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Pandemic Brings Pros, Cons of Virtual Learning into Focus

Last updated on November 6, 2020


College and university students tread on unfamiliar turf from coast to coast with the ups and downs of remote learning.

By Jonathan Montes


Six months of virtual learning led many college and university students in Los Angeles to transition away from classrooms and face-to-face learning because of the pandemic. It is an unprecedented time.

PHOTO BY GINA CHOE
Photo by Gina Choe. Caption: Young Ah Kim is a 7th grader at Virgil Middle School near LACC, and she studies for an online exam about the Earth’s crust on Oct. 20, 2020. Like college students, middle school kids are compelled to make adjustments as they attend remote classes during the pandemic.

This type of upheaval in education and public health has not occurred since the last pandemic a century ago.

Students from colleges and universities in Southern California described their experiences with online learning. One of the strengths that students talk about is the convenience of learning from home and no commute.

“It’s been OK. I’m used to it, since I took online classes before,”

Nicholas Cardona says

One of the weaknesses that students discuss is the difficulty in trying to focus online rather than in person, in a classroom.

In a recent study, 49% of students polled indicated their family financial situation had been affected by COVID-19, according to Educationdata.org.

The study also reports that 97% of college students have switched to online instruction.

Students who attend different universities and community colleges in the area shared their views with the Collegian about online learning during the pandemic.

Donovan Lindo is 43 years old and lives in Los Angeles. His major is child development, and he teaches kindergarten. Lindo attends Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena where he is a freshman.

His career plan is to eventually open a school and teach children science, math, technology and engineering. He says the last six months have been a challenge for students.

“It was very difficult because a lot of people are more hands on,” Lindo said.

Lindo may be right because not everyone is capable or inclined toward online learning. Students like Lindo prefer in-class learning because they are able to focus and interact with their professors.

Joseph Hayman is 21 years old, and he attends Santa Monica College. He says his computer skills have improved since the college transitioned to remote learning, and there are other benefits.

“Some good things are that I can stay home, be with my family a little more, and don’t have to worry about transportation,” Hayman said.

Hayman points out practical advantages that can help a student save money and learn.

“I do see a difference because, with in-class learning, I focused more on the professor’s work than how I focus more on the explanation to get through this virtual learning,” Hayman said.

Hayman says his learning skills have changed, as well.

For students like 20-year-old Nicholas Cardona who is an English major at LACC online learning required very little adjustment. He was ready for the challenge.

“It’s been OK. I’m used to it since I took online classes before,” Cardona said. “You aren’t in a classroom setting, and sometimes it’s hard to self-motivate to actually attend the Zoom meetings and such, but I still do them anyway.”

Cardona says whether it is virtual or in person, he completes his work. Educationdata.org reports that 63% of college students say online instruction is inferior compared to in-person instruction.

There are other issues for Nathan H., a triple-major in cinema, photography, and television at LACC. He lives in Los Angeles, and he says he cares about his health. He wants to avoid the coronavirus at all costs.

Unlike many students, he would like to continue his studies online after the pandemic has passed. He says he does not care for the online classroom atmosphere when students ask questions.

“It’s harder to pay attention,” Nathan said. “Teachers don’t teach as well as in person, and some online classes are too long,”. From community colleges to universities, online classrooms are a shared experience during the pandemic.

Shaidia Hernandez studies English and creative writing at Cal State University Northridge. She identified three pragmatic benefits of online instruction: “Not commuting, saving money and having more time to work on assignments.”

However, Hernandez says she misses studying in the library on campus and the learning experience of a classroom, and the ability to interact with classmates.

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