The Frustrating Imperfections of Online Learning

Having the luxury of waking up ten minutes before class and attending lectures from bed can be a huge stress-relief for university students, who are used to rushing around campus five days a week, only returning to their dorms for the sole purpose of sleep. Most Emory students are likely thrilled by the lack of long walks from Calloway to the Biology building now! 

 

However, for students with Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD), the switch to online learning can be more of an aggravator than a comfort. I remember the anxiety and discomfort I felt in high school when the principal came on the intercom to announce that cross country practice was cancelled—or when my mom texted me that there was a change of plans, and my aunt had to get me from school. Now, compare the severity of those disruptions to essentially being stripped of a schedule in its entirety. People with OCD function with a routine and knowing that, despite the chaotic nature of college life, certain things will stay the same.

 

For some with OCD, following routine and completing items off a checklist can be the primary motivation behind executing tasks like schoolwork. The lack of structure and amount of independent study necessary for remote learning can make it feel like there is no schedule to follow, no boxes to check, and can ultimately undermine key reasons to do work. Finding the intrinsic value in a task, knowing that there won’t be a schedule to provide the sense of completion I desire, can be difficult. The whole effort of online learning feels futile. 

 

As my motivation fails me, my life only gets less organized, perpetuating a negative feedback loop where perfection seems further and further away, only making my effort diminish. For students with OCD or anxiety feeling a bit shaken up by the lack of structure this semester, I’m sure finding helpful coping mechanisms has become second nature. We can create our own schedules, trying to find a sense of normalcy in all the chaos, but it won’t be perfect—and with OCD, that’s a hard pill to swallow. To exist in a world that has been turned upside down, as an individual who craves perfection and consistency, is not an easy task to say the least. So, when your coping mechanisms fail you, it’s okay to not be okay.