If there’s one truth that college students in 2020 can universally acknowledge, it’s that online classes are shaping up to be pretty difficult. The very act of concentrating on the material tends to require a great deal more effort when you’re staring at a screen instead of sitting in a classroom, not to mention constantly struggling with the temptation to send a meme to your group chat or go back to playing Animal Crossing. However, our increased susceptibility to distraction is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the problems we can face with digital schooling.
For instance, online classes are a whole different ball game than in-person classes in terms of accessibility options. For some chronically ill or disabled students, this style of learning may actually be an improvement (and there’s much to be said about the fact that many of the universities implementing distance learning during the pandemic have repeatedly denied disabled students’ requests for distance learning options in the past, but that’s another article). However, there are many other students whose disabilities make online learning full of fresh new challenges.
To take my own example, I have problems with auditory processing—it’s often difficult for my brain to take the sounds that come out of other people’s mouths and process those sounds as words that I can understand. When you combine this everyday issue with the mediocre audio quality of most microphones, and a blurry video feed interfering with any potential attempt to read the teacher’s lips, I have a far more difficult time comprehending any lecture than I ever did in class. This is among the least of potential issues students can face. Students who previously depended on on-campus resources to be able to access and succeed in their classes may also be deprived of those now.
Additionally, students may lack access to fast and reliable internet at home or on their campuses, and/or devices that can connect to that internet as well as to Blackboard and Zoom. Even those who do have a working device and WiFi that generally functions may be subject to technological mishaps such as their connection going down, their audio or video cutting out, their mic giving excess feedback, or their battery unexpectedly dying. How are you to get the most out of a class you may not always have the option to attend?
For those students who have returned home to their families due to the pandemic, many will be loaded up with new responsibilities, such as cooking, cleaning and caring for relatives, that may cut into the time and energy they need for classwork. For students with families who are less than supportive of things like their sexualities, gender identities, or mental or physical health issues, simply being at home again is a taxing reality that will require time and outside support to readjust to. Some will have to choose between attending classes or completing schoolwork and recovering from the physical and emotional strain they are experiencing.
I lay out this extensive, but by no means comprehensive, list of struggles to shore up my simple request for you readers: try your best to cut yourself and the people around you a break. It may be easy to feel like any issues you’re experiencing are the result of laziness or a lack of self-discipline, rather than on the terrors of a pandemic and the evils of American capitalism. Remember to place the blame where it really lies, which is not on you. Try to pay attention to what you need—whether that’s a nap, some escapist video games, a call with friends or a break from schoolwork—fulfill that, and let the little stresses go for a while.