Going back online will put student welfare at risk
After more than a year of online training, students were finally excited to return to campus last fall. However, with the recent outbreak of novel COVID-19, omicron variant, back to school online is a real concern for many.
Now a sophomore, I spent my entire freshman year isolated in my hometown, where every day seemed to give me deja vu.
I had the same repetitive schedule every day – I woke up, went to school, ate, slept, and repeated the next day. School started to become more and more of a chore, rather than a mind-enhancing thing.
Online education made it difficult for many students to make meaningful connections at school, as they could not communicate effectively with their peers and instructors. The lively conversations that once existed in my in-person classes disappeared as muffled voices and black screens came to dominate my Zoom app.
As the year went on, online education had an unexpected impact on my mental health, as I became more isolated when the cold weather hit. All the good parts of school seemed like distant memories; I missed being around people and participating in school activities that I loved the most.
Fortunately, students could return to school in person this fall, restore an ounce of normalcy to the WSU community. I regained my footing by moving to campus and reuniting with friends and professors.
Coming back to campus last fall helped me rediscover my love for learning.
However, with many colleges across the country returning to online formats in response to the new omicron variant, it raises the question of what this could mean for students and their mental health.
Abbey Levea, a sophomore in sports management, believes that online learning is more harmful than helpful for students.
“[You] don’t have the social aspect of being in the classroom and around people,” Levea said.
Levea said she was home during her first semester of college, which made her feel more isolated.
She said she could only socialize with her group of friends rather than meeting new people in classes every day. However, having in-person classes over the past semester has made Levea realize the positive impact it has had on her learning.
“My classes this semester were pretty small, so I was able to have that one-on-one interaction and make friends with my teachers, unlike how it was online,” she said.
Although online education has several disadvantages, it has some advantages.
For example, there is much less pressure for students to present themselves a certain way with online courses. There is also more free time to relax or sleep.
Maggie Crickman, a junior elementary education major, said that in the beginning, she preferred the online format because of these advantages. However, she soon realized the importance of social interaction when it came to her mental health.
“At first it wasn’t great because I would say the classes got a little easier, but it also got harder to learn because we weren’t able to ask questions in class anymore and to be in person,” Crickman said. “It’s a big thing for me.”
There are four main learning styles that are catered for in traditional classrooms: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and reading and writing. Online learning limits these learning styles because it is primarily auditory.
As a visual learner, Crickman said being in a traditional classroom and interacting with professors and peers helps her understand the material better.
Online education not only makes it difficult for students to connect and learn, but also limits their ability to interact with peers outside of class.
Sporting events, volunteering opportunities, Greek life, clubs and many other opportunities for social interaction are lost in an online environment.
“Social interaction helps people relax and helps students take their minds off school,” Crickman said.
It seems like going back online is inevitable, so it’s essential to ask ourselves what we can do to stay on top of our mental health during this eternal pandemic.
Getting enough sleep, creating welcoming study spaces, eating healthy, and taking long breaks are just some of the simple things students can do to relax in an online environment. If you’re isolated from friends or family, taking time to FaceTime or arranging a virtual hangout can really help.
Remember to prioritize your mental health and make time to do things on your own during these uncertain times, whether it’s taking a break or calling a friend.
We have this.