Isuru Karunatillaka /HIGHLANDER

Necessary measures to social distance and self-isolate have forced many students to return home for remote learning; however, the drastic changes to their learning experience have brought about its own set of challenges and issues. This transition into online learning has negatively impacted the education of an entire generation of students.

Numerous universities have opted to transition into remote learning in order to accommodate for the safety measures many states established. An assortment of programs and tools have been utilized to conduct classes including the well-known Zoom, whose popularity has skyrocketed since the beginning of the pandemic. Some schools have eased the limitations on how many class units can be taken with a pass/fail grading scale, which does ease some of the stress that countless students face. However, these changes have proven themselves to be quite difficult for students to adjust to and experiences with remote learning appear to be rather diverse.

Students nationwide are currently struggling with the numerous downsides of this transition. The largest issue lies in how college and university faculty have hastily moved courses online without much support or preparation. As a result, online learning is being conducted poorly in colleges throughout the nation, earning a bad reputation among campuses. Technical issues have arisen from the use of online programs such as Zoom. Others have struggled to distribute devices like laptops and iPads amid shortages from suppliers. More than 12 million students in 2017 did not have broadband internet in their homes. This exemplifies a significant gap between students from privileged backgrounds and students from disadvantaged backgrounds, as nearly 25% of those from disadvantaged families do not have access to a computer or reliable internet.

Much of these issues also stem from student discontent concerning unfair grading and payment practices. Students nationwide have voiced their concerns over the notion that online learning should not be charged the same fees as regular in-person learning. Some have even gone as far as to request refunds and exemptions from fees, while financial aid adjusts accordingly to the pandemic.

In addition, students feel that these circumstances necessitate professors to act more leniently with grading. Those taking classes via Zoom may be tempted to oversleep or skip class as motivation decreases. Meanwhile, other students are forced to choose work over schooling in order to support their families. Teachers at some institutions across the country report that fewer than half of their students are participating in online learning.

Nonetheless, among all of the issues that have been presented, some positives have also come out of online learning. For one, online learning has allowed for universities to put forward more attention and focus onto their remote programs.This may come to benefit future students who may seek remote learning for a variety of reasons. In fact, students may benefit from online learning because it allows for students to pace themselves and have more control over how they retain information. The growth during this period of time creates potential for universities to invest more into online education, which may prove to be an additional, affordable option for students. With this potential for improvement, the future may hold a more welcoming approach to remote learning for students nationwide. 

That being said, the impact of this transition will linger in the futures of many students and the education system as a whole. Demotivation will exacerbate the tendency to form bad habits such as skipping lectures, not studying and cheating on assignments and tests, and subsequently affect students’ ability to take in information. The effects of these actions will only inhibit a proper understanding of material and academic conduct, which will only hurt this generation when they return to in-person learning or attempt to find a job down the road.

These adverse times have led to unprecedented changes to how education is conducted with remote learning. The physical health of loved ones, financial struggles, staggered schedules and the difficulty of working while studying or teaching in cramped environments are some of the many issues that need to be addressed and accommodated for. While there may be some positives to this new learning format, there could still be more issues that arise that may impact education in the United States for years to come.