Written by Hadley Polinsky and Lili Stevens.
Many people are often drawn to liberal arts schools because of the experiences one obtains in classes and interacting with their peers. With online classes, this is virtually impossible. Not only are many students missing out on the quintessential college experience, but classes have proven to be challenging over the online format.
“I think this semester has been harder for me cause I have lost a lot of motivation by being in the same space all the time. For me, I am a pretty busy person so walking around campus between classes kept me somewhat sane,” fourth year Anna MacLeod said.
This has been an issue for us as well. With online classes, there is no separation between space for class and space for relaxing. Classes, homework, eating, sleeping and watching Netflix all take place in the same room. It has been challenging for us to separate leisure from work. Our classes are enjoyable, but it is hard to enjoy them when there is no break from schoolwork.
In order to limit the spread of COVID, the university’s administration decided to take fall break away and give us the entire week off for Thanksgiving. This decision, however, has proven to increase feelings of burnout. Without a break part way through the semester in which we get to spend time with friends and enjoy a few days without classes, the semester feels as if it is dragging on.
“I did not enjoy not having a fall break. I feel pretty burnt out and tired from just being consistently on my computer and having to be ready to be back in class. … I have not been able to take a break as much and also have not really been able to not be ‘on’ in that I have to show up to class and have not decompressed from school,” MacLeod said.
From the perspective of the professors, it seems they are just as upset about it as we are.
“It didn’t affect my teaching and schedule, but it certainly was a terrible idea. Students *need* a fall break to catch their breaths, catch up, process the work they’re doing and get rest. (And faculty need the time for rest and grading, too.),” professor Brett Rogers of the Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies department said.
With students across the world learning online at all levels of education, it’s easy to find another person of your own age struggling with similar experiences of exhaustion and burnout, but little attention is placed on the teachers whose classes are contributing to these feelings. While at the college level, professors teaching courses online is not new, as online colleges such as the University of Phoenix were around pre-pandemic, nearly all United States colleges as well as primary education institutions of public and private elementary through high schools are hosting online courses. At the University of Puget Sound, our education has persisted through the pandemic, thanks to the staff and professors.
Catching up with some professors and discussing the topic of online learning at a secondary education level, it seems that while teaching styles may not have changed too much, their routines and sanity levels have changed drastically.
“I’m not just burnt out: I’m fried to crisp,” Professor Rogers said.
“I would say that my teaching style has remained true to its original form. … For my classes, I am also able to replicate the same structure, organization and content that I would if we were in person,” professor Dawn Padula of the School of Music said. She also mentioned some struggles with technology in this process, something everyone has experienced in some form or another in the last eight months.
“Maybe it’s all the blue light exposure, but I find myself much more exhausted at the end of a teaching day that is on Zoom. I think it’s also because everything takes longer, and things that were once easy and routine are now all new and have to be re-thought,” Professor Padula said. The concept of ‘Zoom fatigue’ has circulated around popular media, discussing the exhaustion that arises out of continued exposure to computers and blue light. This has been a problem mentioned by both students and professors but is a problem where the solution, spending less time in front of a screen, seems more and more unreachable with every day we spend learning in an online format.
It has been a hard semester for all of us, students and professors alike. With Thanksgiving break coming up in a few days, the semester is starting to come to a close. We just have to survive finals.