A loss of connection and the disadvantages of online learning

Maida Suta

When the pandemic hit, millions of students were abruptly switched to virtual learning. While some embraced the change, many struggled and felt left behind.

When catching up with old classmates in the fall of 2020, we were talking about distance learning. Hearing how much they enjoyed it and how it apparently gave them the flexibility to complete their work at their own pace, I felt puzzled.

I had a completely different experience.

At first I thought it was just a bad patch, but two years later I still didn’t enjoy my classes and it completely affected my performance as a student. All I’ve found in online learning is far less student engagement, extended screen time, distractions at home, and lack of study space, among many others. other things that today’s De Anza students need to navigate.

The stress of online learning has affected my mental health, making personal issues even more difficult to manage, leading to late homework and less focus on school.

The thought of school and learning always excited me until my bedroom became the classroom and my bed became the office. Online learning has completely changed my perspective on academics – and not in a positive way.

I believe that learning in a classroom where there are other students and a teacher to answer questions throughout the course is the most effective way to learn. It may not be fascinating to sit at a desk for an hour or two straight, but it enhances our academic experience and gives us the recognition we deserve.

Being on campus often pushed me to create a routine that I could maintain. Attending classes at set times and working on assignments in the library right after helped me stay accountable as they would be due in person the next day or two.

Another aspect of being on campus that I enjoyed and enhanced my community college experience was having a sense of community. The De Anza community of teachers, students and professors has been a big part of my growth as a student and a person. I came to school a shy person and I didn’t like putting myself in difficult situations, whether it was public speaking or being in a room with people I didn’t know.

But being in person made me face those things, and it gave me the opportunity to have encounters that I no longer have on a Zoom meeting or an asynchronous course.

I recently had the chance to attend one of De Anza’s few in-person events. Last week, the Equity Office hosted a student-run art exhibit on the theme of “solidarity.” I was able to meet new students and, to my surprise, I didn’t feel shy or nervous talking to others like I usually would. The people were welcoming, which made me realize ‌I was craving this human interaction in an in-person setting.

Chat messages and breakout rooms could never replicate that experience. These days, we meet more of our teachers at set times online and we (barely) speak to other students only when we post on discussion boards at different times of the day.

How can that be good?

I came to understand and experience what isolation can do. This will ripple through every other aspect of a student’s life. I remember hearing about students who found it difficult to make friends on campus due to the commuter nature of the population. Now, I fear that online learning has only amplified those anxieties.

We take one course and move on to the next, never fully connecting with anything outside of our bedroom.

Unfortunately, the majority of my online courses were also only offered asynchronously, which really disappointed me as I had to learn concepts on my own. Unlike when I started college, for the classes I took synchronously, I remember how we could come together and learn as a group.

It doesn’t seem like anyone else is relating to this issue, so I’m writing this in hopes it reaches others.

Remote learning has been a challenge for me, and I hope any other student who resonates with my experience knows that they are not alone and that their difficulties are not entirely on their own. Until the college commits to offering an in-person experience, I recommend contacting professors outside of office hours and using the free consulting services. You can still succeed in your education.