Online School: Thoughts From a Student 1 Year Later

We are now officially one year into online schooling and I think I speak for all students when I say that I’m over it. The initial joy of being able to do class in bed in my pajamas has faded and the harsh reality that I may be finishing my degree over Zoom is starting to sink in. This year has been tough on everyone, but especially on students. We were thrown into a new learning environment overnight, with little accommodation or understanding from professors or even the university itself. We have been paying the same tuition, while getting a lower quality education, and we are expected to perform the same tasks and assignments without the same resources and one-on-one interactions with peers and professors. Regardless, after one year of online learning, I have learned a lot about myself and my program. This has been a year of trial and error, growth and independence. Here are some things that I have figured out both about myself and online learning.

Organization

I have always considered myself to be a very organized person, but this year has shown me that you can never have enough planners and calendars. I discovered that using the calendar app on my phone is the only way that I will remember where I need to be and when. Trying to balance two part-time jobs on top of full-time schooling has always been a struggle, but when things moved online, it became even more difficult. Now I get reminders alerting me of when I have class, when I have work and when I need to take some time to relax. Yes… I schedule time to relax. This newfound organization has kept me on top of things and if you struggle with time management, I highly recommend using your phone’s calendar app.

Motivation

The most difficult part of online schooling has been finding the motivation to go to class and complete assignments. To me, school doesn’t feel real and therefore, the assignments don’t feel real. It has been almost impossible to motivate myself to complete schoolwork or go to class, but I have found that rewarding myself with a break after has worked well. I force myself to work on a paper for a few hours, and then I get to relax and watch an episode of something before returning to the assignment. While this strategy doesn’t necessarily address the lack of motivation, it has done its job in making sure that I complete my work.

Independence

Independence is never something that I struggled with in the past, but this year has tested my ability to work completely alone with little to no guidance. When classes were in person, I would never be on my phone or talk because I knew that the professor could see me and that I would be distracting to peers. Now, without that pressure, I only have my own conscience holding me back from messing around during class. I also miss having the professor or TA there to go over things that don’t make sense or to restate points in a different way. Without this in-person teaching, I have turned to YouTube videos, online summaries and friends in my class for extra support. It is very hard to teach yourself a class, but I think most students this year have found themselves in that position. While it has definitely sparked a growth in independence, it will be nice to have more support when classes return to an in-person format.

This year has taught me that I am capable of so much more than I have ever thought I was. As students in our early 20s, this is supposed to be the best time of our lives. Everyone looks forward to university, expecting it to be four years filled with making new friends, partying all night and making life-long memories. However, for my peers and I, that experience has been taken away from us. If you’re like me and your roommates didn’t come back to live at school, then you likely have also spent the majority of the past year living alone and having little social interaction. It is especially hard to see people around you break the rules and live life as they please. This experience has been an eye-opening journey and I think we will all come out of this stronger, better people.