Online Learning

I had commuted to school delighted. What would’ve taken an hour (and then some) only took me near 45 minutes once again. The lack of people on the buses also meant the trip was quieter. I knew why. It was the known, yet unknown virus which had put people off from all public transport. I wasn’t too worried though because seriously, how bad could it be? At 3:00 PM, in a near empty cafeteria, I was surprised to learn that my learning would now be online. While my friends and I argued how long it would last, we never truly looked towards what this meant for our education. Some argued it was better while me and many others argued it would be worse. As of September 20, 2020, I still wonder how much longer this will last and don’t truly understand what’s going on.

One thing I am slowly understanding are the consequences of online learning. Haven taken a semester and a half online, I’ve decided to share some of the pro’s and con’s of this learning format.

Accessibility and Interaction

It should go without saying that resources we require as students to succeed in a class are much more accessible now. You don’t even need to go to live lectures anymore with the introduction of recordings. Similarly, live lectures allow you to interact with the professor in ways that wouldn’t have been possible before. Just having a chat box where you can ask your question to the professor in real time and get a response on the spot makes it so much more convenient.

But while this newfound interaction is quite convenient indeed, it comes at a cost. It’s simple enough to ask general and short questions through audio or keyboard, but it becomes increasingly harder to communicate effectively over longer questions. One might argue that video is still an option but unless you’ve got a whiteboard or something of the sorts, good luck trying to write out anything readable.

The cost of freedom

Online learning allows you the freedom of choice with what you want to do. Want to have two tabs open at once to go through the lecture and lecture notes at once? Go for it. Want to listen to music at the same time as the tutorial? Might hinder you but is still on the cards. Want to leave and go play video games? You really shouldn’t but who’s stopping you. The ability to simply close whatever I’m supposed to be doing and open what I want to be doing is incentive enough for me at times to be a little off task. I also find myself day-dreaming and losing focus many times during long lectures.

Programming occurs on the computer and therefore asking a computer science student about the effects of online learning is like asking an athlete about the effects of not having fans. Sure, it may have its mental effects but when it comes to practicing and performing, there is no difference.

Losses loom larger than gains

I enjoy the fact that my commutes are shorter than my lectures and the fact that I don’t have to attend every lecture (since it’s recorded), but I miss my friends and the interactions which being on campus provided. It would be normal to dwell on this loss of interaction. The fact of the matter is though, all that is in the past and I’m headed to the future. See you all next week.

~ Saiem

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