COLUMN: Covid-19 gave me a personal insight on my learning style

The past 15 months have been a ride to say the least. However, it’s given me the opportunity to get to know a lot more about myself as a student. 

At first, I thought I was going to absolutely hate online learning. I thought I was going to hate being stuck at home, in the same room, all alone, day after day for who knows how long. Now that in-person learning is on the horizon, I can look back on the past few quarters, and all the things I thought I would dislike haven’t really upset me at all. In fact, I have actually come to enjoy online education.

The first thing that I like about online learning is the flexibility. What used to require a commute between campuses now takes just a few computer clicks to hop onto a Zoom call. With all the time that I’ve reclaimed from my commute, I have found a bunch of new hobbies that I absolutely adore. I finally have time to go to the gym, which was a rarity back when I was commuting between Lincoln Park and the Loop. Going to the gym has allowed for me to have a change in scenery throughout the day, both in getting to the gym and while being there. It also lets me move around to combat all the sitting done while in Zoom classes. 

I have also learned to give myself a little bit of grace when it comes to school. When I was living on campus pre-pandemic, I would wake up and get ready for class, maybe do a couple of readings for assignments. Then I would hop on the train  to get to class, actually attend a few classes and really focus on what was happening. From there, I’d  head off to work, come back to the dorm, write a few papers and go back to bed just to repeat the process all over again the next day. All I did was focus on school — not myself. 

With online classes, I have learned to take time out of my day for things other than school. I’m still committed to my schoolwork, but I’ve learned to focus on things outside of school and have hobbies. I even feel like I’ve mastered the art of doing nothing — not being lazy, just focusing on the now— living in the moment, if you will. It’s done wonders for my mental health. 

Speaking of mental health, I’ve made sure to find time to take care of that as well. When learning pre pandemic, each quarter was an endless cycle of working until burnout, pushing through that burnout, feeling okay for a bit, and then repeating the cycle. Having done this for the entirety of my college career, it seemed as if there was no other way to do it. This past year has proven otherwise to me. Taking time away from school has actually allowed me to do better on assignments. Essays and journalism stories are more fun, creative and better put together because I’ve learned to take time to avoid  burnout. 

I will admit that there are downfalls to online learning as well. I can say with certainty that I do not focus on classes nearly as much as I did when I was in-person. It is so much easier to zone out and miss what’s going on in class when on a Zoom call. When things are in-person you have to go to class: you have to get dressed and be presentable, you can review your notes on the train and by the time I get to class I’m ready for class. With e-learning, there have been quite a few times I roll out of bed, hop on Zoom with no prep, no mindset, just Zooming until I space out. 

This lack of focus in school has led me to miss out on key points in class that probably would be beneficial to know in the long run. It has also made me prioritize classes, with those requiring more work to be put up higher on the list versus those with less assignments. This mindset on prioritizing classes has been quite the drastic change from how I looked at classes when attending in-person. When learning in-person, I treated all my classes the same, believing that each class would give me different perspectives so it was necessary to pay attention and give them all the attention they deserved. 

I find that school is not as challenging online, at least not the type of challenging that I’ve always known to accompany academics. I’ve always enjoyed a small challenge when it came to school. Maybe it’s an essay with an unusual prompt, or a group project that was a tad bit tricky. School is a challenge now, but not like I’ve enjoyed it. School now is challenging because it seems just like so much to do. It’s just a matter of getting things done until I reach the end of the quarter, and then I just start the process all over again. 

I still study, and I’m still very invested in my grades and academic career, but since settling into the online learning routine I’ve also settled into how I learn and how I look at academics. I still enjoy school, but have learned to step back, take a deep breath, and look at the bigger picture.