Reflecting on the Alienation of Remote Learning
Start writing a post

Reflecting on the Alienation of Remote Learning

Some thoughts on the isolation and alienation from our work many students feel as online learning progresses.

Reflecting on the Alienation of Remote Learning

As is the case with many schools across the country, Hunter and CUNY more broadly are entering their second month of distance learning, which has had a wide array of effects on student's mental and physical well-being. It is undeniable that there is a certain "je ne sais quoi" in the college experience that's been lost as a result of this transition, namely in how students interact with each other. The passing, routine, and momentary connections students make with each other, often undervalued individually, have suffered a collective loss as students are just not able to befriend people like they did before. While some take initiative, forming group chats, discords, and other platforms for digital connection with their classmates, these processes are often labor-intensive are logistically difficult. Consequently, many students are feeling a degree of alienation from themselves, their work, and their fellow classmates. Surprisingly, a lot of these ideas map cleanly onto Marxist ideas about the workplace (and what is the classroom if not the workplace of a student) and culture at large. It is in these ideas that one can reflect on the nature of the isolation being felt in this historical moment.

While most understand or view Marx as a figure who looked at society purely from an economic lens, he had a significant amount of cultural critique as well––namely the ways in which the economic conditions of the working class manifest themselves in their culture. To Marx, as industrial society developed and the modes of production became more and more complicated (including the emergence of factories, heavy machinery, and regimented work weeks), the individual worker became more and more alienated from those around them. Workers, for example, did not know where their meat came from or who made it as they did before the emergence of industrial farming, but rather were served a product that had no tangible connection to another human being. As another example, workers on an assembly line had no connection to the product they were creating, as they did not see the completed product. They were making the product (or their part of it) out of necessity as well, as their labor was coercive, meaning they needed to work in order to live. While Marx then went on to make broader points about the existential estrangement this causes from the self and one's fellow class members, for students it is the first part that matters.

While not mapping on perfectly, the feelings students have right now about virtual classes can be read through this lens. It feels as though students are making products (assignments, essays, projects) that are simply being launched into a wireless "void," as they are often unable to connect with their classmates and professors in a meaningful way. There also seems to be a lack of group work in classes, and although many dreaded this aspect of learning in previous semesters, it was a tangible way to make connections with the student body. Class sessions feel like isolated experiences, rather than parts of a larger body of learning. Many students have expressed that they feel that they are just working to meet deadlines, and not really absorbing material, and the isolation we experience from virtue of being online may be a cause of what feels like an empty educational experience.

What then is to be done? While there is no one right answer, a few things come to mind. One is the aforementioned strides some have been making to form group chats and other forms of social media for students to interact with each other outside of class. While this is a good start, there is still the issue of connecting on an intellectual level and allowing your fellow students to uplift you and your learning. And perhaps this is where Marx again has some relevance: if the solution to worker alienation is to build links and solidarity with fellow workers, to uplift each other and ensure your collective power, then the solution to the isolation and alienation people are feeling is to uplift each other's work. Let group chats, discord channels, phone calls, and anything else act not just as places to get to know people personally, but to help them and let them help you elevate the quality of your work. These are difficult and straining times for everyone, on both an emotional and physical level, and it can feel difficult to envision ways in which one can combat the weight of it all. Building social and academic connections and solidarity with one's classmates seems like a good place to start, though.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

Let me just say, first and foremost, happy Thanksgiving! This holiday is known as a time for families to get together, to be thankful for the blessings in our lives, and to dig into a lot of very delicious food that you'll be having as leftovers for the next week. However, this family time is certainly not without downsides, as we are forced to confront certain family members on matters that should best be left out of Thanksgiving discussion, and in my case, this happens to be my father, who is the only republican in our family (that I know of).

(FYI: Since I still live with my dad, it's not just Thanksgiving when I'm forced to listen to him talk about politics, as I had gotten a taste of where he stands just from earlier this year alone.)

Keep Reading... Show less
Peter Truong

If you still have not figured out what you want to cook on Thanksgiving, baked macaroni and cheese is something worth considering. It is simple, affordable, and delicious. I have had many different types of baked mac and cheese and most are dry. I do not like a dry mac and cheese, it just does not seem appealing to me. If you like the creamy cheesy essence of mac and cheese, look no further, this recipe is for you.


Keep Reading... Show less

As a first-year college student, I've been doing a lot of meeting and introducing myself to people, often with the classic format of "name, hometown, major".

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

This Simple 7-Step DIY Face Mask Combines Safety — And Sustainability

Instead of studying like I intended on doing today, I made a face mask for some reason and thought I'd share how I did.


If you were looking for a simple way to make a mask, I am happy to share how I personally make them. I have a pretty small face in general, so I prefer having my homemade ones so they fit better. This is also a great alternative to just throwing away any clothes! Before starting, you will need to make sure you have fabric, thread, a needle, and pins; if you have a sewing machine, you obviously could use that instead of hand sewing it.

Keep Reading... Show less
Student Life

6 Ways To Handle The Stress Of Earning Your Degree From Your Childhood Bedroom

Oh so this was the room where I snuck cookies upstairs past my bedtime and stole R-Rated movies to watch when my parents were asleep and now I'm expected to earn my degree in this very same room?

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

It's definitely not easy, but it's something so many kids are struggling with right now.

Keep Reading... Show less

November is such an underrated month. With all the excitement that comes with Halloween ending and the holiday season around the corner, some people skip over it and go straight to their Christmas playlist. For me though, November is the perfect time to compile a playlist of songs that bring on major nostalgia which I think is perfect for this time of year. If you're looking for something to get you in that thankful spirit before you head into the Christmas spirit or something to play while you enjoy Friendsgiving, here are some go-to songs to add to your November playlist.

Keep Reading... Show less

Taylor Swift is famous for her Easter eggs on social media that hint at what is coming next for her. Over the past few days, fans noticed a change in Swift's hair when she was accepting her win as Apple's songwriter of the year that was reminiscent of the "Red" era. Of course, this has caused widespread speculation that Swift has begun to re-record her masters.

Keep Reading... Show less

While joyful, the holiday season can also be stressful for many and that's A-O.K. Plus, with the added tension that is 2020, this year's holiday season is a lot, to put it simply.

This is your reminder to put yourself first and listen to what you're yearning for. Deep down, you know what you need to thrive and I know that you can get there.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments