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By Shannon Miekka
Imagine trying to explain the Fall 2020 semester to your 2019 self. You now have the ability to roll out of bed one minute before class and be on time, but it’s likely that you would still rather trade places with your pre-pandemic self even though it means facing the dreaded four flights of stairs in McMahon Hall.
While there are some victories in online learning such as taking classes outside, with your dog, or arms-length from the fridge, overall students and professors agree that “Zoom University” is not the same quality of education as the in-person experience.
“Probably the number one thing is the lack of 1 on 1 support,” said senior economics and finance major Sean O’Grady. “Being online, the back and forth communication [between students and professors] is kind of broken up.”
“It is definitely an adjustment going to online classes,” said junior social work major Caitlin Lennon. “I feel like it’s a different quality. You have to really put in the work and take an active role in your education.“
Lennon, whose parents are both essential workers, has taken more responsibility to help her family while also managing a full class schedule.
“This has made me really find out what “adulting” is, and I’ve really learned the value of a schedule and time management,” Lennon said.
While most Cardinals are from the east coast, nearly 13% of students are from different time zones. Where does that leave the approximately 400 undergraduate students who now have to attend classes at a different time than the professors that teach them?
O’Grady is one of several Catholic University students who live on the west coast. A Seattle native, he says that figuring out the three hour time difference adds extra stress.
“The midnight due dates happen at 9 PM for me,” O’Grady said. “A few of my professors have allowed me to adjust in terms of when things are due. But some professors, especially for economics, have told me basically ‘it’s due when it’s due.’”
Sophomores and upperclassmen are not the only students learning from home. While the majority of first-years chose to live on campus, Arthur Bardizbanian is one of the freshmen who is taking classes from home.
“I mean obviously I wish I was on campus, but we are all in this together,” Bardizbanian said. “Teachers hate being online as much as us, so I appreciate them working as hard as possible.”
Just like in-person learning, professors make a big difference in the quality of online education. According to Bloomberg, there are 1.5 million Americans employed by higher education institutions and 70 percent have never taught online classes before.
Some students feel that a contributing factor to the quality of education is the professor’s ability to use technology.
“It depends on the professor. Professors that are good at technology are really good at being able to adapt and find new ways to keep kids engaged,” O’Grady said. “Some professors, who are having a slower time adapting and it makes it harder to focus in their classes.”
Others feel that the quality of their education is directly affected by the methods used by their teachers.
“I think that the best method for online learning is when teachers have live lectures that they also record and post because there are more real-life distractions being home,” Lennon said.
It is unclear when our country will move away from online learning and back to in-person education. In the meantime, Catholic University students have advice for those who might be struggling with the transition.
“If I could give one piece of advice, find something that you’re interested in and go with it,” O’Grady said. “Don’t just act like things are the same at home. Find something that you’re actually able to focus on.”
“Definitely taking breaks and doing self-care or destressing activities,” Lennon said. “Keep some routine or schedule and stay connected to friends and family! I think it is also helpful to know that you’re not alone. I think that leaning on friends and family is an important part of coping with everything.”