What I Want My Teachers To Know About Learning Online

Rubina Tuladhar
A student preparing herself for online classes with her notes, mobile and laptops.

When I got the email from my college saying we’d be transitioning to online classes due to Covid-19, I was excited but a bit nervous. After a of month taking online classes, I’ve learned that both teachers and students feel alienated learning from screens. Not surprising. I know my professors are working extremely hard to make the best of the situation, yet there are still a few things that I would want my teachers to know and make the experience more productive. I’ll start with the most basic. 

Being a full time student at home is difficult

It was hard to find the right space in my house to attend my online lectures and stay engaged. No longer did I have access to my usual study spots on campus, which as you can imagine are a lot more conducive to studying than at home with family. My internet was unstable too: glitches, frozen screens, connection dropping in the middle of my morning finance lecture (making the already strong urge to fall back asleep harder to resist) etc. 

Distractions at home abound. Checking social media, wanting to skip lectures, missing deadlines, and the list goes on. Despite this, studying from the comfort of my couch has been more fun than expected, and the convenience of learning from home has made for a cool albeit very strange experience… yet it feels like there’s something missing. 

I wish we had more engaging group activities and interactions

Social distancing has been lonely and I wish there were more group discussions or activities to help consolidate what I learn. During these activities, views on a common topic are shared, making the experience more memorable and enjoyable while also deepening students’ sense of understanding. I miss this aspect of in-person learning and wish it continued online. I learn better by actively participating and hearing what my classmates have to say as well. There is something about an in person interaction that is very hard to replace. 

Interactive course materials helps me learn 

My experience with online learning has been less inspiring without these interactions. It basically consists of memorizing facts and one-way lectures. Having a proper lecture format with an agenda at the beginning and takeaways at the end will prove to be as effective as in-person lectures. I miss seeing my professor’s body language, their tone and how they highlighted things on the board, emphasizing key points with analogies and examples. Using tools like a video recorder to prepare content to display or a screen-tablet to demonstrate a certain process, or even interactive slides instead of just a recording can make delivery more effective. I’m trying to adapt to the self-paced learning method and build a sense of accountability despite the less effective course deliverance. 

I would benefit from help outside the classroom

My classmates and I learn faster when concepts are explained by our professor rather than applying our own meaning to the readings and notes. I’m left to interpret and understand every lecture on my own, especially when I have to submit an assignment related to that topic. Lack of face-to-face interaction with my professors has somewhat changed my learning style as I find it hard to keep up with all the digital content and instruction. I want my professors to know we need their help outside class. We need their guidance more than ever and to feel a level of connection and support that continues outside the (online) classroom. 

As I said before, the transition to online learning has been a tremendous challenge for everyone, and while it sometimes feels isolating, we’re all in it together. I know my fellow classmates and professors are doing their best, but I believe transparent feedback is necessary. I hope professors will take what I’ve said to heart as much as I have.