Online Learning: The Pros and Cons

This stack of books is a few of many that are still being used during online learning. Students have to take the time to teach themselves using the class materials (Photo by Akaiia Ridley).

On March 12, Albion College made the decision to switch to online learning to halt the spread of the COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus. Albion College provost Marc Roy sent out the following statement:

Beginning Monday (March 16), we will transform all courses to online courses for the remainder of the semester.  Faculty members most familiar with the appropriate technologies will be among the first to move their courses to an online format.”

After days of refreshing their emails and the information site and waiting for this very announcement, many students finally saw the message they were waiting for while others saw one that they hoped would never come. 

The switch to online learning means that students are responsible for completing assignments by given due dates and, in some cases, getting on Google Meet or Zoom for lectures from professors. 

Pros of Online Learning

The excitement from many students came from the fact that they are no longer required to be on campus and go to classes. Despite the engaging experience students get from being face to face with our professors, sometimes waking up and getting dressed for a class deters motivation. 

Brenda Rucobo, a junior from Chicago, Ill., is back in the comfort of her own home. Rucobo is able to get up when she wants and does her homework at her own pace. 

“I am able to go through at my own pace. I can work around my schedule, and I have more control over my environment,” said Rucobo. 

Class interaction is also made simpler through online learning. Oftentimes, students may not be open to sharing their thoughts and questions in front of everyone. Many find it easier to send their professors’ quick emails or use the chat feature on the video calls. Online learning eliminates the worry about looking into the sea of faces and feeling judgment. 

Online learning is also a time to teach self-responsibility and management skills. Not all professors provide virtual lectures, so assignments are simply given to students, and students are responsible to complete them on time. Without the responsibility of getting up to go to class, students have to motivate themselves to get up and make sure they do the assignments given before the due dates. 

Cons of Online Learning

Just as it is complicated for professors to learn how to work the technology required for an online class, outstanding circumstances make the same issue difficult for students as well. Some students might not have internet access in their homes. Other boundaries, such as work or responsibilities at home, might hinder them from being full-time students as well. 

Another shortcoming of the online system is that it is hard to get in touch with professors. Instead of having in-person office hours, students now have to depend on contact through emails in order to receive answers to questions or for further explanation on assignments. 

Since the transition, students now have fewer opportunities for social interaction. Going home may mean students get to see old friends in the summertime.  However, since the school year is still in progress, not only are all students focused on doing their homework, but the executive order by Governor Gretchen Whitmer advises against gatherings of people. This makes it impossible to see friends, especially if students want to stay safe.

“The lack of ‘outside of class’ social opportunities makes it harder for me to feel self-motivation,” said ShaQuoria Thompson, a sophomore from Waxahachie, Texas. 

Lack of interaction coincides with a lack of motivation. Without group texts and coming across people in the library asking for help, it is hard to feel any sense of motivation, especially when the only physical companion in the class with students is potentially their dogs. 

An additional lack of motivation comes from getting up and logging on to a computer in the comfort of one’s own home. Students barely feel like getting up and out of their dorm rooms, so just imagine what it’s like for students to force themselves out of their comfortable beds in their homes.

“Especially that you don’t have to physically get up and walk to class, it makes it harder to get up in the morning and feel prepared,” said Thompson.

The time difference is a big adaptation for students as well. Many of Albion’s student population does not live in the EST time zone, so an 8 a.m. class may fall at 5 a.m. for students in California, and 9:15 classes will be at 8:15 for students in Chicago. 

“I do have one live class, so the time differences really affect me when I turn in assignments and get onto live classes,” Rucobo said.

In reality

Albion is not a typical online institution. This switch would not have likely occurred if the state of emergency had not been put in place. 

The semester is almost over, so students will not have to deal with the pros and cons of online learning for much longer. It is important that all students work together to make this transition as smooth as possible for the remainder of the semester. 

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