Remember when toilet paper was flying off the shelves, there were no more sit-down restaurants and Amazon orders were flying off the charts? All while many students were being sent home and had to deal with a sudden transition to a semester online? Online school has an interesting reputation, some love it, some hate it and others are in-between. It can be a nightmare when your Wi-Fi stops working in the middle of class and your whole world shuts down, or when you’re trying to get crafty and switch up the locations of where you can study.
I shifted to online learning while I was in grade 12 completing my last year of high school. In the beginning, I wasn’t a fan of online learning since I was so used to interacting with friends and teachers. Flash forward to September, I was about to begin a new chapter in my life, university. I was a skeptic, was I going to learn? I didn’t think it was possible to teach students how to report as journalists if we weren’t able to go out in person. Needless to say, I’m in my second semester of the Journalism program and I can confidently tell you, online learning is not as bad as you think and yes, you will learn! I’m breaking down the reality of online learning, the things I love and the things I don’t love so much.
Zoom fatigue is real
Zoom fatigue is a real thing. Like many others, I am tired of hearing the word and Zoom and I can confidently say that “you’re on mute” is probably one of the most used phrases of 2020. That being said, I think Zoom fatigue is real simply because we’re all at home. Once I finish my Zoom or PowerPoint lecture I open a new tab and watch Netflix for hours. I went from having my screen time being one hour a day on my phone to on average, seven hours and that’s not including my computer screen-time. The reality is that your computer is your number one way to maintain being connected with your online learning. Using my laptop is the first thing I do when I wake up and the last thing I do before I hit the bed. My friends and I will have game nights and oftentimes they’re over Zoom, which does not help with my exhaustion of using Zoom every day. What I realized is that you have to find screen-free activities if you want to survive the Zoom fatigue because it is real. I’ll usually go on a run or read a book.
Motivation is hard
I think all students, whether we’re learning online or in-person, will go through waves of losing motivation. By the time it’s Friday, I realize that I haven’t left my house or even gone out to my backyard for some fresh air. Needless to say, I think it is important to keep doing things you enjoy doing even if it means having it be virtual. For example, my friends and I would always go to each other’s houses and play board games. Instead, we hop on a FaceTime call and play games such as CodeNames and Pictionary. The point of sharing that is, despite having things be online it doesn’t mean you still can’t have fun. Similar to my previous point, it is important to have screen-free activities in your life. Try going for a run, switching up your routine or having a virtual study session with your friends. These are a few simple things that you can do that can help regain your motivation.
Online school is convenient
The benefit of online schooling is that it’s convenient. I can fit things in my schedule that I know I wouldn’t be able to do if I had classes in-person. This is random but I can squeeze in a dentist appointment if I need to or if I want to sleep in or stay up late, I know I have the luxury to do so without worrying about having to be somewhere. If you plan on being a commuter student this will be even more convenient. Imagine not having to worry about a two-hour commute to and from school, it’s magic. It also will save you time and give you more room to have downtime and to finish assignments without having to account for your commute time.
The truth is online school should mean you’re saving money. I for one decided to not live in residence, which meant I was going to be saving over 10 grand. If I decided to be a commuter it would also mean I wouldn’t need to worry about transportation fees because those will add up. I come from a big family of Ryerson graduates who have all commuted, and the luxury of not having to worry about transportation expenses or buying food at the Eaton Centre makes your bank account look extra good. I distinctly remember when my brother first started at Ryerson and he would spend all his money on food simply because there was a huge variety to select from. Being at home might mean you won’t be able to explore all of the different restaurants and takeout places, but it does mean your pockets are filled with more money, which can help you pay off your school loans quicker.
Time management is important
Time management is one of the most important skills you will need throughout your academic career. It is also important to have amid online learning, depending on how your classes run. Some are live and some are pre-recorded, which means it is up to you to get them done on your own time. If you don’t manage your time well, you fall into the trap of being behind and it is hard to catch up. I usually break it down into smaller tasks for instance, if I have 3 recorded lectures to get through for one class, I will get through two in one day and leave the third one for the following day.
Every morning, I make a list of all things I need to get done, I break it even further and write down what I plan on getting done in the morning, afternoon and evening. Instead of looking at a list of 10 things, breaking it down into smaller parts makes it easier and I’m more likely to get it done. Don’t be fooled, procrastination is a real thing and I am the number one culprit of it. Can you blame me? It’s tempting to scroll through social media while listening to a live class, but what I do to avoid that is turning off my phone completely. I don’t risk the temptation to check notifications and oftentimes, I’ll put my phone in another room because out of sight out of mind.
The next thing I thought was important to share is breakout rooms, which will either be your favourite or least favourite thing about online school. Truth be told, I love breakout rooms. It’s how I met my first two friends in the Journalism program and they are still people I connect with regularly over on social media. What are breakout rooms, you ask? Well, they’re a part of Zoom and it is where the teacher will divide the class into small groups and you are usually working on a task together.
The dreadful part is that sometimes they can be awkward, you may experience moments where no one speaks and other times will be a lot more exciting and you’ll find that you’re hitting it off with everyone. My advice is to break the ice. Sometimes, no one will turn their camera on which is understandable, but it usually takes one person to turn it on for the others to join in. My verdict on breakout rooms is that there are a hit or a miss. They aren’t always going to be fun and other times you’ll find yourself having a great time. All in all, they are an important part of your learning experience and it’s nice to connect with others despite feeling and being so disconnected sometimes.
At the end of the day there are some perks to completing school online and there are some things that aren’t so fun. I wish I got to be on campus and explore all of the coffee shops that Toronto has to offer, but on the other hand, I keep thinking about all of the money I am saving and more freedom I have to work on personal goals of mine. When we do return in-person, I for sure will miss some aspects of online learning. Hopefully this gave you a better insight into online learning and the reality of it.