The Trials and Tribulations of Distance Learning: What Effect Does It Have on Students?

Updated: May 20, 2020

Vladimir Severino

About a month ago, commutes on crowded subways, walking through the E-Building Atrium, and sitting in engaged classroom discussions were the norm for students at LaGuardia Community College. Now, the hallways are empty, the classrooms are quiet, and our “engaging” discussions have shifted to online platforms. The words “distance learning”, or online classes, have quickly become the new educational norm for students, who are trying to readjust to this new setting while living in an epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Distance learning is an experience that both teachers and students have found themselves unprepared for. Particularly at LaGuardia Community College, prior to the transition to online education, the classroom has been where most students learn about the instructions for the class and the work expected from them. Many students depended on resources available at school, like in-person advising and tutoring from the Writing Center, to complete their work and stay on track were available for them at the school. With the closure of school buildings and the rapid shift to online classrooms, distance learning amplifies many of the problems that students have been facing in their education even before the pandemic. While not having to commute can free up time and relieve many people, some students live in environments that are disruptive to their learning. As a result, studying at home can cause people to easily neglect and lose focus in their school work. Of course, students with families--or other responsibilities at home to take care of--are already needed and for them, school may be an even harder task to balance during this time. When considering approaches to education, the many hurdles that student face while trying to better their lives through schooling should be highlighted. Another obstacle to learning for some students is the lack of tools to complete and manage their online education, such as a laptop, access to the Internet, or the digital skills to manage their communication with their professors, upload assignments to Blackboard, and the access to online communication platforms such as Zoom. Luckily for many students, there has been an immense amount of support from internet service providers and from our schools to aid students in the digital classrooms. Service providers like Spectrum, Altice, and Verizon have offered students from K-12 and college free internet for 60 days. As well, LaGuardia has acquired laptops to distribute among students who don’t have access to one at home.  While there are students who already have the resources to continue their education and the skills necessary to manage their tasks, there are also many students who aren't fully quipped with these skills or the accountability tools to manage their learning. In my view, after speaking with other peers from LaGuardia, this is where students have the most trouble. The lack of structure and routines in our day allows time to pass and blur our use of it. Each day can feel the same if changes aren’t made towards distinguishing them, either by completing assignments, spending time on a hobby, or devoting time to relax. Many of us feel that it has been a struggle to stay consistently productive when the world around us is falling apart.

Despite this pandemic, which has revealed the deficiencies in our healthcare system and pushed us to celebrate essential workers who are on the front lines to serve us in areas like supermarkets, pharmacies, and delivery systems, most of the general public must continue working from home. With the work ethic involved for success, and the motivation and focus needed to reach higher goals, lacking a structure that maintains productive habits, or being unable to adapt and find new ways of handling yourself in changing situations when nothing feels consistent, can be detrimental. But when it comes to school we can only do the work or not do it. We didn’t know there was going to be a pandemic during this semester but it happened. And we sure didn’t know how much more demanding school would be because of it. Therefore, it is absolutely essential during these times that students communicate with their professors and update them with their experience and progress. To succeed and do well in school, setting a work routine and schedule that is right for you is necessary to getting back on track.  With that I say, take the days off that you need. Do something enjoyable that helps relieve the stress of being stuck at home, anxiety over possibly contracting this virus, or around completing the assignments due for your classes. Take the time to self-reflect and build more mindfulness, and actually do it, so that once you’ve alleviated some stress you can go back to your work and finish it. Whether this is your first, second, or last semester, this has been the most difficult one for many students, and the way to push through it is by bettering ourselves first.


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