When COVID-19 first hit the country, everyone expected a two-week break from life. No school, no work, just an extension of spring break. What we didn’t know was that the two-week break would take away two years (and counting) of our lives, with one of them involving us being trapped at home. For the class of 2021, like myself, that meant doing school online. We had to spend our senior year behind computer screens without any of the festivities that completing high school was supposed to bring.
Although it was a more accessible academic year, it was challenging and affected my mental health. Staying at home with no presence of the outside world, plus knowing that my hard work wouldn’t be presented in the same way that it usually was, made everything more difficult. I had to apply to college without knowing what it looked like, if it was the right place for me, and if it was worth spending my four years there. Despite having some friends who already attended FSU, it was still difficult for me to make a decision.
Once I saw the acceptance letter from FSU, I knew I didn’t want to continue doing online classes, especially with how drained I was just from my senior year alone. However, I didn’t realize I would be coming back to doing online courses in my sophomore year of college. Enrolling in online classes is considered more accessible because you’re able to work at your own pace and have occasionally flexible deadlines. However, there are pros and cons to doing college online.
The biggest reason that online classes are preferred is because of their accessibility when compared to in-person courses. Attendance often isn’t required; you can work at your own speed with specific deadlines. However, students are told these deadlines in advance, so they can work ahead if they feel capable (and have the time to). At FSU, the online professors often say when their assignments are due in their syllabi, so students always know when to expect a deadline. Professors also give reminders and announcements. With in-person classes, professors usually tell students just to look at the syllabi. At most, they may remind students about assignments a week or a few days prior, but they are easy to forget about with so much going on.
Another advantage to doing online classes at FSU is the easy access to materials compared to the in-person classes. Of course, it is difficult not to be able to see professors face-to-face, with live instruction on how to do every assignment. However, only some professors are technologically advanced in utilizing Canvas. They only give information in person and if students miss one class, they can get screwed over. This often affects a student’s understanding of the material, which can make it more difficult for them. When students are doing online courses, they have access to recorded lectures from the professors themselves. Also, they are provided with YouTube links, documents, and everything they may need for success in the system. Plus, with online classes, students can easily find other professors who taught the course to get a different perspective.
The Not-So Pros
With everything, there are pros and cons, and that includes online learning. One of the disadvantages of learning online versus in the classroom is the fact that email is the only source of communication. Some professors take a while to respond to an emergency email, making it difficult to get a hold of them. On the other hand, there are office hours with physical classes where students can always speak to the professor before and after class if needed. Sometimes, they may even offer a tutor or teacher’s assistant to assist one-on-one with assignments. Unfortunately, not all online instructors have the time to help out students for various and understandable reasons, but that is part of the whole learning-and-teaching-yourself environment aspect of classes.
Another negative to being online is simply that the environment is not an academic setting. As a visual learner, I have to see information with a physical textbook and color-coding system to process what I am looking at. Because of this, I sometimes struggle with online classes where everything is on the internet, with no physical sources. Even our textbook is online. Getting a physical copy can take all the way to the end of the semester, which often makes it feel like it’s not worth ordering. Even though it may be easier, as previously stated, there’s a chance students are probably not processing the information as effectively as they can, which can affect their grades in the class. Everyone has different needs and aspects that will help them succeed. I was lucky enough to make it work by printing many copies of assignments and Quizlets.
At the end of the day, this decision is based on what your individual goal is and what your preference is with these types of classes. If you wish to have a classroom setting where you can move at your own pace and flexibility, online may work for you. What matters is that you are doing what is best for you at that moment. Of course, it can switch from online to in-person or vice versa, but you can always experiment and see what works for you.