With spring semester approaching, students reflect on online learning

With the new semester just a week away, students and professors at South Florida’s universities say the transition to online learning, while not without its challenges, has been generally smooth.

Raul Lopez, 19, is a freshman at Miami Dade College. He has mixed feelings about how this pandemic has affected his life as a student.

“It is really hard to start in a new school and do the entire registration process online,” he said. “I think it would be easier to have somebody in front of me to explain how everything works, instead of sending emails and making appointments so someone can explain a simple question.”

Despite all this, Lopez feels happy with his grades.

“I never thought that online classes would help me in maintaining a balance between work and study,” he said. “As far, my grades are good, and I have more free time to do other things.”

Erin Weston is an online instructor at Florida International University’s Religious Studies department. She said she really hasn’t had too many issues.

“In the spring semester, students were kind of freaking out,” she said. “The ones taking my Meditation and Mystical Traditions class said that they were grateful that they had the various practices to help keep them balanced.”

Weston added that some of her students have experienced some bad times.

“In the summer, I did have a student who had to take care of their husband and son with COVID-19. Some students have said that they lost their jobs and were staying at home,” she said.

But, Weston said, many seemed to have more time to focus on their schoolwork since they were not running around.

Carolina Lopez, 23, is a student of journalism at FIU. She feels comfortable taking online classes. She has a full-time job, and she has struggled sometimes in picking her classes because of her tight schedule.

Lopez expressed that the remote classes have helped her have a better balance between school and work.

“This period of the pandemic has not affected me as far as school is concerned,” she said. “Quite the contrary, it is very beneficial to me because I do not have to worry if the class matches with my work schedule or not.”

Lopez also said that switching from on-campus courses to online courses had a positive impact on her grades.

“I prefer to take online classes than on campus. Online classes offer me the ability to advance at my own pace and at the same time to have more time to study. Since I am a student, I have always obtained better grades when I take classes online,” she said.

Rochelle Patten is an academic advisor and adjunct professor at the Department of Journalism + Media at FIU. She has been teaching at the school for seven years and thinks that this pandemic has put a lot of stress on students’ lives.

“We have a lot of students who contribute to their households whether by working to provide additional income, or by taking care of their grandparents,” said Patten. “Some of them have lost income either because they were laid off or because they are caregivers who cannot go out and risk bringing home an infection.”

She said she thinks that the change from on-campus courses to online courses had no impact on students’ grades.

“I think the student determines the grade,” she said. “Online classes offer a lot more autonomy, requires time management, organization and discipline from students. Some students thrive on that, while some students need someone to guide them every step of the way.”

Carlos Martinez, 23, was born in Havana, Cuba and is majoring in journalism.