A sophomore’s perspective on an unusual semester

By Rachel Ornstein, UD Class of 2022

I never thought that I would want to be back in my 250-person lecture class…but I do!

Online learning is very different than I thought it would be. I realize now all that I have been taking for granted on a daily basis when it comes to my learning experience. From the dynamic interactions with my classmates and my professors, to the simple ability to raise my hand to ask for clarification—everything has changed! 

I tried to adjust to my new learning experience. I knew that I needed to designate a work-only area. At school, I used to do my work in the student centers on campus, while I would relax and watch Netflix in my dorm room. This was a bit more challenging at home. When it came to separating areas of my own house, both of my parents are working at home too, so there were limited choices. My best bet was to work in the dining room; across the house from my mom’s working space, and on a different floor from my dad’s office area. (Although, my “desk” is technically the table where my mom and I are currently working on a jigsaw puzzle.)

In this newly created workspace, I attend classes on Zoom and watch pre-recorded lectures. I’ve learned that focusing in a lecture hall is a whole lot easier compared to trying to focus at home. The lawnmower outside, my mom’s Zoom meetings with her students down the hall, my cat hopping up on the chair next to me…I admit that I do lose focus sometimes! Nevertheless, I know that if I were to do work in my room, my focus would not improve, and assignments would take much longer to get done.

I have found that the one critical skill for online learning, without a doubt, has been to stay organized. I have never been more grateful for my habit of using a Google doc schedule to keep track of my assignments, each color-coded to represent the class it’s for. This document allows me to note what I need to accomplish for each class. But it looks a bit different now that it includes lectures that I need to watch each week, instead of attending the class in person. I also found that I would get caught up doing an assignment for one class and then forget to do something for another, but following my Google doc schedule prevents this from happening. 

While I’ve been trying my hardest to adjust to this new learning style, I also know that some things will occur that are out of my control. I have experienced technical difficulties on both my end and that of my professors, a Zoom-bombing incident and an extra-long wait to take my ProctorU exam. (Boy, was that a weird experience!) Things like this happen with online learning, but I’ve learned to just go with the flow!

The pandemic has made me realize never to take for granted the vital things that play a role in my learning experience. While we are uncertain about how long online learning will continue, I know one thing for sure: if you are struggling with it like I am, this too shall pass.

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