Online Learning During the Coronavirus

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Over the past few weeks, the news has been anxiety-provoking, full of uncertainty and changes.  Businesses are closed, travel plans canceled. Many of our routines have been disrupted, along with the activities we enjoy doing.  During all of this, school has now moved online for the foreseeable future. Depending on your situation, this could be a bright spot.  There are various pros and cons to virtual learning.

The number one pro about virtual learning is that you control your distractions.  No more whispers from students, coughing, crinkling of paper, tapping of pencils, and all the little things that make large classes unbearable.  With virtual learning, all student mics are muted unless there’s a question. It goes the other way as well – if you need to stim, walk around, or do activities with your hands, you won’t be distracting anyone.  You can sit in a comfortable chair, do stretches during the lecture; anything that helps you focus and learn better.  

Speaking of classes, you can record lectures while they’re happening.  If you’re like me, you tend to zone out and miss small bits of information.  Zoom allows you to record a conversation, meaning you can just rewatch the lecture if you missed something.  Teachers might also just pre-record their lectures and post them online. Even better! You won’t have to wake up for an 8 am class at 8 am…  

Moving classes online on such short notice proves that online learning is possible.  There have been hundreds of tweets and posts pointing out how many students would have benefitted from an online option for their education.  One of the better consequences of COVID-19 is that teachers now have to transform more “hands-on” classes(engineering, arts, chemistry, etc) into a more accessible format.

Unfortunately, the main downside of virtual learning is that we can’t be with our friends.  We can video chat, call them, and message them, but we can’t physically be with them. Although we all need our alone time, we also need to be with our friends.  Some of us are lucky enough to like our housemates, roommates, or family, but that’s not the case for everyone. 

There’s also an urge to slack off or not stick to our routines. Being at home all the time tricks us into thinking we’re on vacation, even when we have three papers due in a week.  Additionally, all of our routines feel like they’re gone. I can’t go to the gym or my office-two essential parts of my routine. I can’t meet people for coffee or lunch. All of the clubs that I was a part of are now gone from my life. The worst part is that this seems like it’s going to last forever.  I know that it can’t, but every hour in this situation feels like forever.

Although all the classroom distractions are gone, there are new distractions.  If you live at home, you can be distracted by your parents, siblings, or pets. I would recommend establishing times where you need to be alone and you need the house to be quiet.  

Ultimately, the pros and cons of virtual learning depend on your needs and your situation.  Even though our routines have disappeared, we can make new ones. We can talk to our friends via phone and video chat.  We can find new hobbies or ways to relieve stress. We will learn to deal with the new distractions that come from being home.  Most importantly, we can look forward to when this is over, and we can get back to our comfort zones. Maybe this will become our new comfort zone.