It’s a brisk -20℃ unspecified winter morning. You have an 8:30 class and it’s 8:17. You stand and wait in a slush puddle for a bus that will never come until it’s 8:25 and you decide to book it and hopefully make it to the lecture before you miss too much. It’s 8:37 and you’re halfway across campus when a flock of geese slowly waddle onto the path and stare you down. You relent and take a detour. It’s 8:45 as you rush up the steps of E5, slipping on some ice and steadying yourself on the frigid handrail, before just missing the elevator closing. You run up five flights of stairs and walk into class at 8:50, dripping wet and out of breath. The professor stops talking and everyone looks at you as you take your seat, red in the face… –
It’s a brisk -20℃ winter morning. You have an 8:30 class and it’s 8:17. You take one look at the slushy sidewalks outside and get back into bed. You say you’ll get notes from someone and review them later. You probably won’t… –
It’s a brisk -20℃ winter morning. You have an 8:30 class and it’s 8:17. You hit snooze, then ten minutes later sit up, grab your laptop and join the lecture muted, webcam off, pyjama-clad, and wrapped up in your warm blankets. With the chilly winter months approaching, the troubles of attending lectures in the flesh make online learning seem like a more practical alternative. Online learning creates a more convenient, accessible, and encouraging learning experience than provided by in-person classes.
The convenience of online learning outshines the burden of in-person classes, as virtual lectures allow students to be in control of their schedules. Pre-recorded lectures can be watched at a time that best fits a student’s schedule, and even live lectures don’t require the commitment of getting to a real-life class. Students who work part-time jobs or have other responsibilities are able to relax a bit knowing they don’t have to ping-pong themselves from home to school to work and everywhere in between, as school is available wherever they need it to be.
Along with the convenience of online lessons, the type of learning this term requires is more accessible for a wider range of students. The quality of education provided is no longer dependent on a student’s ability to get to class or be fully attentive. Students are able to play-back lectures at slower speeds, rewatch them as many times as necessary, and take pause breaks when need be to learn at their own speed. There’s no rushed copying of notes from the board before they get wiped away because students now have ultimate rewind powers over their education (à la Adam Sandler’s Click).
Finally, if the video lectures don’t cut it, and personal interactions are needed to clarify a topic, professors and TAs are more available and understanding now than in-person. They’re already required to be online, so you know where they are and how to reach them. That’s one step up from hunting them down on campus (when even office hours don’t guarantee they’re in their office) or shooting an email into the void (never knowing if it will reach its target because the professor is technology-averse). There is an understanding that adjusting to online learning is difficult for instructors and students alike, and the main focus is on students learning despite the circumstances. As a result, many instructors are more relaxed regarding expectations and deadlines, as technical issues are expected and understood.
It’s easy to complain about the current circumstances, but there are so many benefits not afforded by in-person classes that make online classes the clear champion. You can indulge in all your bad habits without worrying about social consequences. You can snack, provide running commentary over lectures, and have a pet on your lap the entire time. You don’t have to worry about finding a good seat, there’s no commute, no small talk, and you can go to the bathroom without missing a thing- just make sure your camera is off.