After completing the fall semester and exams in December, Hokies now have the time to reflect upon their experience taking online classes. Since classes began on Aug. 24th, many students found themselves taking classes online for the very first time. Although a small percentage initially attended class in person or participated in a hybrid format, all classes were moved online following the Thanksgiving break. From virtual labs and lectures to online homework assignments, students have had to adapt to this new learning environment throughout the semester, which was not as easy as it seemed.
Meg McCarthy, a freshman general engineering major, described her experience transitioning to college and online classes. McCarthy stated her course load is definitely heavier than what it was in high school but also different.
“In high school, it was more like you had to get this work done by a deadline, but if the deadline was the next day you were only given one or two nights to do it, whereas in college they just give you dates and you just have to get it done by that date,” McCarthy said. “That has been difficult to manage, the dates that they just throw at you.”
With classes now online, it has been hard to keep track of all the assignments. In high school, students have a set amount of days to get things done, whereas in college, it is now up to the students to schedule their time according to the deadlines. This then places more stress on students to develop better time management skills that they may not have had in high school.
McCarthy has also found online classes to be more stressful than a normal in-person learning environment.
“The teachers, normally if they meet in class, kind of base assignments around when we have class. But with online school and asynchronous, they just give you assignments whenever they want to so there’s not really this schedule anymore,” McCarthy said.
The lack of schedule poses one of the most stressful challenges for students. Asynchronous classes, or those in which there are no instruction times scheduled, are the most common culprits, as they allow students to work at their own pace. Not only are students expected to complete assignments by a specific deadline, but they have to find ways to efficiently schedule their time to do so.
Stress from online classes has also taken a toll on the mental health of students.
“It is easier to feel kind of depressed because you spend all day looking at your computer and all day working. I feel like I’ll never get work done until the semester is over,” said McCarthy.
Because students now spend the majority of their days at a desk staring at a computer screen, it can feel as though the days bleed together. You wake up, eat, work, eat again, maybe get some sleep and repeat. With the repetitive nature that comes with online classes, it is easy to lose track of time and watch as the assignments pile on top of one another. With almost a semester of online classes under their belt, it is no wonder students are lacking motivation. However, there are ways in which students can manage this stress.
“I’ve been running and exercising more. And now that I’m home I also like to play guitar, so that’s a big stress reliever for me,” McCarthy said.
Students cannot let online classes get them down. Take this time to find a new hobby, meet with friends in a socially distant manner or spend time outdoors. The fall semester may be over, but online classes are here to stay for the time being. They will also probably be as equally stressful as they were this semester, if not more. But virtual learning is what students make of it. If students can continue to find joy in the most challenging of circumstances, next semester can be just as manageable.