EWU students share experiences with online learning


Artwork by Keri Kelly for The Easterner

Many EWU students are experiencing confusion in their online-only classes.

By Ben Blakney, Reporter

In a story originally published in The Easterner on April 15, professors at EWU provided their input on the new quarantine learning environment, Zoom. A range of opinions came forward, stemming from differing experiences as well as varying optimism. This week, The Easterner was focused on student perspectives about Zoom, online classroom experiences and more.

The Easterner spoke with three separate students: Miranda Reed, a sophomore majoring in marketing and minoring in economics and design, Michael Tobler, a junior double majoring in criminal justice and sociology, with an environmental science minor and Shaye Fetzer, a sophomore studying chemistry.

Past experiences

T.E.: Have you taken an online class before?

Reed: “No, I have never taken an online class. I was never planning on taking one either.”

Tobler: “No I haven’t taken an online class before, but it’s not much different for me in terms of work.”

Fetzer: “I have taken an online class before at the community college I attended before Eastern. I took English 201, Sociology 101, Medical terminology, and History of Rock and Roll.”

T.E: How does this compare to your previous learning experiences?

Reed: “Online classes are 100% different from any learning I have ever experienced. Online classes are a lot less interactive. I do not enjoy online classes because I learn best in the classroom and with human connection. Being able to discuss problems and questions directly with professors and other students is extremely important to me.”

Tobler: “(It’s) still mostly a lot of reading and quizzes and such. I haven’t had any tests yet so I can’t say much about how they differ. I’m just more anxious about missing assignments now because I can be quite forgetful.”

Fetzer: “Online is definitely a different learning experience for me. I don’t have any Zoom classes, only lectures posted via Panopto so I can choose when to begin, how much I want to watch of the lecture, and when to stop watching. Going to a physical classroom, I still feel like I’m absorbing information, whether I want to or not, because I’m physically there. With online classes it’s easier to ‘leave’ and not learn anything and way easier to get side tracked and distracted.”

Current environment

As also mentioned by the professors, this online style of learning calls for critical adaptations to the previous norms of the collegiate environment. Even still, students can still be struggling with classes from their home, especially if those students depend on an educational environment for success. 

Ultimately, Zoom has become the standard for synchronous online learning. For students who still have to attend Zoom lectures at scheduled times, the program may not be the most user-friendly for students. Other students aren’t even using Zoom. This further illustrates how much online learning differs not only between professors, but between students.

T.E.: Do you like Zoom? Why or why not?

Reed: “My classes do not use Zoom except for individual meetings with teachers. All of my four classes are online without Zoom interaction during class time.”

Tobler: “As for using Zoom, I’m not a big fan because I don’t really like myself on camera and can be pretty self conscious, but when it’s required I show up when needs be.”

Fetzer: “I don’t have any Zoom classes, but I have had a couple Zoom meetings in the first week which was just the professor summarizing the course, and I liked how I could choose to not share my video/audio and I could message questions in a chat box either for everyone to see or just to the professor.”

As was asked of the professors, The Easterner asked the students about their new digital classrooms.

T.E.: Does the classroom feel the same (or as close as possible) to meeting in-person?

Reed: “None of my classes feel similar to meeting in-person.”

Tobler: “It doesn’t really feel much different to me classroom-wise cause I learn by book best, so I’m usually studying out of the textbooks and supplementing with the lectures. In that regard, it’s not much different for me either. Though, the only major difference is I’m used to asking my professors directly after class the few questions I usually have. Now I’m doing so through email when I need to.”

Fetzer: “I don’t think online feels the same as meeting in person. I’m a very visual learner, so I need to see things in person or I won’t grasp important concepts. I also miss having a routine, having a 9 a.m. class, a 10 a.m. lab, etc. because I feel like I was more productive that way versus me (having the choice of) when to do everything, (should) I even choose to do them at all. In the two weeks of this online experience, week one I got everything done on time, even got ahead on a few assignments, but by week two I found myself pushing everything to Sunday night at 10 p.m.”

Closing remarks

T.E.: Anything to add?

Reed: “I feel like a lot of professors don’t know what they are doing. I do applaud them for switching their materials so quickly, but the school should have supported teachers and students with the transition more effectively.”

Tobler: “I’ve always been a pretty quiet and laid back student so overall not much has changed for me besides being more involved in my own time management, which isn’t too hard either at this point.”

Fetzer: “I’m also working more hours than I’ve ever worked before while taking the most difficult class load I’ve ever taken. So, this quarter seems awful but really I shouldn’t have taken more hours at work or I should have lightened my class load. Regardless, online classes are hard and if I had the choice, I would pick in-person classes 10 out of 10 times. I know the university is trying their best by making resources available to us online like tutoring and CAPs etc. but I’m not as likely to use them online than I would be in person.”

The Easterner will continue to provide coverage on the online class experience during the COVID-19 shutdown.