A Shift in Learning: The challenge of Online Classes
Written by: Divsha Pillai | Edited by: Sithara Naidoo
Since the start of provincial restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students have had to make an abrupt transition to the unfamiliar world of online learning. Now, almost a year after the initial switch, we are experiencing it all over again. While the rushed transition was certainly not ideal, it gives me a chance to compare my different experiences with both in-person and distance learning and to reflect on some of the most significant differences between the two.
Communication and Face to Face Interaction
The switch to online classes makes communicating trying to engage in class challenging. Although teachers are doing their best to make the class as interactive as possible, I feel like communicating face to face allows me to have more meaningful conversations about my learning, compared to interacting through a Google Meet screen. It is much easier to ask questions and have conversations about my learning directly face to face and having to stare at 27 profile pictures for 45 minutes of class everyday quickly becomes dull. Overall, conversations do not feel as natural through a screen and I find that this discourages me from participating in class.
Having in-person classes with my friends and classmates is also a lot more interesting and makes collaborating on projects and homework a lot more engaging. I find that I am able to participate in class conversations and ask more questions in an environment where I feel more comfortable participating.
Ability to Focus
During the initial transition to online classes, I expected that staying focused on a video call would be as easy as staying focused in class, however I was quickly proven wrong. I noticed that I would frequently get distracted. Since the Google Meets got boring quickly, I found myself easily distracted by my phone as there was nobody there to remind me to stay on task.
While I appreciated the fact that our teachers would often give us entire class periods designated for completing work, I found myself wasting time thinking that I would “just do it later.” Overall, I felt that seeing my classmates working around me when in person motivated me to get my own work done as well, increasing my productivity, which makes online learning so much more difficult and isolating.
Before schools closed, my daily routine was planned around going to school and getting work done on time before the next day. When learning shifted online, I felt a bit more relaxed as I did not have to adhere to a strict schedule anymore. However, homework kept piling up as I put each assignment off to the side. Although I had the time to complete it, I could not bring myself to sit down and do it as I thought I could complete it a bit closer to the due date.
This usually did not happen to me during my in-person classes as I held myself accountable for completing each assignment on time. When my routine encountered an unexpected change, my time management skills were also negatively affected. This could be attributed to the feeling of “pandemic fatigue,” where being stuck in the same routine for months leads to a lack of motivation and exhaustion. Even though I try my best to stay focused, it can often be a challenge.
Generally, I am a lot more comfortable with in-person learning as I learn best in an environment where I am surrounded with people and am able to have face to face conversations. Although online learning is currently the safest and best option for students at a time when schools are closed, I am not able to learn to the best of my ability. I definitely look forward to going back in-person when it is finally safe to do so!