Morgan’s Mumbles: The Struggles of Virtual University, by teen contributor Morgan Randall
All my current classes are online, for college, which I would prefer due to the current situation of the world and I would like to limit my exposure (along with others) as we move forward. However, that does not negate the struggles that come with online courses.
To start off, I am very thankful for the fact that there are resources to have online classes (ex. Zoom) however these spaces come with their own struggle. First off, the internet within dorms and apartments is very unreliable and sometimes cut out during classes. Thankfully, a majority of my classes are recorded and my teachers are understanding. But, when a part of your final grade is based on attendance and participation this becomes a problem if there is a large storm or too many people on the internet at the same time.
The struggle of internet access is probably the smallest issue, for me (thankfully). My bigger issues come along mentally. Staying within the same four walls for days at a time is mentally taxing, and even if you create a designated workspace you are still limited to the changes of scenery available. I go from one corner to another, and another trying to alternate scenery as I have three classes back to back on Zoom sitting in the same spot. If I am lucky between my first and second class, I can move from my desk to the floor. And then from second to third, I can move from the floor back to my desk. But even between these locations, I finish six hours of lectures, and then I have at least six hours of homework. This isn’t the problem, I know I signed up to take courses that will push me the problem is the fact that in a normal year half of this time would be spent outside my dorm. So the hours at my desk would not be as difficult to sit through, but by the time I get to homework, I can barely focus on the page to read, let alone write an essay or take a quiz. I thankfully have three roommates who are all really pleased to be around, and we find ways to keep busy, but excluding them I hangout with maybe five other people who went to high school with me.
This, is another struggle, the lack of spaces to create meaningful connections. Zoom lectures and breakout rooms are the worst places to have conversations, they exist within a weird space that is hard to classify. In breakout rooms, you speak to a few other people for five minutes, and then you leave that space and barely see them four pages over at your meeting. There are no real connections made, and I am not saying that class is a space to make lifelong friends. But it is a start, you have something in common right off the bat, in a classroom setting you are both in the same space and can feed off one another energy. In a Zoom breakout room, if you are lucky they have their camera on and will talk back, you just sit staring at someone and holding an awkward conversation as you try to answer the questions you were told to discuss without knowing the other persons’ real reaction. This doesn’t allow places to talk or even truly introduce yourself to other students. Outside of lectures and breakout rooms, the only other times I see people are in the line at the dining hall, walking, and in the elevator. None of which are the ideal space, especially within the current situation you don’t know people’s comfort levels or if they want to have an interaction.
Lastly, my main struggle is as a Theatre and Dance major a majority of my classes are discussion and performance-based. This in itself is a difficult thing in an online format, I have to attend shows virtually and perform my own pieces to a camera for analysis in front of my class. This is a nerve-racking experience as art is something meant to connect and cause difficult conversations, but it is very hard to have conversations through screens where you cannot see the other person’s reactions. This is something I struggle with a lot, this new space (that is becoming normal) which makes it difficult to have discussions because we aren’t face to face.
Morgan Randall, Teen Contributor
Morgan recently graduated high school and is currently enrolled to attend college in the fall getting her BA in Theatre and Dance with an emphasis on Design and Technology. She loves theatre, writing, reading, and learning. But something that has always been important to her is being a voice for those who feel like they don’t have one, and being a catalyst for change in any way possible.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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