Saturday, October 16, 2021

Column: The freshman experience from home

November 16, 2020

Jack Armstrong from Royal Oak, MI

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Here’s how my average day starts: I wake up around 11 a.m., head downstairs and fall into a comfy office chair in front of my computer, where I remain for the next six hours. Sometimes I get distracted, take breaks, lose focus. And then I remember that these classes cost a fortune, so I get back to them.

MSU issued an official statement Aug. 18 that classes will be transitioning from their previous hybrid model to a fully virtual format for fall 2020, asking students to stay home this fall. The decision was met with frustration from students and parents alike. Now, students like me are struggling to feel if they are in college at all, especially with a lack of live classes.

As a college freshman with all asynchronous classes, I have a few responsibilities that require me to be punctual. I'm taking a math class from Oakland Community College that requires me to join Zoom calls twice a week, but besides that, I am entirely self-disciplined, and at times, self-taught.

Most of my classes consist of a weekly video lecture or some form of reading, accompanied by a quiz or homework assignment. All of my work is due at midnight at the end of every week. 

There is an unexpected joy of asynchronous classes, though.

Some of my classes follow a different working week schedule. For instance, one of my classes begins on a Wednesday, while the other begins on a Tuesday. This has allowed me to fall into a rhythm. I know which assignments need to be done early in the week, which can be left for the weekend. I can spend my day away from home without worrying about being on time for an online lecture.

If I am feeling particularly productive, I can knock out a week’s workload in a single sitting. That way, I would have much more free time than I anticipated, and I don’t think I would switch any of my classes for a more consistent schedule.

The downside, of course, is that I am often disoriented, distracted and bored. Not being able to ask questions during a lecture or having trouble finding assignments are common frustrations, and forcing myself to spend hours staring at a screen makes me feel unhealthy.

I do think that MSU made the right decision this semester — especially considering the recent COVID-19 developments on campus — and I can handle the rigors of an entirely asynchronous curriculum. But I also think many would agree that paying full tuition to study from home leaves us feeling at least a little bit robbed.

Morgan Womack from Grand Haven, MI

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Online school from home has been tough. Every day feels like it’s repeating itself. Over. And over. And over. While I’ve tried to romanticize my first year at MSU by taking fancy notes, setting up a visually appealing workspace and staying productive with daily workouts and schoolwork, I feel like my motivation is slipping out of reach. 

I only have one synchronous class, Introduction to Popular Literature, over Zoom and the other three are asynchronous. As a student who’s never had college classes before, it’s hard to remember all of the dates for assignments and quizzes. 

The workload isn’t too difficult, but it’s the consistent organization and systems that take a lot of getting used to. Not to mention all of the different platforms I need for each class, some of which cost money like Tophat. It’s overwhelming, to say the least.

I hate the isolation the most, though. Working alone in my house for five days a week is monotonous. It’s not like I can just go to a library to study, because they’re all closed. It’s also getting too cold for me to study outside. I do have my dog to keep me company, but when I have to join Zoom meetings she’s whiny and uncooperative. 

“It could be worse.”

This is a phrase I’ve heard from a lot of fellow online students, desperately searching for a reason to stop being melodramatic about our whole situation. But it sucks. And we’re allowed to acknowledge that. Instead of trying to compare our hardships to others, we should be reminding ourselves why we’re staying home. 

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We’re staying home to protect ourselves and others from getting sick. We’re staying home to increase the possibility of ever going to live on campus. We’re staying home to help bring the world back to normal. We should be proud of that.

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