Have you ever thought that it would be nice to have your school classes online, at the comfort of your home, rather than going to school? Well, when I was a child that was what I wanted, but now that I am living it, I would definitely think about it twice. It is so sad to even think about the current health situation we are facing right now, and so impressive to realize how much the COVID-19 pandemic has changed my life and everybody else’s life, particularly in academia. COVID-19 has directly affected thousands and thousands of students around the globe by urging them to leave their rooms at dormitories, depriving them of socializing with other people, and moving their studies to online courses. There is a tremendous difference between taking classes sitting on a chair, surrounded by your classmates, and taking classes at your studio or dining table with a coffee in hand. The idea of attending class wearing your pajamas and having your refrigerator a few feet from you sounds like a good deal; however, not everything is rosy. After almost three weeks of self-isolation and taking online classes, I will venture to say that I really miss going to a classroom and seeing other people’s faces.
Let’s start from the very beginning
Before the spread of the novel virus became a matter of national security in every country, you could see me happily jumping from one classroom to another to take my normal classes. My daily life was quite interesting and joyful. I would wake-up early in the morning to get ready to take breakfast at the dining hall of the dormitory where I was residing and go to school after a good meal. Writing at 9:00 AM is my first class of the day, followed by Grammar class at 11:00 AM, and Listening and Speaking class at 2:00 PM. Greeting my professors and my fellow students was something habitual when I arrived at the class; I also constantly enjoyed walking along with hundreds of college students from one building to another. I liked the feeling of being part of a great community as The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin). Moreover, there was a nice mood that could be felt within the classrooms, which was guided by hunger for knowledge and desire for improvement. Also, in-class activities were more dynamic and interesting than the online ones I’m experiencing right now; I could interact with my friends and ask questions of my instructors if needed. Although the courses are still the same now, merely being in front of a computer screen all day long changes the way you learn new things and the attitude you have during class; in a few words, everything just changed.
Online classes are the great catalyst to value in-person classes
In the following 407 words I will tell you why in my opinion virtual courses are not nearly as good as in-person classes. First, learning something through a virtual course is much more difficult. It is needless to say that one of the purposes of attending school is to acquire new information and broaden your knowledge; nonetheless, trying to learn new things through online classes has been hard for me. The lack of concentration has been present most of the time during class time, and there are plenty of distractions that do not help me to stay focused. Either messages, social media notifications, or a good talk with my family have been three of my worst enemies in my pursuit of knowledge and ones that I did not have when I was in a classroom. In addition, I have had plenty of trouble with multitasking. Lately, the feeling of wanting to multitask has conquered me because virtual classes give you the ease of jumping between windows in your computer, but there are downsides. At the beginning I thought that it would be easy to be in class and at the same time respond to important e-mails or complete other assignments, but then I realized that while I was focused on completing a pending task, my productiveness in class was decreasing. In other words, multitasking is more difficult when the professor applies the classroom rules and prevents students from having their minds on other matters.
Another problem that I have had with online classes is my constant fight with technology failures. In addition to my close family members, there are more relatives currently living in my home due to the COVID-19 threat, so this makes the wifi connection much slower than before. Also, my young brother is currently taking online classes, so this makes it even harder to have smooth online conferences without internet connection issues. Furthermore, there are classes that require the presence and interaction of students; my Reading and Discussion class is one of those. The core of this class is mostly to read articles and news, and discuss them, which is something that is tough to do online. Interrupting is an essential factor within team discussions, so by the time we have this type of activity, confusion becomes an obstacle for success during discussions. Now, my Reading and Discussion class is not the same as it was two months ago, and I really miss to exchange opinions with my fellow students.
Even though I have strong claims against online classes, I need to acknowledge the hard work that institutions and faculty staff have done to make this new reality work. It must have been such a challenge for the faculty staff to adapt all their coursework into online versions, so I truly admire that. I admire their dedication and willingness to do whatever it takes for us as students to have a better education, but I especially admire the incredible work that UT Austin, being a large-size university with over 50,000 students, has done to have our studies keep going. Finally, I like the Zoom platform, which is the online tool we have been using to have our meetings; I think Zoom is a complex and well-elaborated yet easy-to-navigate platform that is successfully providing its services to thousands of institutions around the world.
We are living in a temporary situation
For all of the above reasons, I think that online classes are not nearly as good as in-person classes. There are a number of external factors that take place in this delicate situation and that are beyond our possibilities to change. I like to think that we are living in a temporary situation with the purpose of teaching us something, and when everything gets back to normality, we will be better human beings. In the meantime, let’s look at the bright side of online classes and be strong as we navigate through these difficult times.
Miguel Angel Cornelio Martínez from Mexico City, Mexico, is studying an intensive English language program at The University of Texas at Austin. He has been residing in the United States for seven months and will start his college studies in August 2020.