Sun. Sep 20th, 2020

The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Personal essay: the challenges of online classes

3 min read

Many classes have been drastically reformatted to work virtually, such as art courses. (Quinn Burghard | The Blue & Gray Press)

By QUINN BURGARD

Staff Writer

I grew up with a librarian for a mom. I was immersed in books and grammar for most of my life and I ended up loving it. Because of this, I declared myself an English major in fall of 2019. For the spring, I registered for three discussion-based English classes, intermediate Spanish, and a studio art class. I really wasn’t prepared for the way the semester was going to end up.

The first half of the semester went smoothly; I loved my classes and I did very well in all of them. But I definitely was not prepared for the transition that came with campus closing.

I had no idea how my professors were going to go about holding these classes online. I began to ask myself so many questions: How are discussions going to work? How am I supposed to learn a foreign language only through my computer? How does a studio art class work outside the studio?

Along with all of those concerns, I was losing my space. I am so lucky to have a family that graciously welcomed me back into my home and allowed me to continue my schooling from there, but it’s been two years since I have actually studied at home, let alone taken classes there.

At school, I have a routine. I have a schedule that is all my own, that I get to determine. Being in a house with three other people, two cats and a dog that barks at any slight noise changes things.

So not only have I had to adjust to distance learning, I have had to adjust to sharing my space and my time with my family. If it’s dinner time, I try my best to take a break from what I am doing to go eat with my family; but if I’m in the middle of an assignment, my parents have to understand that school comes before family time.

I am lucky enough that most of my professors have created a great system for classes, but it has still been really challenging. Zoom and Canvas discussions do not flow as well as classroom discussions do. Having to wait several hours for someone to comment on the Canvas discussion board gets frustrating, along with waiting for a gap in the conversation to contribute to a Zoom discussion. Technical difficulties, including people’s connections dropping and difficulty hearing the audio feed, can also make things challenging.

I have more time to read the novels for class, but losing the face-to-face interactions for my classes has been really difficult. My Spanish class is unorganized, making it increasingly difficult to feel as though I am getting anything out of the class at all. I wanted to minor in Spanish, but I now feel like distance learning has created too large a gap in my knowledge of the language to continue with it.

I no longer have my art professor to give me hands-on learning. I am working on a painting, and I have no experience with shading or highlights, so it’s been a lot of improvising.

It’s not all bad, though. Hard times bring people together, and everybody involved in my classes, students included, have been trying their hardest to make things work.

For my Spanish class, we made a group chat with almost every student so we can help each other keep updated with assignments. It helps me realize that I’m not the only person struggling and that gives me a sense of comradery between me and my peers.

I knew before starting with distance learning that there were going to be many challenges – and I was right. However, it’s comforting to see the way that people are working so hard to make everything work. We are all in this together; we are all fighting the same fight.

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