As a student who has only taken online classes since the start of the pandemic, I can say that my world is now much smaller––physically. It seems I spend days upon days in my bedroom, sitting at my desk, staring at a screen. My vision becomes blurry and my lower back gets sore from sitting in the same position for hours. Sometimes it feels I’ve aged significantly from taking online classes––often finding myself with vision and back “problems” at 22.

Although I live in Winona, my trips to campus are scarce since the start of the pandemic.

I have gone to campus to buy my books from the bookstore and to use the printer in my favorite place to print––the second floor Minné lounge, which has now changed significantly because of COVID. There are no more cozy couches or causally placed tables and chairs, just empty couch-shaped spaces and at least three single, equally spaced, tables and chairs stretched across the room.

As an English major, I definitely miss the pre-COVID, close-knit feel of Minné––the place where I seemed to live for the last few years. Although all the necessary COVID precautions are in place, like social distance markers on the floor, ‘one way’ signs on the walls, and generous hand sanitizer dispensers, these new safety measures produce a sense of nostalgia for how simple things used to be.

Despite it all, online learning is not all bad here at WSU.

I find that instructors have adapted well along with students to these new circumstances. Dr. Kohn, for instance, who taught my Professional Editing class last semester, extended his availability outside the “classroom” to better assist students to accommodate their schedules. He also gave extensive feedback on our partnered projects both through email and personalized videos.

Although this was an asynchronous class, I felt connected to both the instructor and other students in the class. Despite the huge game of email tag this class often felt like to get in touch with my multiple partners for projects, I believe this was one of the more successful online classes I have taken.

However, I have experienced some challenges to an online format.

Registering late for classes can be a little anxiety-producing when you can’t physically go to a classroom. I registered late for five courses this semester after discovering I needed an extra 13 credits to graduate. But once I got the Zoom links and got in touch with the professors, it wasn’t all bad.

However, the biggest struggle I have found, especially after registering late for several classes, is remembering where Zoom links are posted. Some are posted in the instructors’ syllabi, some are in emails the instructors send out, and some are posted in D2L. I have definitely popped in few minutes late to a few classes because I could NOT remember where the Zoom link was. I find that organization is really your best friend, especially for online learning.

Attending clubs virtually is also something to adapt to while learning online, but it can be done.

I joined Her Campus near the middle of spring semester of 2020 right before the pandemic hit. I could only attend less than a handful of in-person meetings before we left for the extended spring break that was like no other. After the entire university switched completely to online learning, Her Campus had their weekly meetings virtually over Zoom.

This was something I felt partly cheated in. I joined a club to get out of my comfort zone and to meet new people, but I found myself back in my bedroom staring at a screen. However, I feel that just as everyone has and continues to adapt to this new world, that is just what this club has done too.

Although we couldn’t attend team bonding events in person, this didn’t stop Her Campus from hosting Netflix watch parties, trivia games, and coloring sessions over Zoom––not perfect substitutes for in-person events but innovative and fun!

If I’ve learned anything from my experience as an online learner during a pandemic, it’s that the world is uncertain, and everyone is doing the best they can with the resources they have. Learning or teaching during this time is not easy, but I believe this experience has taught everyone how to adapt and hopefully succeed no matter the circumstances. 

-Anjuli Harris