Going into the 2020-21 university academic year, many students, myself included, wondered how the semesters were going to be planned due to the COVID-19 pandemic.Would learning require small classrooms and social distancing protocols? Or would the more drastic measures of online learning be taken?
Everything seemed uncertain.
After some deliberation, the University of Manitoba decided that fall semester classes, and now winter classes, are going to be facilitated remotely through UM Learn and various web platforms.
Personally, I was excited by this news as it meant I had more flexibility to work more than I would have if I was commuting to class every day.
However, my excitement was coupled with some anxiety. This is a very new style of learning, and although the end of the 2020 winter term was online, it was simply too short a time to learn to apply it to an entire academic year.
As it turns out, adjusting to the online version of school has been rather difficult for me. One of the problems with online learning is that not everybody learns the same way.
During in-person classes, students may be more focused with the vigilant presence of professors. However, during a Zoom meeting, for example, it can be a whole different story.
Now, students are sitting at home with a variety of distractions around them.
Whether it be the television, video games, a pet or their phones, students may be tempted to switch their attention to one thing or another.
When phones buzz, the embarrassment of interrupting the entire class is filtered through the mute option. Students have been collectively saved from the public shame of a professor stopping the entire lecture to wait for phones to stop ringing.
Instead, our phones have become enduring temptations.
With classes moving online, I immediately have to look at my phone if it rings. Even if I resist picking it up momentarily, the idea that I could answer without anybody knowing distracts me enough to shake me from my task.
These distractions could lead to a harder time focusing, which could also lead to lower grades. But it could also be an opportunity for personal development.
The more I grew to hate online school, the more I realized this might be what our generation needs.
We have grown up with technology and distractions all our lives — maybe having school at home is a wake-up call for the real world after university. Maybe it is something we can learn from.
For me, online school has taught me to be more disciplined than I have ever been. I have made a schedule of what I have to do every day of the week, and I have made it a goal to complete it, something that I would have never done during regular in-person classes.
With phones being the main problem, online school forces students to try and pay attention during Zoom classes and maybe put their phone down, or even turn it on silent.
This is something that I did not think was going to be a problem while learning, but I was very wrong.
Another reason online classes benefit students is the fact that they teach us to become better students on our own without professors telling us what to do. There is a larger degree of independence found in online classes compared to in-person classes. It has made me more disciplined, and more of an active participant in my learning than one who just goes to class, comes home, sleeps and repeats.
Maybe making online school our new normal would be beneficial.
With social distancing’s estimated conclusion in question, this could be the future of learning beyond this academic year. While this idea may torment many students’ minds, this is something that could be beneficial for our academic careers and our professional lives.
With all of the technological advances in the world, it is important that we understand that technology could very well be the future of learning.
We should get used to technology — it will likely become more necessary in the future.
Even as I work toward a career as a sports reporter, this is not done like it was pre-Internet — now it takes a relative savviness with online platforms of all sorts. Whether it be articles on the internet, Zoom calls online or even just typing on a computer, online schooling could actually help.
It causes people to be more aware of the way the world is changing. And for the better or for the worse, the world is no doubt changing.
When I reflect, I am grateful that we have online classes. It has come at a perfect time for me, a 20-year-old who needs to learn how to be disciplined and become smarter with technology and productivity in today’s world.