What I’ve Learned After More Than a Year of Online School

Reflecting on how I overcame the academic challenges brought on by the pandemic


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Learning online for a year and a half has taught me several tips to help manage the challenges of online learning.

Courtney Ott

March 13, 2020, was just another Friday for me as I sat in my high school math classroom learning about algebraic equations.

I loved my class, being surrounded by my friends and the conversations we had. At that time of year, we discussed what dress we would be wearing to our senior prom and graduation. Around 1 p.m. that day, the classroom fell silent at the beep of the overhead speaker.

We listened intently as our principal explained that schools would be shutting down for two weeks because of the rapidly spreading COVID-19 pandemic.

Being naïve high schoolers, we thought this was great — getting two weeks off of school for some flu-like sickness. Little did we know, that day would forever change the rest of our lives.

Those two weeks soon turned into a month of online school, learning through Zoom and discussion boards. During that time, students were informed they would not be returning for that academic year. An announcement that initially planned for a few months off from school ultimately extended to another full year of remote instruction until the HCC campus re-opened in fall 2021.

I finally returned to in-person learning in February 2022 after learning online for the past year and a half. Throughout that journey, I learned a lot about myself and my learning style. Here, I have listed my biggest takeaways from my online learning experience.

Asking for Help is Okay!

Everybody needs support, especially during a time without face-to-face interaction with professors and peers. I am the type of person that wants to be strong and figure out problems myself. During the virtual learning era, however, I realized that I needed to reach out to professors and peers for help, or else I would struggle. Nobody can figure everything out on their own, and asking for help leads to clarity and success.

Balance is Crucial

Online school allows students to be flexible with their scheduling, but students can also get caught up quickly, not realizing how fast the time has flown by when sitting at their computer for hours. This has happened to me numerous times — sitting down to start my homework, and before I know it, the sun begins to set. These long hours can lead to burnout, which is a form of exhaustion from overworking and stress.

To avoid this, I organized my schedule by creating time slots for things I wanted to do throughout the day. For example, from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., I would work on biology assignments. Then, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. I could take my dog for a walk. These time slots provided balance and helped keep my brain active, relaxed and focused.

Change Up your Work Areas

When the pandemic started, I tried to do most of my work either lying in bed or sitting at my desk.

After a while, this got boring and I would get distracted easily, so I decided to move my computer around the house. I tried working at the dinner table or in my parent’s office. I even worked outside occasionally on nice days. I believe this helped greatly, because the change of scenery kept me engaged with my work without becoming bored and getting distracted.

I Am Really Good at Procrastinating

I thought that I had mastered procrastinating before the pandemic, but online classes took me to an entirely new level.

Since I wasn’t in the classroom, I had a hard time finding a need to work, unless it was the day before something was due. To help myself break this habit, I would set reminders every hour about assignments on my phone and computer. I would also use a planner and map out when I needed to start assignments throughout the week.

The constant reminders and setting a schedule helped push me to get my work done on time.

Finding Motivation is a Struggle

Being at home all day made me not want to work. Before the pandemic, home was a place for me to relax after being in school for six hours. I had a really hard time finding motivation, but something that helped me was rewarding myself for the little things. For example, I would tell myself that if I completed my English assignment, I could watch an episode of my favorite television show.

I Took In-Person Classes for Granted

Online classes were great in the beginning, as students could work according to their schedule while continuing to meet deadlines. While I enjoyed it initially, after a while I started to miss going in person. The face-to-face interaction with peers and professors is what I’m used to and what I prefer.

People need personal connections and interactions, as these enhance engagement and make it easier to learn. According to KIPP Texas Public Schools, in-person classes reduce distractions, increase concentration and provide students with a more direct, personal learning experience. Online classes can be beneficial, but I wouldn’t want to do them indefinitely because of how I thrived while learning in person.

As a student, these past two years have been difficult, but I also believe that the pandemic has taught me new strategies that I can incorporate into my life as I re-adjust to in-person learning.

Finding success at HCC hasn’t been easy, but using these tips has helped me persevere through the many challenges I have faced along the way. I have been able to achieve a 3.7 GPA and hold a position as a staff writer for The HCC Times. I am set to graduate from HCC this semester and continue my academic journey at Towson University.

For those who are struggling with online learning and the COVID-19 pandemic, I hope my advice can help you overcome obstacles and help you achieve your academic goals.