CoronavirusOpinions

It’s official: online learning is terrible

Technology troubles in online learning lead to dreams of throwing my laptop into the fire. (Illustration courtesy of Casper Savoie).
A month into the fall 2020 semester, and I think I have my verdict: online classes suck. 

Twice a day, two times a week when I sit down for my live online classes, I want to chuck my laptop into a fire and never open a Webex video conference again. The amount of technical problems and quality of education is just not worth it this semester.

Look, I understand we’re in dire times. It’s a pandemic, and I’d take online classes over in-person classes right now for my and everyone’s safety. But we can admit what we’re learning online is just not the same as in person. 

Professors are desperately trying to figure out how Webex works for the first time and turning to prepackaged lessons from textbook companies like Cengage and Vista Higher Learning, both of which I’m using this semester. And because Cengage offered its Mindtap program free last semester to help teachers cope with moving online, there was confusion over whether students should pay for it this semester. When students have to tell the professor there is a paywall to take a chapter quiz, there’s a problem.

And the technology. Man, the technology. Half of each class is swallowed by Webex or Google Meet crashing and burning. The professor’s voice begins to skip. Their Powerpoint presentation crashes. The professor’s WiFi fails and the students get kicked out of class and have to wait to be let back in. Even when it is working, some student’s left their microphone on, and everyone else can hear their family cooking dinner in the background. I figured a live online class would help set a schedule and keep me on track, but boy, do I not learn a single thing in those lectures. 

I understand professors and staff are trying their best to figure out online solutions in a short amount of time. I appreciate their fortitude in even teaching online when the process is so new. But we have to admit the quality of education Mesa Community College offered before is not there anymore. And I don’t even qualify for any tuition discounts. 

It’s not fair. It’s not fun. I’d like that fire, please.

Students across the country share those sentiments, and many are deciding college isn’t worth it at all right now. A Forbes article shared statistics that undergraduate enrollment is down 2.5% nationwide. Community colleges suffer the greatest loss of a 7.5% decline in enrollment. Doug Shapiro, the Executive Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center which gathered the data, said, “…At this point the large equity gap for students who rely on community colleges for access to higher education is a matter of critical concern.”

Mesa Community College is deploying all sorts of tactics to soften the blow of forced online-learning, from moving workshops online to offering orientations and assistance. But this doesn’t negate that enrollment and, to me, the quality of education are dropping. 

The only thing to do right now is brace myself and trudge on. After all, it’s not like there’s another choice, a better school to transfer to. New students can’t take a gap year, because there’s nowhere to spend it but home. 

But for other students who want to bang their keyboards as the professor yet again drops out of their live online class–I hear you. The fire is raging, but we’re doing our best to keep our computers firmly on our desks. 

That is, until I have to use the Lockdown browser for the first time. Then it’s getting tossed into the flames.

About Author

Nienke Onneweer is the Managing Editor and Copy Editor for the Mesa Legend. She joined in August 2019 and has been publishing articles since January 2019. She has been writing since childhood, and her favorite punctuation is the em dash. Find her on Twitter @thenienke.

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