Why Some Students are Choosing to go Online-Only

By Alyssa Smith, Staff Writer—

Even if it’s not required of them, many college students are choosing to take all of their courses online due to COVID-19. 

 These days, it’s all too common for students to spend hours upon hours glued to their laptops, with coffee close at hand and headaches from too much screen time. This “new normal” may not be the most exciting existence, but students make due. 

While attending class in your pajamas might sound ideal for the late-rising college student, the social aspect of campus life is a crucial part of the college experience for many. 

“I feel a deep sense of isolation doing solely online classes,” said Audrey Keelin, a sophomore at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “There is a loss of community in this format.”

UNC was originally open for face-to-face classes in August, but switched to online-only just one week after the fall semester started. 

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, on the other hand, has managed to keep some of its in-person classes. Despite these options, a lot of UTC students are choosing to remain exclusively online.  

Although Calvin Cummings, a UTC graduate student working toward a master’s degree in creative writing, decided to go online-only this semester, he still misses the classroom experience. 

“I miss being able to just sit in a room with people before or after class, the serendipitous conversations about our coursework, about our divergent interests or something dumb we all saw online,” Cummings said. 

Even these mundane, ordinary facets of college life, which could be taken for granted prior to the pandemic, have significantly impacted motivation for many students after being taken away. 

While there is debate about the effectiveness of online learning, academic success ultimately depends on each student’s environment and work ethic. 

Cassandra Castillo, a freshman at UTC, remains highly motivated this semester, not letting the pandemic inhibit her start at college. 

“These [online] classes don’t set me back at all mainly because my professors are so understanding and ready to help if we have any questions,” Castillo said. 

Instructors seem to be more tolerant to the issues students face this semester, which may be due to their understanding that the online setting, and the abundance of technical difficulties it presents, are new for a lot of the people involved. 

By this point, however, students are no doubt familiar with the infamous Zoom, a video conference application which was appropriated by schools for the purpose of conducting synchronous online courses. 

Concerning his problems with Zoom classes, Cummings said that everyone is “so dimly lit, nondescript, our little heads awkwardly positioned at an unflattering angles, dogs and cats interrupting and it never being as cute as one would imagine, or when everyone makes the same joke about wearing normal clothes with pajama bottoms.”

For many, the simple act of walking through a campus environment, bumping into friends, and having the potential to meet other like-minded young people, is essential. 

The spontaneity of in-person discourse, the ability to see facial expression or to hear inflections in tone, are all partially lost in 2-D video calls and discussion board posts. 

Despite awkwardness, internet connection issues and the tendency of students to talk over one another in Zoom meetings, the college kids will pull through. 

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