The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.
Maria Combs, sophomore pre-nursing major.

Q&A: Students discuss online learning during a pandemic

October 8, 2020

NKU implemented a hybrid-learning environment this semester due to COVID-19 concerns and guidelines and while students say that comes with a fair share of advantages, students believe there are far more disadvantages.

There are a number of classes being offered fully in-person this fall, though many students have at least one class that’s fully online. 

The Northerner sat down with four students from various majors to ask them about their experience with classes this semester. 

The Northerner: If you had the option to take all of your classes in person right now, would you? Why?

Maria Combs, sophomore pre-nursing major: “Yes … changing my major’s made this extremely difficult because some professors are … not good with the online style. It’s … not ideal.”

“[Last semester] when things changed for all of us … retaining information for all my classes … went down. Versus in person, I know I’m going to be productive and I know I’m going to be on campus every day.”

Becca Collopy, senior elementary education major: “One-hundred percent … My classes are two hours and 45 minutes, which is a long time to be sitting on my computer … It wouldn’t be as bad if I was in a classroom setting. [Online] classes are really difficult because half the time we’re trying to figure out how to screen share, and then we’re trying to do activities … too and it … gets difficult.”

Flynn Messmer, sophomore chemistry major: “My comfort level with [COVID-19] … I would, but that’s just me … It’s also … a lot easier to do … STEM in person.”

“I find it easier to … focus when I’m in class because … if I’m on Zoom, and … I get a notification on my phone, I just check it … Whereas, … I have to pay attention when I’m in class … [It’s] a lot easier for me to … retain information when somebody is in front of me speaking.”

Andy Maratea, sophomore CIT major:  “I would prefer my classes to be in person because I function better … and I perform much better when I have … hours [blocked] out for class, and for homework … Having that as a foundation … for a schedule is really nice.”

TN: Would you worry about COVID-19 being a concern if you were to take all of your classes in person right now?

Messmer: “I don’t have any … grandparents that live with me or anyone who is immunodeficient that lives with me. So my comfort level is probably higher than other people … I personally wouldn’t care that much.”

Maratea: “I would. My parents are of the demographic that [COVID-19] would affect the most so I’d have to watch out for that.”

TN: Have you taken online classes in the past?

Messmer: “I haven’t taken any online classes … because I know that I can’t do them very well … Plus they’re … more money at NKU.”

Maratea: “The only other time that I took online classes [was] when the university shut down in March.”

Collopy: “Yeah … if I just need a [one-credit hour course] … I also have taken a class online because of a teacher … I would very much prefer to take classes in person.”

TN: What struggles, if any, have you faced with online classes?

Combs: “My struggle with it has been…not giving it my full attention like I would if …everything was in person … I think my study habits … were way better [last fall], but I’m getting better at it.”

Messmer: “I’ve found myself losing a lot of motivation … I work a lot as a pharmacy technician at CVS so … when I get home from work, I … don’t care to … watch a Zoom video or get on a lecture … so that’s … a big struggle.”

Collopy: “I … have a janky computer right now, and it will … shut off at random times. [So then] I have to get on my phone and … [professors] are like ‘Who’s Becca’s iPhone?”

“I have two other girls living with me who are on the WiFi at the same time … so it does cut out … It’s very frustrating.”

Maratea: “Getting a grip on how the different professors deal with their classes or format their classes … Navigating Canvas is probably the hardest thing.”

Collopy: “The [synchronized] classes are … long … or I’m staring at my computer all day, especially [the days] I have two, two hours and 45 minute classes back-to-back … My attention span is … all over the place right now, so I feel like Doug from Up.”

TN: With your online classes, do you prefer synchronous or asynchronous?

Messmer: “As much as I hate Zoom meetings, it … makes me … sit down and learn the stuff. So, I like my synchronous class more than I do my synchronous class.”

Maratea: “It [depends] on the course material … If I was going to do [classes] online for [general education courses] I would do [asynchronous]

“I have an IT lab … that would be a class that I’d rather have synchronous.”

Collopy: “I prefer the scheduled ones … because …[it keeps] me accountable … [makes]  sure I’m doing my homework and staying up with it.”

TN: Are there any advantages to online classes?

Combs: “Online classes could be ideal for … out of state students. They can be at home with their family … and that could be an advantage. No advantage for me.”

Messmer: “There’s advantages when it comes to people … [who] have busy work schedules … But … there’s [not] much advantage for me because I don’t … have that problem.”

Collopy: “Being able to do whatever I need to and then when [it’s time for a] Zoom class, I can just pop my laptop up … I can go to a coffee shop now, pop my laptop open. One time I was babysitting, the kid was taking a nap, popped my laptop open.”

“It’s been nice … being able to change scenery and … [plan] my schedule around [online classes].”

TN: What helps you do well in your online classes that you would share with other students?

Combs: “I ended up buying a desk thing … (Pans camera to show a desk similar to this one)…This thing has helped me…be more productive in school…It’s so convenient because I can have my computer on here and…my notebook has enough room.”

Maratea: “Make sure to check your email and Canvas … Make sure to stay up to date on the calendar as well as the modules and assignments tabs throughout the course.”

Collopy: “I have been crazy organized with all my classes … I have three planners. I have one of all my assignments, and then one for classes, and then everything jam-packed together in one. I also write to do lists … prioritizing which classes need to be done first. It’s … really making sure … you’re putting school first, and you’re making sure that you’re being organized.”

TN: What do you miss most about being on campus before the pandemic?

Combs: “I miss, of course, all my classes being in-person, which I think everybody would say that. I miss the library because now you only have the seven study rooms in the library … The other week, I was trying to get a study room with one of my friends for my huge bio exam, and we couldn’t. There’s almost nowhere on campus that you can go and sit with multiple people … I tried in the dining area … in the Student Union, and they have people that walk around … and yell at you if you’re not eating anything. They’re like ‘you’re gonna have to move.’ … So if you have to study or something and you haven’t reserved [a study room] two weeks in advance … there’s almost nowhere to go.”

Messmer: “I am lucky enough to have two classes that are [hybrid], so I go in … every other class … I get to be on campus but I really do miss … hanging out with people, and … talking to people … [The science center] is one of the more packed buildings because there [are] all those [hybrid lab] classes, but I walk around and I’m like ‘there’s no one here. What is happening?’”

Maratea: “I miss … seeing people around campus–people that I might not even know … I just miss having those people around. It’s a ghost town now.”

Collopy: “I miss the relationships I can build … being in a physical environment … It’s nice to … walk around and … see people that you’ve had past classes with. I’m in a sorority, so it’s really fun to be able to say hi to people, meet up on campus– it really did feel like a second home.”

TN: Will you electively take online classes in the future?

Combs: “Classes are only going to get harder and harder when you’re in your major and … if I’m struggling …now [in online classes], [more online classes] isn’t going to be fun so I don’t think so.”

Maratea: “If it was … a gen ed then yeah, but if it was anything that that had to do with IT … I don’t think so.”

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