While some classes have returned to in person instruction recently, I intentionally signed up for classes that would be taught entirely online, something I’m extremely glad I could do.
Initially I had concerns about having to transition to online classes. I’d spent my entire academic career in a classroom, so the prospect of completely changing that was definitely intimidating. Like many, I had some difficulties with the first transition last spring, but I soon found myself enjoying the online classroom far more. It had benefits that were not immediately seen but became more clear the longer online classes lasted.
Having become a commuter student at the beginning of last year, I had become used to not spending as much time on campus when UMW made the decision to transition to an online format and as a result, I didn’t feel the effects as much as some others may have. The only times I went to campus was for classes, so not having to make that trip every day was beneficial for many reasons.
In addition to saving gas and not having to get up as early, I’ve found myself more motivated in general. Going to class doesn’t feel like as much of a burden now, and because of this I feel more attentive and in tune to what’s being taught. The ability to get up right before a class and still be on time greatly reduces the discomfort of morning classes, something I always avoided when I was on campus.
As an English major, almost all of the work I have to do is done online and submitted through Canvas anyway, so there was no major change to the way I completed and submitted my work. While I’m sure it was more difficult to transition for those majoring in fields that required labs, I found no real difference in the completion and submission of assignments. In fact, it made certain aspects easier, such as turning in multiple drafts and doing the occasional group project.
I’ve also found things like office hours more easily accessible. Professors have been extremely accommodating in my experience and office hours can almost always be conducted via Zoom or another video chat application. This has encouraged me to make more office hours as it’s easier to schedule and attend. While before I may have had to return to campus or a certain building at an inconvenient time, I can now discuss any troubles I’m having in class from my kitchen table, usually at a variety of times throughout the day.
The removal of trips to campus from my schedule has also allowed me more time for things outside of academics. I’ve had more free time to work, allowing me to make a little more money which can really help with things like rent and groceries when added up. While I still have to attend the classes, it’s much less of a time commitment without a drive and walk from the parking lot to class and back. I’ve also found more time for things I enjoy doing like exercising and visiting my family.
I also took summer classes last year that would have been nearly impossible for me to complete in person due to my work schedule, but fit in perfectly due to online instruction. Things like this have actually enabled me to accelerate my progress towards graduation, something that wouldn’t have been possible before.
While I’ve enjoyed online instruction, I recognize this is not the case for everyone. I understand that the vibrant campus life that UMW has to offer is greatly missed and students who see their friends mostly on campus or live on campus have definitely been more affected than me and may not see online classes as beneficial as I do. I believe in-person instruction definitely has benefits for some and I hope UMW can fully return to normal soon, but I also believe more online options should be offered in the future as they can truly offer some great things to certain students.
By the time classes fully resume on campus, my college career will be over. I spent the majority of my time in college in a classroom on campus and no doubt made numerous memories and friends that way. I’m glad I got to experience in-person instruction and all UMW had to offer, but I’m also thankful for the unexpected benefits online classes offered me as I transition from college into the career field.