Last March, I was somewhat relieved when the university announced the transition to remote learning. After what felt like running on a hamster wheel for forever, I would finally get a reprieve.
No more long bus rides between work, school and home. No more feelings of exhaustion after so much walking on campus. Now I could attend classes from the comfort of my own home. I thought I would be able to spend more time with my family, get more sleep and take care of my health.
Despite all of the positive expectations I had for remote learning, I greatly underestimated the time and effort it would take. Long hours in front of my laptop, staring out of the same window day after day felt like I was still running frantically on the same hamster wheel, except the wheel wasn’t even moving.
Oddly enough, the time I got to spend with my family decreased even though I was at home.
With the next meeting or class being just a click away, breaks became almost nonexistent. Only at the end of most days did I realize it had been far too long since I actually interacted with my family members.
I also sometimes felt frustrated at my lack of connection to course materials. I was in a perpetual state of trying to express what I needed help with, but not being able to articulate it because I wasn’t standing in front of a person.
While this time has been overwhelmingly challenging, we often found a way through. Overall, I am impressed with our ability to adapt to remote learning the way we have.
I have learned many lessons, from mistaking the camera button for the “exit call” button in an online meeting to making better use of the resources posted in virtual classrooms. From my experience, we did okay for having to make the sudden switch to remote learning during a pandemic.
My respect for professors and teaching assistants has also increased tenfold.
When we had in-person classes, it was easy to limit my understanding of professors and TAs to just the scope of a classroom or a lab session. With remote learning, there is something about seeing professors recording lectures in their office or in their home that makes me relate to them a little more. With TAs, seeing the amount of hours they sit in front of their screens so they can help me out has given me a deep sense of appreciation.
This past year, I learned to recognize my weaknesses and strengths. I also realized that time management isn’t always about carefully-planned study routines and schedules.
The somewhat consistent system I had for in-person classes went down the drain. Suddenly I was struggling to keep up with everything, no matter how many different to-do lists I used or how many plans I made. It felt like it took me twice as long to understand a concept that would have been easy to grasp in person.
Even with stressful assignments that often left me worrying more than working, I realized that pushing myself even when I didn’t completely understand what I was doing was better than giving myself a headache thinking about how much I needed to do. It also made me appreciate in-person learning a lot more.
Moving forward, there are a lot of things we can learn from this year of remote learning.
One of the biggest takeaways is ensuring classes are accessible to professors and students working and learning remotely. We have proven that it is possible and that it doesn’t turn out so terrible.
Rather than having to take the bus to school in -40 degree weather, I hope I can still turn on my laptop for a lecture during a snow day next year.
Additionally, the sense of community that came from group chats and places like Discord made it a lot easier to get through difficult times. I hadn’t really interacted with any classmates in in-person classes before, but online I felt like I wasn’t always alone in struggling with a concept or asking a question I thought was obvious.
This academic year has been interesting, to say the least. There was a mountain of difficulties but also many positives I found in the situation, and I think there are a lot of things we can continue implementing.
That being said, I am still eager to start in-person classes again.
This op-ed was written by a University of Saskatchewan undergraduate student and reflects the views and opinions of the writer. If you would like to write a reply, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Fiza is a third-year undergraduate student studying computer science, and the staff writer at The Sheaf Publishing Society.