Online school’s effect on college students

Remote learning has brought on many additional challenges for college students

Moving on into December, the end of the year is almost here. It has been a year filled with economic disaster, a global pandemic and changes to everyday life that have no ending in sight. Stress comes in waves of shutdowns and COVID-19 swabs and for many students, daily routines of getting ready and heading to class were cathartic. 

Little rituals like putting on clothes or putting on makeup provided some students with a release from whatever else was going on in their lives. After schools across the country shut down to slow down the raging spread COVID-19, many students’ education hung in the balance.

“Transitioning to online school was really strange for me,” said Brooke Stahl, a first-year student at Saddleback College. “I couldn’t see the other students and make connections like I did in the past in in-person public school. As an introvert, this was really overwhelming at times.”

When the topic of her senior year came up, Stahl admits that it was disappointing even if she is “actually doing better because I have more time to focus on my work.”

“It was sad to miss the end of my senior year and the festivities that came with it, like prom and graduation, however I think knowing that things would be likely entirely online made it easier to choose Saddleback,” Stahl said.

Stahl’s realization that her work is getting better while at home is an outlier in comparison to a majority of other responses. Students are feeling overwhelmed with stress and anxiety, as shown by a survey of 2,500 students by University Business.

The survey focused on student’s mental health across the United States as sustained COVID-19 infections kept college campuses closed, forcing students to learn remotely. The  results show a generation of students who are breaking in response to online learning, but with the coronavirus only increasing in cases, alternative options are scarce.

According to the survey, 75% of students are feeling more anxious or stressed as well as 60% reporting that online school has been a negative experience so far. Among the results published, the three top causes of stress and anxiety were “uncertainty about the future of their education, falling behind in their coursework and struggling with remote learning.”

“The transition was really rough and still is honestly,” said Kim Aldama, a student at American Career College. “Going all online has definitely hurt me especially because what I’m learning now is the most important subject and it can’t really be learned and understood with just lectures online. I try to stay motivated by remembering that I’m not the only person struggling and having to adjust to the situation.”

Missing out on hands-on learning as well as social interactions is a theme for online classes, with an emphasis on “missing out.” For students, no matter how far along in their education, the change has been a huge impact.

While discussion of reopening schools is ongoing, the harsh reality is that data shows online classes to be the safest alternative while COVID-19 surges across the country. Still, the motivation to get class work done while at home is lacking for many students.

This is especially the case for transfer students who never got the college experience of a four-year university. Some students already felt like they missed out on their first two years, but after working to transfer and then having to resort to online classes, it can be a let down.

“Knowing I had to physically have something ready for an in person class pushed me to get things done,” said Maria Marquez, a fourth-year student at California State University, Fullerton. “I wish I was on campus for this last year. As a transfer student I didn’t get 3 years before this, I had one more and this year was all online.”

End of the year ceremonies like graduation are something like a light at the end of the tunnel for students. Zoom celebrations and events allow for some closure, but traditional events won’t be held in the same ways for some time.

“We didn’t have anything similar to graduation,” said Olivia Bennett, who graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara this year. “We had this online ceremony where just your name came up with your degree, but I didn’t even watch it. A lot of people didn’t watch it; it definitely felt like I was missing out.”

Although the time at home may be affecting some student’s performances in school, many students have been able to give more time to other interests. 

“Being at home also gives me a little more free time that I would’ve spent getting ready and driving to class to focus on my hobbies or other interests,” said Natalie Wilde, a student at Palomar college and online content creator.

While cases of the coronavirus exponentially rise in the United States, the majority of schools in California remain online. The negative impacts of remote learning may be starting to show already, but moving forward students and educators will have to adapt to the new platform.