Updated: Aug 26
As many of us have experienced, the COVID-19 pandemic has deeply impacted worldwide education systems, ranging from kindergarten all the way to postgraduate studies. This brought with it a shift towards e-learning. With the sudden move away from face-to-face contact and classrooms, some find it overwhelming to adjust to the new learning system. Others have quickly adapted to this self-driven style of learning, finding it beneficial to learn online from home. I interviewed a student in order to get a personal insight into the experiences of online learning during COVID-19 and how this sudden change affected him.
I began by asking him about the advantages of learning online, to which he replied he was thrilled with the shift towards e-learning. “Being able to get out of bed right before the class and having an extra hour to sleep has saved me so much time. Before online learning, I had to wake up almost two hours early to attend the lecture. Also, it has saved me from having to commute to college, which itself saved me a tremendous amount of time and money that previously had to be used for transportation costs.” He also mentioned the flexibility that online learning offers, as some lectures are pre-recorded, and he could watch them whenever or wherever he liked.
Leading on from that, we discussed the efficacy of online learning as compared to traditional learning. Surprisingly, he found learning online has been more effective. “I was able to retain more materials when learning online compared to in a classroom. Also, the pre-recorded lectures have helped me to learn at my own pace, skipping or re-watching the video as needed. Despite these significant advantages, e-learning has brought some new challenges to education. One of the most prominent challenges I had to face was learning to avoid, or otherwise managing, distractions. Whilst e-learning from home has made everything easy, I found myself more distracted by the environment I was studying in. Like, I couldn’t stop multitasking when listening to a lecture. Also, when the lectures were really boring, I had a lot of difficulty stopping myself from scrolling through social media or watching Netflix during class. My house can be pretty noisy sometimes too, and I really miss the capacity to go to the library or somewhere quiet to have that mental and physical separation between academic and home life. Also, learning online has caused a few short-term vision problems, as I have had to use my laptop almost the whole day, every day, for over a year now.”
“One of the biggest challenges I had to face was bad internet connection or lagging Wi-Fi. I got pretty angry about it sometimes, like I never had an internet connection problem while I was learning online EVER. But there was this one time when I had a very important test and guess what? My internet decided to disconnect right in the middle. Luckily, I had a backup so I could finish the test in time, but this incident made me kind of paranoid about it for the rest of my exams.”
I was curious what sort of methods he had used to get over these challenges and enquired if there were any he wanted to pass on to other people. “Studying online has been somewhat suffocating, especially if you do it day-in-day-out. So, what I did was go for a walk — or occasionally grocery-shopping — right before the lecture started. It helped me to stop feeling overwhelmed by staring into a screen for hours on end. Also, to avoid distractions at home, I sometimes attended lectures sitting out on the balcony, just to avoid seeing my bed and getting sleepy. Although I enjoyed learning online and even though there are challenges, personally the advantages outweigh the negatives, so overall I am pretty happy with this style of learning. However, it may vary from person to person because not everyone is in the same privileged situation. Also, not everyone may be safe in their home, or some might suffer from mental health concerns because they have to stay cooped up at home for too long.”
I wrapped up the discussion by asking if he had any thoughts about the future of digital learning, beyond the end of COVID-19. He was a little unsure because in the past he could not have even imagined having a full-time online course, so it would be pretty hard to predict what sort of changes might occur going forwards. “I believe that the educational system is going to be on the next level with the swift development of advanced technologies though. I think education systems have always been quite advanced, but this pandemic has pushed even more towards this place; the entire approach of learning and education has been transformed. Maybe my children or grandchildren will see AI replacing the teachers in the future. We just don’t know”.