Just a Few Problems I
Words by Darren Abejo
I remember sitting in the library preparing for a report when class suspension was announced on March 9, 2020. I didn’t know it then but it was at that moment that everything changed. At first, the suspension wasn’t supposed to last long but once the government imposed a nationwide lockdown, the period became virtually indefinite. Soon after, my university made the decision to conduct online classes, which majority of the student population opposed. Much to our disappointment, our concerns were ultimately shut down and online classes resumed. One of our administrators boasted about how our university is at the forefront of online learning. Online learning is the future, he would say, While I agree with that statement, are we really prepared to replace online learning with traditional education? I think not.
There are various complications that need to be considered. One would be the schools’ preparedness—which can be examined in three areas. First, based on my experience, our professors were vastly unprepared and untrained for this new curriculum. Many were technologically inept. Some didn’t even know how to use Canvas, my university’s main online learning platform, prior to the pandemic. As a result, communication between students and professors was often difficult. There were delays in assigning schoolwork and the mode of learning was inadequate. Second, most students weren’t given the preparation to succeed and were forced to resort to self-study. While there were some advantages to independent learning such as student autonomy and opportunities for critical thinking, I found that some materials were too vague and difficult to understand without my professor’s guidance. Third, our school's systems were extremely insufficient. For a university that boasts its technological capacity, so far, it’s fallen short. Enlistment was a mess. Students scrambled to get their ideal class and the website crashed often. One can argue that complications like this aren’t new. However, if the administration argues that the school is capable of conducting online classes, problems like this should’ve been minimized in the beginning. If these problems were minimized, I wouldn’t need to wait for a clearance in the middle of an ongoing enlistment—where I lose slots with every passing moment.
Another complication concerns how the environment plays a huge role in studying effectively. At school, I’d spend my time studying at my university’s library—which was cold, quiet, spacious, and populated yet private. These were some of the perks that made me love studying there. It’s such a contrast to my own home—which is hot, noisy, cramped, and lacking any privacy or peace. At school, I can get “into the zone” to finish any task, while at home I’m often stressed or distracted by things outside my academics. For instance, I have limited time to accommodate my study sessions since I share a room and one laptop with my family. This leads me to my next complication.
Online classes also discriminate towards those from low-income households. If you’re not privileged, prepare to face a loop of challenges disguised as “considerations” given towards the disadvantaged. A memo stated that I was allowed to enlist classes, despite my inability to fully pay the 2nd term tuition. Yet, it took countless emails and a few days of waiting before I got a reply. After only one of the offices that I emailed gave an insightful response, I learned that I had to pay half of the tuition for that memo to apply to me. This was a condition that I don’t recall was ever announced. The university doesn't respond to calls either which made the problem even more hectic to deal with.
Other issues that the impoverished must face concern internet connection and necessary technology. Having these two things is an absolute must to engage in online classes. This is one of the biggest arguments against holding online classes and the only solution (that has been presented so far) is to simply defer our subjects. However, this would contribute to a larger workload for the next term and still treats the disadvantaged unfairly. The amount of stress this has caused me, as a low-income student, is overwhelming. Frankly, my mental health has taken a toll. I’m having doubts whether I should continue my education since earning income to pay off my tuition has become extremely difficult. I feel absolutely defeated and am struggling to find positive ways to cope.
In spite of all these flaws, it’s disappointing that online classes are still pushing through. They say that we must adapt to the “new normal”. However, you can’t force people to adapt without adequate preparation and assurance—especially for the underprivileged. After all, we never asked for any of this. We all want quality education. We all want a better future. So why make it even harder for us to succeed?
Online learning may be the future, but to rush progress without fully understanding it would cause unnecessary and unfair consequences. My experiences so far have led me to believe that this is the case. Thus, I do not believe that we can say that online learning, at its current state, is capable enough to act as a replacement for traditional learning.