Local college students feel pressure of remote learning
Going into her second semester at Western Michigan University, Annie Walinder was excited to be at a four-year university. As an engineering major, most of Walinder's classes were geared toward her degree. Then, the coronavirus pandemic began spreading around the globe, and the world shut down. By March, Western Michigan University sent students home and resorted to online learning.
"Michigan did not handle the pandemic well, and my school particularly didn't handle the pandemic well," said Walinder. "When we shut down in the middle of the (fall) semester, I had engineering classes and two of my professors stopped teaching. I decided to not be trapped in a dorm room for a whole year with a roommate, and I decided that living with my parents and getting good food was a better option. So I came to College of DuPage."
Walinder isn't the only student who decided to go the inexpensive route and attend community college instead of going to a four-year university.
Anahi Gonzalez was a senior in high school when the pandemic began, but after graduating she also decided to attend COD.
"Am I really going to pay 12 grand to sit in my dorm and not even attend classes because I'll be doing them in my room? Well, I'll just do that at home and take the classes for cheaper," Gonzalez said.
Other than the cost, technological issues are the biggest complaint students have. Not only do students have to have a reliable internet connection as well as a functioning computer to even access their classes, but students may not understand the program.
McHenry County College student Megan O'Neill said the distance makes it harder to get help when problems arise.
"Technical difficulties get in the way of online learning. Everyone has experienced an internet outage," O'Neill said. "Another struggle is when the professor writes an assignment and it's unclear what they want. It makes it difficult to do the assignment if you don't know what they want."
Walinder said it's a misconception that distance learning means students are awash in free time.
"Even though there's extra time during the day because you're not driving, it feels like there's less time to get things done," she said. "I think it is because of all the distractions of staying in your own house. Parents, looking out the window, animals, siblings if you have them, all of that is distracting. Everything is more distracting."
Many students work in their bedrooms, meaning they are working where they are sleeping. Although the students are physically talking to people through their screens, their brains aren't convinced. O'Neill said staying in the same room where you sleep for school, school activities, and possibly even work, is tolling on the psyche.
"Most people find it difficult to separate work and play," she said. "Since COVID, everybody's doing their own makeshift home office. It's hard to separate your personal life from school."
For some students, like Elgin Community College's Jack Garity, being forced to take classes online to further their education is in direct conflict with how they learn best.
"I'm personally not an online learner, and it's been rough," he said. "I've been working twice as hard as I normally did when I had four classes in person. I only have two classes online, and it's a struggle."
Although being productive and maintaining a good work ethic can be difficult, both Gonzalez and Walinder have begun utilizing accountability buddies. An accountability buddy is someone who will sit on a video chat with you while you both collectively work. Gonzalez said having a buddy makes online learning just a little bit more like traditional school.
"I'm the type of person that I need to go somewhere to do my work," she said. "I used to go early or stay after school a lot so I could do my homework and leave my homework at school. My home is my place to chill. I need more accountability buddies for this semester because it forces me to sit down and work."