As a student in the present higher-level education system, I think it’s time someone spoke out about the advantages online learning has created. First, I went to college back in 2011 where I lived on campus and experienced the typical college life. I joined clubs and organizations, took part in community and sporting events, I even used the school gym and ate at the cafeteria. All these things were great but when push comes to shove, and everything doesn’t work out you see how this style of learning doesn’t work for everyone. When we think about college, we see eighteen- and nineteen-year-old young adults living in dorms and learning what it’s like to “adult.” What you don’t see are the older students, the second time students, the students like me who are trying to work a full-time job and get a degree because things didn’t align during my younger years. Online learning creates a new opportunity for people like me to work school into their already packed schedules and accomplish goals I never thought I’d reach.
During my Junior year I withdrew from school due to financial issues. I spent seven years working in the field I have built my career in, but a college degree stopped me from going any further. Even with all my experience I wasn’t able to move forward unless I went back to college. I tried to find schools that allowed online learning but none of them made it possible for me to be completely remote and finish my degree. At least that was until COVID changed everything.
When the world went remote, I finally went back to school. Online learning opened a world of possibilities to someone like me who works a full-time job to survive. But would you believe me if I told you that the ability to learn from the comfort of my home allowed me to not only obtain my degree but made me a better student. I was able to manage my time, utilize every opportunity and resource available to me and achieve success in a remote classroom setting. My professors still made jokes, assigned papers, and held lectures. The only thing that changed was the physicality of being in a classroom. Oddly enough, being at home helped me focus and gave me the space to devote myself to my studies leading me down the path to becoming a better student than I had been my first time around.
Yes, you read that right. My at home learning took me from the careless B’s and C’s college girl I was to the girl who is on not one but two honor societies, presented research at a student conference and currently holds a 3.97 GPA. This is not to say that online learning didn’t have its challenges. Yes, there were connectivity issues but guess what if it was severe weather, I still had class. I never missed something because I couldn’t be somewhere. In my opinion time management was always the biggest obstacle. I had to figure out which times I was available and work my schedule around it but with the possibility of zero travel time I could schedule classes during the day take them from my car and still go back to work. I could be a student and an employee, and I could do both to the best of my abilities.
I spent hours drafting papers, reading assignments, sitting on zoom calls, and discussion boards but it all was worth it. Even though I wasn’t physically there I was still learning. Like most things we do it’s about the effort you put into it. I put all my effort into online learning because it worked for me. It gave me what I needed when I needed it most. I never would have been able to return to school full time and complete the rest of my degree in just two short years if I had not been given the online opportunity. Which is why I believe colleges should continue to offer this style of learning even as we move back to a sense of normalcy. For some people this is the best modality to learn and as society evolves we should too.
Now I bet you’re saying but what about the socialization aspect. Zoom is scary and I was hesitant at first, but I made connections with my peers in those sessions and had informative discussions on the discussion boards. I had the connectivity of a classroom from everywhere and anywhere and this freedom enabled me with what I needed. TIME. I joined group me and email chains where I was talking with classmates, making friends, and learning just as I would in the classroom. Study groups are held via Zoom or FaceTime and the interpersonal interactions, the exchanging of stories, cultures, and information still happened. As much as I am excited to meet them all in person at my graduation, I know that the connections we made in our virtual worlds are just as strong as the ones we would have created in a classroom.
As I close out on my bachelors and embark on the next chapter of my life, I hope that other’s will speak out about how online learning helped them. I hope colleges across the country will see the benefits to offering this option to their students and allowing older learners, second chance learners, first time learners, and anyone else the ability to achieve their dreams.
We don’t all get it right when the time to do so is their but situations like COVID and other massive changes in our world offer us the opportunity to adapt and change our society for the better. Online learning is a change that will help us for the better if we continue to offer it to our future students.
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