The Weight of Online Classes and Returning to Campus

Cynthia Terry, contributor 

When I received the email that said most classes were going to be in-person next semester, I was ecstatic. From my experience this past year, the pros of in-person classes outweigh the cons as I am not a fan of online classes. 

My main reason for this preference is that I get headaches from looking at screens too long. Whether it’s due to my bad eyes or four concussions, looking at a computer screen for an hour leaves me with a terrible headache. I was able to get accommodations with the help from Augsburg’s Center for Learning and Accessible Student Services (CLASS) office, but there is only so much that can be done when classes are online. 

Although I enjoy getting my education, I can get distracted by things around me. During online classes, I am in my dorm surrounded by things I enjoy (mainly my PlayStation 4). It takes a lot of  self-restraint to resist the temptation to play video games during a professor’s lecture. Even when I’m not distracted by things around me, my computer itself can be distracting. I could have Zoom open and actively participate in class, or I could be looking at my various social media accounts and get caught up on recent events, stream Netflix or Hulu or go on Pinterest and fall down the rabbit hole of content. As online classes don’t require face cams to be on, the likelihood of me actually paying attention is reduced because of this. I, like so many others, learn more when having in-person classes instead of online classes. 

The move to online classes has led professors to make open book tests and exams. This has led me to not read chapters or even full textbooks. The open book exams are not too much of a problem, specifically because googling an exam question can usually lead to a Quizlet with all the questions there. If all the resources are available for me to use, then I will use them, especially Quizlet and Google. I am often in a personal conflict over the morals during online exams because I wonder – does this make me a bad student? 

Although I typically find myself wanting to be alone and away from human contact, there are times where I desperately desire to have a face-to-face conversation with another human being. I tend to enjoy having conversations with other students and professors before and after classes. In the online setting, those conversations don’t exist; especially if the only person who has a face cam turned on is the professor and everyone else has a black screen revealing only their name. 

Having in-person classes doesn’t mean COVID is gone . It is still a disease that exists and has killed more than a quarter of a million Americans and should be taken seriously. It is a deadly disease but wearing masks and getting vaccinated reduces the number of cases, allowing us to meet in person again. While I am grateful to be at a school that follows proper health protocol and does everything to keep the students and employees safe and healthy, I am paying for in-person classes and feel that in-person classes with these precautions are worth it.