“You no longer have to wake up early in the morning, so doesn’t that make things so much easier already?”
“Breakfast, lunch and dinner’s just downstairs. Online school should be a breeze!”
“My students are just at home doing nothing, so might as well give them an extra reading.”
Reality check: Statements like that reflect a perspective that, from what I have observed as a student myself, is not what many students actually think.
Statements like that, perhaps, could come from a professor or teacher who still seems to be stuck with the idea that everything’s normal and students can easily do every academic requirement they want as long as a deadline is set. (To be fair, many professors and teachers are empathetic toward their students. Balancing academic rigor and self-care is wonderful!)
No physical interaction with friends
It’s been a year since online classes became a reality, and I can say, on behalf of my fellow students, that it unfortunately has been absolutely draining. And no, it’s not that we don’t work hard. Quite the opposite, actually.
Now, we have to get the following done simultaneously: pass school and hopefully ace it, attend online org events and meetings, make sure we don’t get infected by COVID-19 and make sure our mental health’s alright, all while having no physical interaction with friends. Some have even had to take part-time jobs to earn extra money because their family business closed down.
The thing is we used to do all those things above with friends. We used to be able to just visit a Catholic chapel to pray when things get tough. Friends and faith make things so much easier. But now, we just can’t see our friends or just break down in tears in a dark and silent chapel as easily as before. Even those in the work world need their peers.
Not too long ago, a quick survey conducted by a teacher in the Ateneo de Manila University, my soon-to-be official alma mater (I’m graduating!), showed that 42 people disliked “discussion boards,” where teachers pose questions for students to answer.
The idea is that students read the responses of their classmates and maybe even “like” and reply to their classmates’ comments. Sometimes, teachers require students to reply to their classmates’ discussion board comments. The teacher’s survey showed that zero people liked them. “Numbers don’t lie,” the teacher said.
So, what really seems to be the deal with online classes? For one, I do want to say it’s a great achievement of humanity. Twenty years ago, I don’t think we could have ever imagined connecting with professors from university, some of whose students come from literally around the world. In addition, I’m all for studying, I’m all for hard work. Those are very important, and those can never be taken away from academics.
However, besides the fact that the pandemic continues to bring its hardships, I think the problem with online classes is the lack of authenticity. We aren’t islands; we’re meant to see each other physically!
We’re meant to see our professors! We’re meant to see our org mates! And because we can’t do all of those, the conveniences of online classes—that we don’t have to wake up as early to commute to school and the like—don’t seem to be as attractive anymore.
Online classes will never be able to hold up to physical interaction. In this world filled with lies and deceit, all students want is an authentic university experience, and even that they can’t get.
I don’t want to end on a harsh note. In fact, I want to say thank you to all professors, teachers, administrators, university staff and everyone who really wants the best for us students. It hasn’t been easy for you all, too. Thank you for your hard work!
I’m also enthusiastic that as more and more Filipinos get vaccinated, the pandemic will slowly soon become a reality of the past, and we will once again be able to see each other.
However, we do have to wake up to what I think is reality: Nothing will beat the
in-person school and university experience. Students and teachers, I know, share this sentiment.
Online classes can and maybe should still exist to a certain extent in some circumstances, but it shouldn’t be the norm and it shouldn’t be imposed. So, let us continue to persevere, let us continue to hope and let us be hopeful that one day, we will all see each other again!
The author is a student at the Ateneo de Manila University.