I’ve never felt more like a freshman on this campus than on the first day of in-person classes. I left my dorm about 30 minutes early and chased around my Google Maps until I made it to class by some miraculous coincidence. The anxiousness and excitement that I felt around being back in a classroom were feelings that I had long forgotten after a year of attending classes in my pajama bottoms. Before I knew it, the class was diving into material and I kept getting flashbacks about the last few days of high school before the pandemic had started. The end of the class eventually rolled around and there was an odd lingering feeling of awkwardness that followed me even after I left the room. While this had to do with many factors (including the fact that we can’t mute ourselves and turn our cameras off after a hard question anymore…) I wondered why it felt so weird to resume back into our old, normal habits. I started to wonder if maybe I actually learn better online.
After that first day of class, I immediately thought of my sister. Living about 2 hours away, she’s currently striving to represent America in the International Ballet Competition, the Prix de Lausanne. She typically practices ballet for about six to eight hours a day and it’s safe to say that it consumes her entire life.
So when virtual instruction first began, she seemed to thrive with online classes. She was able to take significantly more dance classes and online teachers outlined exactly what was due far in advance. Her overall schedule was truly her own and the positive aspects of virtual learning far outweighed the negative ones. When the option for her to go back to high school in person came this fall, she decided to switch schools and pursue an online academy.
My sister’s choice to pursue education online never seemed so bold until I realized how in-person classrooms were treated like a norm that we are always trying to get back to. The awkwardness of in-person classes forced me to reflect on the certain positive and negative aspects of having one style of learning that students were expected to follow. After an entire year and a half of trying to get accustomed to a new form of learning, so many current undergraduate students faced the realization that there is no inherently better form of educational instruction. In-person classes and virtual classes may simply just be catering to our own individual learning styles.
After a few weeks of instruction, the initial awkwardness and nervousness around college classes have faded but it has become clear that our current educational systems may have never fully considered if the classroom setting might be restricting someone’s academic potential by not considering their unique learning methods. If these characteristics of online classes were better suited to one’s own individual learning style, then it seems strange that a classroom setting is treated like a one size fits all for undergrads!
So right now, if you are struggling with your transition back to in-person classes, maybe entertain the idea that in-person formats may go against your specific learning modality. I hope that we, as current undergrads, can raise the point that one teaching method is not guaranteed to be better than another depending on the learner. While this period of change is going to no doubt be challenging, I believe that thinking about classes in this way might give us the unique opportunity to learn more about ourselves and how we personally get the most out of our education!