Online learning inhibits student success

Saddleback College student, Chase Panning, opens his computer as he gets ready to start his online work for the day. Stacey Simon/Courtesy

Online learning and increased workload has caused college students to lose motivation in their studies, impairing their college experience and making it more difficult to fulfill their educational goals. 

The coronavirus has killed over 225,000 people in the United States, and in response, colleges and universities have migrated classes to online platforms. As a result, students are finding themselves struggling to grapple with the drastic changes in their learning environment. 

Online classes have their advantages and disadvantages. For some students, the stress of online learning is exacerbated by their inability to create a workspace free of distraction.

Oftentimes, obstacles resulting from poor internet connectivity, technical difficulties, rowdy siblings or children, home improvement or small workspaces can impede a student’s ability to complete all of their work or maintain focus on essential Zoom lecture meetings. With a pandemic that has no foreseeable end, studying in public spaces, such as libraries or coffee shops, is nearly impossible for students who live with loved ones, so they are left to their own devices. 

Because professors themselves are also trying to adapt to the lack of interaction with their students, they are compensating by adding more material to their lessons. While certain students may appreciate this form of learning, others feel that the extra work does not facilitate learning but rather inhibits it.

“Jamming more material in one’s brain doesn’t actually help retain it,” said Elizabeth Sinclair, a senior biology student at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. “It gets rough; I wake up at 6 a.m. and do not finish until 11 p.m. and, even then, more work could be done. I don’t blame the teachers completely; administration at my school is more concerned about winning football games than the mental health of their students.”

Students like Sinclair are in a constant state of worry about their chances of success in their courses. There is little face-to-face interaction with professors,  and they rarely receive sufficient feedback on their assignments. 

“At this point, it’s almost as if I’m memorizing and regurgitating content for zero feedback,” Sinclair said. “Honestly, it’s a circle of hell. You spend time putting in work for 17 hours a day, and sometimes you get a terrible grade because you are trying to juggle all your classes.” 

Online classes can be bewildering because, without regular class meetings, it can be challenging to remember what is due and what has changed.

“It’s a little harder to keep track of deadlines,” said Nathan Diaz, an international student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. “I have to constantly be on the lookout. It’s as if you’re allocating a small portion of your time to make sure that you’re not missing deadlines”

Remote learning is infamous for being more difficult because of the inherent lack of direct interaction with classmates and professors and the challenges that come with trying to get in contact with professors that are juggling hundreds of other students. For students who have obtained scholarships for their studies there is even more pressure to maintain high-grade point averages for the duration of their schooling. 

“I have a scholarship, a very competitive one,” Diaz said. “I took up my normal 16 credits, yet I feel like I’m taking 23 credits. Since the beginning of the semester, I had the chance to take a total of two days off.”

Being away from the classroom means losing the benefits that it provides, such as the social environment, assistance from classmates and immediate answers to questions. Testing online is a new experience for some students to become accustomed to.

“When you take a test online, you worry about a handful of other things, such as your internet stability, or having someone knocking on your door during an exam,” Diaz said.

For freshmen students who expected to move out of their hometowns and attend university out of state, staying motivated is more difficult than ever before. Taking courses from home can make them feel stagnant and prone to procrastination.

“I wake up in the morning and immediately start my calculus class at 7 a.m.,” said Marlene Raffy, a freshman at Buffalo State College. “I always end up sleeping until noon after my first class and then I don’t start my homework until 6 p.m. It’s so hard to get out of bed and this is something I’ve never had to deal with before.” 

Students feel unfulfilled in their studies, which consequently makes them lose motivation. A lack of interaction with students and professors further inhibits their abilities to succeed and makes it all the more difficult to achieve the academic goals they had set for themselves.