The Mixed Bag of Online Learning

I, along with plenty of other students this semester, have classes partially or entirely held in an online format. While there are certainly benefits to this change, there have also been personal difficulties in adjusting. Maybe some will share my experiences.

            I specifically signed up for a couple of online classes before the pandemic began, so those two were unaffected by the changes. My professors who already had their classes laid out on Canvas were entirely prepared, and I have known exactly what to expect from the beginning.

            The professors that I have had in lab classes and other STEM areas have been dealt a much worse hand and that is reflected in the increased difficulty of taking those classes online. We are not able to attend lab, look at specimens using microscopes, work in groups, ask the professor questions face-to-face about complex subject material or stay after class. This is the second lab class that I have taken since the pandemic hit and I do not feel like I am getting the level of education I paid for. That is not necessarily the fault of professors, since I would feel that way even if the only issue was the lack of face-to-face lab instruction. I understand why we cannot have physical classes at this time, but I wonder if I will still be prepared for graduate school without those hands-on experiences.

            It is confusing to have some professors assigning far more homework than they would in-person, while others do not even have a definitive syllabus and take over a week to let us know if anything is going to be assigned at all. The lack of cohesiveness adds to the chaos of teaching myself and having an entirely random schedule does not help at all. I could sleep in until 2 in the afternoon one day and have to wake up at 10 a.m. the next day. Sometimes, I barely know what month it is.

            On a more positive note, some professors have definitely gone above and beyond to ensure that all students are getting a good education from home. Zoom sessions, recorded lectures, supplemental materials, helpful links, email updates or reminders about the class, schedules, organized syllabi and constructive feedback all help immensely. If you are a professor doing one or more of these things, thank you for making this easier on all of us.

            I realize that almost everyone is going through a hard time right now, staff and faculty included. While I am still feeling a little all-over-the-place, I am learning to stay flexible and adapt to the current circumstances. In this way, the pandemic is our greatest teacher.