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Virtual Learning: the Good, the Bad, and the Challenging

Posted on 10/23/2020 12:52:41 PM by Maria Lattanze

This has been an interesting first semester during the pandemic.  Halfway through the semester and I am still trying to get used to virtual learning.

Originally, I was supposed to attend classes online and in-person however I emailed my professors at the beginning of the semester asking to take all my classes online due to my comfort level of the pandemic.  It’s not that I am afraid of the virus, I’m not, I’m more concerned about who I would affect if I became sick with COVID-19. 

Anyway, classes started out decent, but as the semester continued, I found the challenges of being an online student.

Before I continue with the challenges, I want to note that I do not mind using Zoom.  I use Zoom for work and I like how it is set up.

* * * * * * * 

Before the first semester started, I already knew there were going to be many technological conflicts that as a university, we would have to learn together. 

On the first day of classes, I attended in-person because the class was held outside and I wanted to meet the new Journalism reporters. 

Unfortunately, I could not get into the Zoom meeting because I could not connect to the wifi on my computer or phone, and I do not have unlimited data. I ended up having to “call-in” to the meeting in order to participate in class with the students who were attending class online.

Over the summer, we were informed that the University was going to extend its wifi connection throughout campus. The wifi is now extended and can be used on the outdoor Commons.

Another technological issue that has happened was the loss of audio on my professor’s end.  This has happened on more than one occasion, and there have been times when I had no idea the class had started because there was no audio.

Another “fun” time was when two of my professors (for two different classes) were kicked off of the Zoom call due to technical difficulties on their end.  It ended with the class just staring at each other and then leaving.  Fortunately, both classes consisted of students who are close friends and we all goofed off and talked for a bit before we all left.

Aside from technical difficulties, one disadvantage to online learning that we can all agree on, is the difficulty in learning a topic as we would in person.  Personally, I am a visual learner, I need visuals and hand-on experience to fully grasp a concept.  This has made online learning more difficult because I am not able to have the hands-on experience as I would in-person before COVID-19.  

I also can’t imagine how the professors feel.  All of the technical difficulties on their end, making lesson plans suitable for all students and adjusting the syllabus to make things less stressful.  They, too, are struggling with this year and teaching online.

* * * * * * 

There has been one extra challenging time that personally affected my learning. 

To start, I have mixed emotions about having cameras on during class.  I understand that a professor does not want to talk to a bunch of black screens and he/she wants to see that the students are still in class, but at the same time, there could be a good reason why a student’s camera is off.

For example, from a previous blog post, I talked about my anxiety and panic attacks.  One day I was in class, camera on, taking notes, and all of a sudden I had a panic attack.  I felt it coming and I tried to control it but I couldn’t.  I turned my camera off and just let it run its cycle.  It was not good.  I emailed the professor after class explaining why my camera was off and she understood.

A few days later it happened again.  I was in class, listening to the professor and I felt another panic attack coming.  I didn’t even try to control it.  I just turned my camera off and let it go. Unfortunately, the class I was in only had 10 students and I was the only one with my camera off.  My friend who was in the class noticed I was off and texted me, helping me through it.

So yeah, those are the difficult parts of being an online learner.

* * * * * * *

Now don’t get me wrong, there have been advantages as an online-learner, too! For one, I do not have to worry about leaving my dorm in order to be in class on time.  I can log into class two minutes before it starts.

I also can learn from the comfort of my own dorm.  I do try to attend class from my desk, however, the desk chairs are not comfy so often times I join classes from my bed.  I can also spread out my notes and textbooks in order to see all that we are learning and what needs to be done.  

* * * * * * * 

Online learning has its ups and downs but so does 2020.  This is the time we live in now and there are things we have to learn and we can only do that through experience. I am not mad about all the technical difficulties nor the constant panic attacks, I am grateful that my university has opened its doors and has options for its students! We are learning to adapt together.