McMicken (copy)

The College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Cincinnati.

Right now, students around the world are experiencing the unprecedented impact of COVID- 19. From school closures to online lectures and classwork, this pandemic has put an enormous strain on students and completely changed how we all go about our academics. It feels as though the workload is never-ending, and the assignments keep coming at us. However, behind all this online work, is there any real learning going on?

Many students feel that school has become an endless cycle of nearly missing deadlines, quickly doing assignments, hitting submit before 11:59 and hoping for the best. Compared to in-person classes, which are much more hands-on in nature, virtual learning provides many more opportunities for students to fall behind. Once you’re behind or are struggling to keep up, it starts to feel like school is just a bunch of busywork as the pressure builds on you. 

It’s hard to carve out specific time for each class with work and other extracurriculars, unlike when you could schedule an in-person class for a set time each day. Squeezing in schoolwork whenever you’re not at work severely inhibits the amount of information you can absorb. In combination with possible food or housing insecurity because of COVID-19, it’s nearly impossible to feel like you’re genuinely learning anything. 

A study done by Jessica Heppen at the American Institute for Research found that students, especially those already struggling with in-person classes, are much more likely to fail online courses. Further, their studies indicate that students who take the same class online and in-person find the online version more difficult, even with the same coursework. I definitely see that concept playing out right now with online school.

Students aren’t the only ones feeling left behind, though. Many professors and teachers were utterly unprepared to be thrown entirely online this semester. For those who have never taught virtual lectures or uploaded all of their classwork online, there’s a learning curve there, as well. Since this pandemic is one of the most impactful events in many of our lifetimes, you can’t expect the first semester back at school to go smoothly. Teachers have never encountered an obstacle like this before. Everyone needs to be comfortable and informed before we go back to legitimate education.

Overall, I think the worst feeling to have – which is, unfortunately, common for so many students right now – is being overwhelmed. Trying your best to keep up with classes when you don’t excel naturally at online learning can be tough on students’ mental health and grades. Without the persistent pressure and motivation from going into class every day and meeting with a teacher, online learning is easier to brush off or forget about. Disengaged students are not going to consume information like they would in a class they care about.

I think the only thing we can do right now is wait – either for this pandemic to end or for society to fully adapt to virtual learning. It’s unfair to pin this year of academics permanently on students. Before COVID-19, there were valid reasons students deliberately chose not to take online classes, and that doesn’t just go away since everyone is online. Until students have a robust support system of professors and counselors who are more familiar with school during this pandemic, you can’t expect the most out of us right now.