By Dini Hirschfield
Online learning has become the default mode of learning due to COVID-19. At YU, some students enjoy the less demanding aspects of online learning, while others suffer from the lack of social connection and severely compromised college experience. Although there are some advantages to online learning, the detriments outweigh any benefits this “new normal” may pose.
With online learning, students no longer have college as a social platform. Students also struggle to process class material as their focus is compromised by Zoom fatigue and distractions in their makeshift “classrooms.” Though she recognizes the efforts made by instructors to forge connections in their online classrooms, Dalia Adams (SCW ‘23) finds her online classes “impersonal” and is often distracted by her “roommates, cell phone, and noises in the [dorm] building.” Students also find the many hours spent staring at their computer screens taxing: “I get many headaches from looking at the screen all day for many hours. It is also very hard to engage in the class when the professor is just talking,” shared Daniella Rubin, SSSB ‘23. It is clear that despite the professors’ best efforts, this mode of learning fails to offer the same quality of education as in-person classes, and students are losing out on a proper education.
Aware as they are that Zoom hardly fulfills the vision they had in mind for their education, students are doing their best to maximize their learning opportunities in this setting. One advantage is that professors are more accessible, and they are more understanding in some situations. Last semester in my English class, my professor extended deadlines as the class needed, so we could meet with her more often and submit our best work. Many professors across the departments adopted this more lenient approach and are sensitive to student needs. Professors also use breakout rooms to foster an environment of collaboration and maintain the classroom community. As a new student at the Sy Syms School of Business, Liana Seidenfeld enjoys the way “breakout rooms allow for collaboration and new friendship[s].” Moreover, first-time students might be more willing to sign up for more clubs because all they need to do is join a WhatsApp group to be involved. Lastly, the online system allows students the time, energy, and opportunities for more internships on their resume since most companies transitioned to remote work.
The advantages of online learning do not make up for its shortcomings. The benefits we attribute to online learning are our ways of making the best of a tough situation. Certainly, those who prefer a less demanding schedule appreciate the laxness of the system, but hardly anything about online learning is ideal for those who are invested in their college experience and education. For those who once enjoyed in-person classes and campus life, the compromised learning and lack of social life can be harmful to their mental health. We can commend our students and professors for turning lemons into lemonade, but focusing on the bright side fails to overcome the fact that this is not ideal. Nevertheless, Zoom is here to stay for now, and it is up to us to look ahead with a positive attitude. Professors and students must work together to find the best way to teach, communicate, and recreate the vibrancy of the classroom as best we can. Hopefully, through these efforts, students and instructors alike will find what works for them to get the most out of online college until it is safe to revert to fully in-person learning.