The Unseen Outcome of Distance Learning

Updated: Jun 3, 2020

Isabela Doleski

The thing about being a shy student is that it affects your life in all ways, including how you learn. As a shy person, I have spent most of my academic life figuring out how to be the least visible student in the classroom. My methods have ranged from sitting in the back corners of class, testing out my limited flexibility by sinking further in the desk chair, to occasionally pretending to write important information into my notebook when the instructor seeks participation in the class. Looking back at classroom learning, I wish to go back.

With the weight of a worldwide pandemic on our backs and being thrusted into self isolation, I along with millions of other students have involuntarily enrolled in “Zoom University”. You can’t really get more invisible than you and a laptop screen in your kitchen table at 8 AM, and I find myself missing my visibility despite my once hard efforts to remain unseen. I’ve realized that back then, I took the importance of the in-classroom learning experience for granted: the nerve-racking questions, the struggle to focus, the cramped lecture halls. These all added to the authentic essence of being a true college student. However, given the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, my once surety of a true college student has shifted. I’ve had to quickly adjust to being a college student in the comfort of my own kitchen, which is occupied by others 15 hours a day, and my bedroom that isn’t really mine, as I share it with a relative.

Since I’ve never taken online classes, the greatest change I’ve had to adjust to is restraining the shy student in me that secretly liked the classrooms I tried so hard to disconnect from. Though it might be jarring to describe a shy person as “having to be restrained”, this transition to distance learning has caused me to claw out and reach for those classrooms once again. Forced to shift into quickly making my family’s small apartment into my own college classroom, I found myself not only unconsciously waving my I.D card to my plants as I entered into my kitchen, but also juggling being a student, sister, and daughter. I’ve been thrust into that sport, which I’ve managed to avoid all these years by burying myself into my studies instead.

Yet, as I struggle to multitask between joining my online lectures and conversing with my mother on how her night’s sleep was, I now see that I’m getting a different college experience which I can share with my family. Not a better or worse experience, just different. I’ve had to shift between shyfully building up new friendships with my classmates at the semester’s start, to rebuilding relationships with my mother and relatives as my laptop starts up for video lectures. Through being a distance learner, I’m learning to be a different type of college student, one that I could only be alone.