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Every student in the past two years has suffered from fallout from the pandemic. Taking classes while stuck in your bedroom was not ideal for most students. Not being able to see your friends or teachers or the rest of the world took a huge toll on mental health. But, was it really that bad? Was it always hard? I asked some students what the pros and cons are between online learning and in-person learning.
But first, I want to share my own experiences. I am an art student, and I can say for sure that it is one of the hardest majors to do online. When I took ceramics last year in high school, I had to bring home about 10 pounds of clay just to be able to do my work. I did not have an ideal setup for pottery making, and it was a huge mess.
Being online also made it almost impossible for me to build bonds in the class. In-person art classes allow you to bounce ideas off classmates and your teacher to get a meaningful piece. Online, it was hard for my high school teachers to fully observe and critique our work. We had to submit photos, and sometimes this distorted our drawings and paintings. We missed that hands-on experience, when our teachers could show us different techniques.
I also found that, most of the time, students didn’t like to unmute to answer a question, leaving an awkward silence. Plus, every student had a different home life. Maybe they were an only child in a quiet house, or they lived in a chaotic house with siblings running around and screaming. Distractions are a huge struggle when it comes to online learning. Sometimes it is hard to separate from school and life when you are at home. I also found that phones and other devices became a distraction more than they normally were.
Sometimes, online learning was easier. It was a huge win for commuters, for example. Some students told me they saved driving time and transportation money. One of my classmates, who drives almost an hour to get to Arcadia, said it helped not to worry about inclement weather like rain or snow that would make it dangerous to drive. It’s also convenient for students who don’t like getting up early, or students who are sick but don’t want to miss content or make up work.
A drawing by Catherine Portelli that depicts a skull on a black background.
Though in-person class is what we grew up with and definitely are more used to, it wasn’t always perfect. One of my friends does not like to take tests in class, not because she wants to cheat and use notes, but because she gets distracted easily. In person, typically a student can leave after they finish their test. She finds that, while taking biology and chemistry tests, she feels like she has to be the first one to be done—like there is pressure on her to finish quickly. Some also found it more comfortable to learn online, as it often feels like a judgment free space (there have even been some studies on online learning lowering physical or other forms of bullying).
Overall, I think the pros significantly outweigh the cons when it comes to in-person learning, which is a lot more hands-on in every major and subject at Arcadia. We tend to have more of an understanding of the content in classes and have easier access to the teacher's help and explanations. You are able to meet new people in your classes and interact with them face-to-face, instead of in a breakout room. As a friend stated, “I feel like in-person keeps me on a schedule and prevents me from self–isolating ‘cause I have a habit of doing that.”
When I think back on what we all have endured, I hope the worst is behind us. The reset sure feels good.