With campuses closed throughout the country, an unprecedented number of students have begun taking their college classes online. While many of these students are struggling with online learning, some have come to realize they actually enjoy online classes more than traditional learning.
To better understand the advantages of virtual learning, we spoke with four students who prefer the screen to the classroom.
Gabriella | Senior Studying Criminology at University of South Florida
“I began taking courses fully online last winter. Not only had I switched my major, I also needed to start working full-time, so moving to online courses seemed more feasible than juggling in-person classes with a 40-hour work week.
“Having come from mainly in-person courses, I was a little apprehensive about keeping up with assignments and retaining information. I was hoping that the online coursework would allow me to be more flexible with my schedule and learning environment, and it was.
“After the winter session, I solidified that online learning was a better option for me. I was able to do work at my own speed, wherever I wanted. I could do class work at my job during lunch, at home, or go out somewhere else. If I wanted to visit family, I could do it without having to worry about going to class. Plus, there is always the perk that if you don’t feel like getting dressed, you don’t have to!
“The flexibility of online learning has eased a lot of stress for me. I work full-time, 8am to 4pm every day. My office is about a 40-minute drive to and from work, so at the end of the day I can come home, change clothes, and do homework at my own pace. And if I’m tired from work, instead of having to go to a class right after, I can relax and do work the next day.
“Having to attend in-person classes on top of a 40-hour work week would have been physically and mentally draining.”
Online Learning Tips
“The very first must of online classes is not letting yourself get into the habit of procrastinating, especially with a full course load. Assignments will definitely pile up and you will be overwhelmed. To help stay on top of your workload, always keep a calendar with all of your assignments and their due dates, and look at it every day.
“If possible, schedule when you’re going to do what work by assigning it a day and time. If you have trouble understanding something, reach out to your professor, and if they aren’t responsive, take a look at the internet. Someone has probably made a YouTube video about the very thing you’re studying, especially if it’s math or science. And if not, ask your peers!”
Jim | Studying Physics at a Southwestern University
“I love online classes.
“I’ve lived off campus for three years, and the travel time could be a killer, especially if I had 9ams and had to deal with the morning work rush. Plus, my classes were usually on opposite sides of campus, so I would have to hoof it to make it on time. That meant a significant amount of my day was spent just traveling, so I really couldn’t study or do work until after my classes were done.
“Now, I can just wake up a minute before class begins and pop up my laptop to join the lecture.
“The 30 minutes in-between classes (an increase from 20 minutes during normal semesters) gives me enough time to study a chapter, do a problem on an assignment, make some food, or do a couple of chores.
“It’s now way easier for me to go to office hours, since it’s just a matter of clicking the Zoom link.”
“Online classes also make it much easier to study, because the professors are now required to actually give us study material. For some classes, that doesn’t make much of a difference, but a lot of the older professors would only teach their class from the notes they wrote on the board. So if you couldn’t see the board because you were way in the back, or because they went too fast, or they just rambled on and never got around to actually talking about anything important, it would screw you over come study time.
“Not anymore though. Plus, even if they still only give notes by white board, I can at least record the lecture and go back and review it in my own time.
“Furthermore, it’s now way easier for me to go to office hours, since it’s just a matter of clicking the Zoom link. I don’t have to spend 30 minutes looking for a random room in an unfamiliar building and running there hoping the professor is in.
“Another thing that has gotten much better is exams. Even taking into account proctoring software such as Honorlock (which is basically spyware), professors have had to restructure their exams around the fact that students will be taking it online. This means that most of my tough classes, wherein exams would ordinarily be a 50 or 75 minute closed book panic session of anxiety and fear, have now switched to open book take home exams.
“Are they tougher? Yes. But they cause way less anxiety because I can focus on studying the concepts and learning overall ideas instead of wasting time memorizing formulas just in case I needed them. And I can use the extra time I have on the exam to really think about each problem and give a quality effort. This is as opposed to the old ‘maximize points’ style, where you just answer the easiest questions first, and as quickly as possible.
“Even the classes that have opted not to make their exams open book and use proctoring software have been forced to make the exams easier by changing them to simple multiple choice or fill in the blank. Why? If a test taker has to spend time working out a solution while being monitored by proctoring software, the software detects that you’re not looking at the screen, and often flags this as cheating. This has caused at least one of my professors to switch back from proctored to unproctored exam formats.”
Jesskomar | Junior Studying Sociology and Public Policy at Rutgers
“I’ve been taking online classes since the spring.
“At first I struggled to adapt to online classes, as I had a heavy course load and the pandemic put everything in my life on pause. However, as the spring progressed, I found myself relishing the freedom that online learning has given me.
“I suffer from depression, so sometimes getting out of bed and cramming myself into an overcrowded bus is hard. Online learning has allowed me to learn from the comfort of my own home, which limits the impact depression has on my education. Plus, it’s saved me a bunch of hours walking to the bus stop, taking the bus, walking from the bus stop to class, and so on.
“I also struggle with focus, so being able to end class and go right to work on my laptop is very helpful. Otherwise, I’d have to take the bus back home after class, and by the time I got home, I might not be as motivated to return to the material.
Online Learning Tips
“My advice to other students transitioning to online learning is to pace themselves. I stay on my laptop in two to three hour increments, and I dedicate specific amounts of time to each and every class I have.
“I also recommend avoiding electronic distractions, which constantly demand your attention and continually tax your focus — especially if you stay inside most of the day. I shut my phone off when I’m in class or about to study, and I study in complete solitude. If that’s not possible for you, I would recommend investing in a good pair of earphones and use something like classical music or pink noise to drown out the noisy environment.”
Jack | Junior Studying Bioengineering at North Carolina A&T University
“When I first heard I was going to be taking online courses, I was a little hesitant. I had been a decent student, and worried that changing environments would cause issues for me academically. My biggest concerns were not being able to comprehend the material and not being able to focus on the work if I was not physically in a classroom. However, I was very excited to be able to work at my own pace.
“I began liking online classes when I realized how much more freedom came with them. I was suddenly able to take my courses in my own home, at my own desk, and make the space I was in as comfortable as possible.
“I also realized how much I enjoyed working ahead. Instead of waiting for the instructor to assign work, in an online course, I could have access to all the assignments at once and block out time to get everything done.
“My biggest concerns were not being able to comprehend the material and not being able to focus on the work if I was not physically in a classroom. However, I was very excited to be able to work at my own pace.”
“I found this especially helpful for my math classes. No longer did I have to wait for the instructor to cover a certain subject before I could do the homework. No longer did I have to wait to ask questions in class. Online, I can approach learning the way I want to. I now have the liberty to structure how I approach the content instead of being locked into the typical pattern.
“As an engineering student, I have found that online courses also really helped when it came to group projects. People are usually much more accessible when scheduling a Zoom meeting than meeting in person. Schedules differ from one person to the next, and not being restricted by in-person meetings has greatly improved my experiences with engineering projects.
“I also think that being in online courses has helped my time management outside of school. I was never a big procrastinator, but after having taken so many online courses, I now feel that I’m more apt to do something as soon as I can rather than put it off.
Online Learning Tips
“The biggest piece of advice I could give regarding online courses is to stay focused. When you’re on a Zoom call, it’s very easy to check your phone, do laundry, or get up and get a snack. But those things pull you away from your course work and can leave students confused and needing to make up for lost time.
“Try preparing for the class as if you’re going to be there longer than expected. Bring a snack, have your computer plugged in, go to the bathroom; anything to make sure you can stay focused on just the lecture.
“As far as homework goes, my biggest advice would be to do it as quickly as possible. This not only gives you time to ask questions on material you may not yet understand, it also gives you time to troubleshoot technical issues, should any arise at the last second.
For Customized Help with College
Even if you prefer online classes, there’s no reason to tackle everything alone. 1-on-1 tutoring is a flexible, convenient, and highly effect resource that can help you stay on top of your workload and make the most out of your remote college journey.