By Jhoana T. Merino-Martinez
Remote learning has shifted every FDU student’s academic path in one way shape or form over the last year, falling disproportionately harder on students’ mental and physical health, when layered on top of health, finances, family and all the other stresses of life.
“Our students are entering the world of virtual/online learning with a lot of additional baggage,” said Alice Mills, co-director of Student Counseling and Psychological Services in an email to The Equinox.
“We already know that students report that issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, worries about family and friends are significant impediments to their academic success. These chronic stressors can serve to trigger or exacerbate mental health issues,” she said.
While optional in-person classes began Feb. 15, a majority of students are still participating in remote instruction and are having to adapt to many challenges.
Ashley O’Keefe, a sophomore computer science major, said inconsistencies among the teaching styles of professors made adapting to online courses challenging.
“Some professors cancelled assignments and adjusted weights in grading to accommodate students, while others did not even host Zoom meetings and left us to teach ourselves the material,” O’Keefe said via Snapchat.
“Online class was very difficult to adapt to because I am a hands-on learner, I have to be in-person in order for me to fully understand what is being taught,” Shamiere Contant, sophomore psychology major, said via text message.
Contant said that working a job added to the pressure of balancing school and personal life. However, he says that having his own room helped him attend classes and study in peace, which in turn played a huge part in successfully managing his time during the virtual fall semester.
“Virtual instruction has not affected my daily routine at all, as a matter of fact it has made it better,” Contant said, adding that he found himself with more time in comparison to an in-person schedule.
Not all students have adjusted this well.
O’Keefe said that taking classes at home is especially stressful due to a noisy and distracting environment. Taking classes online has negatively affected her daily routine — especially sleep.
“My sleep schedule spiraled to the point where I was falling asleep at 6 a.m., waking up to attend class, crashing in between classes and sleeping until the evening,” O’Keefe said.
Michael Daniel, a sophomore psychology major, had a similar experience.
“Being at home threw my schedule in a loophole being that I was not on a physical campus, so I was urged into staying up later than normal,” Daniel said via Snapchat.
In fact, online learning seemed to throw some students’ mental and physical care through a loop.
Contant said that ever since virtual learning began, he started getting migraines from the hours he spends on the computer.
“My mental health has been affected by causing a lot of stress, and migraines,” Contant said. “Which also makes me shut off the computer and take a breather before I lose my mind.”
Chances are, this is not what we thought a year ago when we said the future is technology.
A virtual education — or any at all — should never seem like just another burden to pack onto your back. Students have different levels of obstacles during these times, but if these inequalities are not addressed it may define the student population’s success by resources rather than ambition.
Mills said that students reacted to this situation in uniquely different ways, but all of them require the same thing: empathy.
“We need to remember to be patient and kind with ourselves and others,” Mills said. “We are all unique, have differing needs and challenges but we ALL have had to make significant adjustments to our lives necessitated by the pandemic—which is stressful.”
While it may not be possible to make the experience equal for all, it’s important to be tolerant and understanding in the face of a global crisis.
Art by Jhoana Merino-Martinez