As the country rapidly approaches one year of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, students are questioning if they wish to continue remote learning. For those who continue with school, the experience is taking a toll on their mental health.
Highline’s campus has been closed to most students since last March when shutdowns began, with classes moving online. Remote learning will continue at least through June; the learning format for Summer and Fall Quarters has not yet been decided for certain.
Some students have found it difficult to manage without the social interaction an in-person class offers.
“School is harder during the pandemic,” said a local student who asked to remain anonymous. “It’s harder not being able to ask for help in-person or ask classmates.”
Another student agreed, saying remote learning doesn’t offer the same variety as a classroom.
“My mental health has gone down,” said Malia Anderson. “Most of the time I feel like my days are on repeat, and there’s nothing to look forward to.”
Anderson is not alone.
A recent study from the Journal of Medical Internet Research on the impacts of COVID-19 on the mental health of college students found that 71 percent felt an increase in their stress and anxiety levels.
Other students have also found remote learning to be a challenge.
“I think school is more difficult because it’s harder to motivate yourself,” said Nicholas Schultz. “And, it’s more stressful because we’re in the middle of a global pandemic.”
For some, the downsides of remote learning outweigh the benefits. This has led some students to take some time away from school while they wait for in-person learning to be safe again.
Patrick Eaton, a local resident who is taking three quarters off from college, said he is not getting the education he desires from online school.
“The quality of education has gone down drastically and yet, tuition keeps going up,” Eaton said. “Whether or not I pass my classes, I feel like I’m wasting money. Attending lectures via Zoom is nowhere near the experience of an in-person lecture.”
He said it has been tough not to be able to study in-person with friends or form a strict routine.
“COVID creates so many problems that still impact academic life, [like] the inability to go to someone’s house to study and the lack of a concrete schedule,” he said. “It’s not at all conducive to a good learning environment.”
Some students disagree, however, saying remote learning has been effective for them and proven a worthy replacement for the classroom.
“I honestly really like online learning,” said Highline student Chauncey Jones. “I feel like I can focus better learning by myself in an element I’m comfortable in.”
In fact, they said they would continue learning remotely even after classrooms reopen.
“I think for certain classes, I would do them in-person, but I do think I would still do online school after COVID,” Jones said.
Another student agreed, saying they’ve found remote learning to be a success.
“Online classes have not been a struggle for me so far,” said Highline student Linda Sanchez. “I feel like I learn just as well, if not better, and it’s easier to fit into my schedule with work and everything else.”
Highline counselor Dr. Gloria Rose Koepping offered some tips for students who, like Eaton, are frustrated with remote learning and interested in a break from school.
“I think students should look at why students in Europe take gap years and what they do with the time,” Dr. Koepping said. “Are students wanting to see the world, travel, commit to community service, experience a service project in another country, or work in an area they might want to study?”
She said some career advice could be helpful in making this decision as well.
“If students apply for financial aid or work awhile to get money to come to school, that is one solution,” said Dr. Koepping. “Another solution is to take a Career Decision Making class or get some career counseling to sort out your interests, abilities, and work values so the best decision can be made for further study.”