I was in a way forced to stay home and take a break! I still had classes and assignments due, but the change that the pandemic brought meant excused late projects and changes in the school schedule. Instead of having to walk home to an apartment in between classes or going to work, I could simply walk from my bedroom to the kitchen, grab a snack, sit on the couch, and just chill. A huge weight had lifted off of my shoulders. I suddenly had time- time to live, breathe, work, whatever I chose to do with it.
Another great thing about online learning was communication. I don't mind speaking in person with my professors, but sending an email is a lot easier, especially for introverts. I also find that raising my hand in a virtual classroom and speaking is much less intimidating than being in an entire room full of students- at least for me. There's something about a computer screen that takes fear out of saying what you feel needs to be say, know what I mean?
Environment is one more factor that I would put into the positives. You can decide where you want to learn- in your bed, at a desk, in the basement, even outside at times. That freedom of classroom setting can be a huge positive in helping you to focus, be comfortable, or whatever else you need at the time.
Now for the negatives. I always find that it's easier to find more negatives than positives, but for the sake of not being too grave, we will only focus on three.
The first negative, of course, is lack of technology. Not every student has access to the proper materials they need, things like computers, internet connection, headphones, etc. On top of that is the technology that on campus learning provides through the school, with things like computer labs, cameras, and in my case loads of musical equipment like microphones and studios that I no longer had access to. This makes for a much slower learning curve as not having the equipment only allows for learning about it, not learning on it.
If you need help or access to technology that you do not have at home, contact your school.
The next negative is lack in making personable connections with other people such as teachers, others students, roommates, etc. While virtual technology does allow for messaging, calling, emailing, and so forth, that kind of relationship doesn't have the same depth- at least in my experience- as an in person connection. It takes much more effort to make a lasting relationship because there are not any physical experiences that bring people together, only verbal, which does not have the same value. However, it can be done! It just takes commitment and following up even after a class or semester is over.
Finally there's the fact that being cooped up all day in the same room at the same desk or in the same bed can be really exhausting. During my summer semester, which was completely virtual, I was house sitting but only had access to my bedroom as a work place. The bed became my classroom, my desk, my table, and my sleeping space which made it really hard to separate what I needed to do at different times in the day. Everything was really mushed together- I didn't know what time it was and I stopped being motivated to exercise or take care of myself because I was literally stuck in the same place at all times of the day, especially with quarantine on top of it all. It really does make you value a classroom, walking in between hours of sitting, and being able to have space to study.
How to Make It a Good Experience
Since we've gone through the goods and bads, I thought we should go over how to make it the best experience possible.
Assuming that most of your schooling is virtual, when possible, take the headphones off or the Airpods out of your ears. They need a break from having things in and on them and from the sound they are constantly pounding into your eardrums. If that's not possible for you, try to take them out/off during breaks so they can have a break.
Another thing to take a break from is your screen! Your eyes are tired constantly staring at the light of the screen and trying to focus. During the pauses, close the computer or put down the screen. Go elsewhere- take a small walk around the house, get a snack, and get away from technology for a moment. That includes relaxation time. Try to find ways to relax that don't include screens. Ideas include:
read a book
play an instrument or do a craft
talk to the people you live with
There are a bunch more things you can do. An effective way to put this into practice would be to make a daily plan for yourself where you know when you have breaks and know what you will do during that spare time. That way you can disengage from technology, truly feel relaxed, and not feel like your always stuck on a screen.
If you have any more ideas that we could add into this post or any other advice, please contact me here and I will be sure to add in your ideas (with credit).
Happy virtual learning!