With the first few weeks of the semester under our belts, distance learning is becoming familiar to students—but not easier. In this new age of technology we are privileged to have accessible education amid a pandemic and we should not take that for granted. However, learning remotely is far from the preferred method. Although returning to school in person is the worst option right now, we must acknowledge that distance learning is proving to be detrimental to our education, our livelihood and our health.
Some students find that online learning grants more free time and individual pacing, however The New York Times reported that many students are suffering without a set routine—and in many cases, the workload has tremendously increased. Certain aspects of in-person classes are hard to calculate with distance learning, such as participation. As a result, there are more tedious assignments combined with learning to navigate new systems and websites, both of which take up time and energy.
Additionally, school is often the source of students’ social lives. In social isolation—such as the quarantine we are experiencing—people are more likely to develop a mental illness, particularly anxiety or depression. Unfortunately, there are just some aspects of remote school that dampen the learning process.
Granted, in person school is not easy, either. For those who are thriving with distance learning, we must make education accessible and productive for them when we return to school in person. Education should evolve when we go back to school, but we must look forward to going back. We cannot remain online.
Students are not alone in this hardship. Professors have experienced the same problems with being overworked, confused by new technology and mourning the loss of interpersonal connection. While students may be tripping over various extra assignments, professors are the ones who have to prepare the extra assignments and grade them—working more than ever to make up for the limited class environment.
Older professors with less technological experience are trying to understand the new online platforms being used, but it is difficult to maneuver if they have stuck mostly to paper and pen in the past. Furthermore, without the physical presence of their students, many educators feel like their students are less motivated to participate. Although professors are doing their best to make remote learning as painless as possible, these obstacles are draining for everyone.
FOR OUR COLLECTIVE HEALTH
Online learning is not inherently bad. Education has become more accessible and collaborative through the internet. However, health issues that arise from engaging with screens too much proves that we are not meant to spend hours in front of screens day after day. Distance learning only enforces our screen time, leading to increasingly worse eyesight, blurred vision, headaches and spinal strain. Our sleep is disrupted as our circadian rhythms are thrown off by the amount of blue light we look at all day. For the sake of all our health, we must not only look toward a future of in-person school, but also encourage a change of our personal screen time.
In the face of this pandemic distance learning is the best route for us to take, but it is okay to be feeling less than best. This is not easy. It is stressful, strenuous and induces the need for a back massage. By the end of this semester, we may not achieve the best grades and we may be missing our friends more than ever, but it is important to remember that God is with us through it all and we are not defined by this difficult period in our lives.
We can be distant from our school, but we cannot be distant from God and our grace for each other.